End of the Road for Torrey Path as Founder Starts New Trail with Sequencethree

6/14/11Follow @bvbigelow

When I profiled Torrey Path in 2009, CEO Peter Dresslar was in the process of moving his software analytics startup from Ann Arbor, MI, to San Diego. The company was focused on providing information services to life sciences companies, and had developed the capability to provide a scientist or research group with all the data results from experiments involving a particular gene.

Dresslar tells me he’s now winding down Torrey Path to start a new company with Derren Barken, a bioinformatics scientist who was most recently at San Diego’s Prometheus Laboratories. Prometheus agreed last month to a buyout offer from Nestlé Health Science that one analyst has estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

Torrey Path “generated a real amount of revenue and some assets,” Dresslar says. But the focus on a still-emerging field like genomics meant the company “was always running into headwinds” as the company’s customers struggled to advance both the science and the business. Dresslar says he’s now in talks to sell some of Torrey Path’s assets.

Dresslar, who is president of Sequencethree, says he got to know Barken through San Diego’s analytics software community and a local bioinformatics user group. The idea for starting a new bioinformatics startup came to them a couple months ago with “the realization that we wanted to work together,” Dresslar says. Their startup is initially focusing on complex problems in immunology. The two founders are developing computational technology to analyze the immunological properties of peptides and similar molecules, and Dresslar says they can envision ways to develop both new therapeutics and prophylactic vaccines from computer-based simulations.

“The technology takes advantage of massively parallel computing as well as some modern artificial intelligence concepts, and gives us a unique way of exploring complex biological phenomena related to those molecules,” Dresslar says. “We are exploring both technology licensing and developing our own intellectual property as possible commercialization paths.”

Barken is the director of bioinformatics at Sequencethree. He holds a doctorate in bioinformatics from UC San Diego and was a software developer at UCSD’s San Diego Supercomputer Center before he joined Prometheus Labs in 2007. His brother Lee is known among San Diego’s startup community as a CPA and IT practice leader at Haskell & White, and as a Cleantech San Diego board member.

“It’s just the two of us, although we have a couple of great advisors we’re going to be announcing in coming weeks,” Dresslar says. The founders have funded the company themselves so far, although Dresslar says they are looking at a combination of revenue-generating partnership activity, grants, and possibly an angel round in the next six to twelve months.

“We think we have a combination of technology and an approach that will let us understand the properties of biologically interesting molecules better than has been done previously,” Dresslar says. The co-founders also have been seeking out partnerships in fields besides immunology, because their approach also should work with a large number of other molecules. Dresslar says they can envision specific applications in analyzing anti-microbial peptide activity and even microRNA analysis.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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