Spiral Genetics, Maker of Software for the Genome, Gets $3M from DFJ

3/12/13Follow @xconomy

Spiral Genetics, the Seattle-based maker of software that helps crunch big volumes of DNA data, has just raised its first sizable round of venture capital.

Spiral is announcing today it has raised $3 million in its Series A financing from DFJ, the high-profile venture firm formerly known as Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Spiral has now raised about $3.7 million through a combination of venture capital and angel investment since its founding in 2009.

The money will be used to help Spiral seize the opportunity it sees in helping biologists deal with their information overload problem. While researchers rave about their ability to sequence an organism’s entire genome on an Illumina instrument in a day, many of those scientists get bogged down for several days afterward just trying to get the data in good enough shape to do more in-depth analysis. Spiral’s offerings are supposed to take care of those basic data clean-up tasks in the matter of a few hours, leaving scientists more time to think about the really high-value problems, like how to interpret the data to advance our understanding of science, and for clinical purposes. One such company interested in enabling easier clinical interpretation of genomic data—Emeryville, CA-based Omicia—is announcing today it has chosen to partner with Spiral to handle basic data analysis.

Spiral Genetics CEO Adina Mangubat

Spiral has eight employees now, and plans to use the investment to double in size, adding software developers and salespeople, says co-founder and CEO Adina Mangubat. Rachel Pike, a senior associate at DFJ who vetted the Spiral investment, will be joining the company’s board.

“It means a lot to us,” Mangubat says. “When you start out in a company, you know the chances of getting to this point, statistically for any company, are pretty low. To make it to this milestone is a very significant event for me and the Spiral team. It says a lot about the company and the speed with which this industry is growing.”

Spiral, which I profiled here in November 2011, has an unusual history. It was started by Mangubat and Becky Drees after they met in an entrepreneurship class at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus. They won a business plan competition together, and then started thinking more seriously about a real startup, and what it might do. After toying with a consumer-genetics company idea, they settled on what they saw as a big emerging problem—basic data analysis for genomics researchers. Mangubat and Drees found Jeremy Bruestle to help with developing the necessary algorithms for their software, and off they went.

The problem is pretty simple. A single human genome has 6 billion DNA data points which today’s state-of-the-art instruments seek to put in their proper sequence. When the raw data, usually from an Illumina machine, comes off the instrument, it needs to be properly aligned with a reference genome to make sure that valid comparisons can be made from one genome to the next. The chemistry used in the machines makes some errors, which need to be corrected. And the variants in the newly sequenced genome need to be detected and flagged.

Many of those tasks can be performed with … Next Page »

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  • Tony S

    Congrats Adina and Becky on your latest round of funding. Happy to see the Spiral is still moving upward!