Life Technologies, Geospiza Form Cloud Computing Deal for Scientists to Dig Into Genome

4/28/09Follow @xconomy

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who follow the company, who have been urging Life Technologies to come up with an IT product offering for customers, Arnold says. Kip Miller, president of Life Technologies’ Genetic Systems division, said in a company statement that adding this kind of computing capability ought to boost sales for his instruments.

“The solution we’ve created in partnership with Geospiza on top of the Amazon Web Services platform is a strategic initiative to ensure that scientists in the life science industry have Web-based, affordable access to the advanced genomic analysis tools they need to be successful with the SOLiD technology. Taking significant steps to advance the bioinformatics structure to support next-generation sequencing will accelerate its use and unlock the full potential of this technology to bring about the era personalized medicine.”

Right now, many centralized labs at places like Harvard University perform these kinds of sophisticated genome experiments for researchers around campus or at other nearby universities, Arnold says. It’s common for them to buy their own equipment for $100,000, and then they need to hire a bioinformatics expert on staff to manage the data, at a cost of at least another $100,000 a year in salary and benefits. Then there are ongoing costs of air-conditioning the proprietary servers and other maintenance, he says.

This way, research labs take all the responsibility, and risk, upon themselves for storing and managing all the data from their experiments, Arnold says. By going with the cloud-computing model, they have to make a leap of faith that the data will remain secure on Amazon’s servers. The tradeoff is that they save a lot of money, and they can get easy access on multiple laptops, or even an iPhone, Arnold says.

Of course, this isn’t the greatest time in history to be selling $550,000 machines to academic research labs who are suffering from tight budgets, and a drop in charitable giving. Life Technologies has forecasted a “low single digit” percentage increase in organic sales in 2009, although that’s likely to be dragged down by unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates this year.

That said, President Obama’s economic stimulus program is supposed to boost the budget of the National Institutes of Health from $29 billion to $40 billion, and at least some of that is expected to help researchers purchase expensive new equipment like the genome-sequencing machines, Arnold says. Geospiza’s closest competitors are Bridgewater, NJ-based LabVantage, and St. Louis-based Partek, although neither does exactly the same thing, he says.

“We see the demand continuing to accelerate,” Arnold says.

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