Startups

Amaryllis Nucleics makes transcribing genes quicker, better and cheaper

Comment

Image Credits:

The ability to read and record genes sits at the base (base pair, if you will) of biotech companies worldwide. So improvements to that ability are kind of like upgrading the specs of the industry itself. That’s what Amaryllis Nucleics aims to do with its vastly improved method of transcribing genes from RNA.

Now, it’s worth noting before we start that this doesn’t really fall under the definition of “technology” we usually find on stage at Disrupt. These guys deal with chemicals and pipettes, not code and product. But someone has to put the bio in biotech, and it’s as important to update the molecular machinery behind it as it is the usual chips and software.

Amaryllis was founded by two PhDs, Brad Townsley and Mike Covington, who were in the field for years and were frustrated by the speed and expense of acquiring genetic data from RNA — which, if your high school biology is a little rusty, is the intermediary between the cell’s data storage (DNA) and its manufacturing facilities (ribosomes).

“When we were at UC Davis, we were doing a lot of RNA sequencing — too much to be able to afford to do it all, plus it was taking too much time,” said Covington. “So we ended up developing a new protocol for making RNA machine readable — not only is it cheaper and faster, but it also is more accurate than a lot of the other kits.”

If all it took was some frustrated researchers, the science would have advanced a long time ago. But it’s not that easy. Fortunately, as with so many interesting discoveries, this new technique was discovered “more or less by accident.”

In the process of streamlining an existing protocol for sequencing RNA, they noticed some weird data. “Mike was able to use his informatics background to dig into the underlying mechanisms. We were able to optimize that until we got something that worked really well,” said Townsley.

This isn’t just a little boost, either: We’re talking anywhere from half to a tenth the time needed with other techniques, and for a similar reduction in cost.

It was too good to keep to themselves, they decided.

disrupt_sf16_amaryllis-2771

“We started doing this just to make life easier,” said Covington. “We didn’t have any intentions of making a company.”

“Yeah, we set out completely altruistically, then realized it was also a good opportunity for us,” Townsley added. “But it’s also the best way to get it out there, to commercialize it yourself. A lot of good new technologies will wither on the vine at a university tech transfer office. You have to hope someone is looking for exactly what you have and happens to be browsing the catalog.”

They entered the IndieBio accelerator and came out with a bit of cash. With that and their new “composition of matter” patent, the two started putting together kits that they could ship to researchers, universities and private institutions. All you need to do is follow the instructions and the RNA transcription will proceed apace, faster and more accurately than the competition.

Amaryllis will also do the work for you, though the resulting data is so voluminous — hundreds of gigs — that it often makes sense to ship a drive across the country rather than host the files. It’s not scalable, they admit, but it helps build relationships. If they can get a few repeat customers, word could spread fast.

disrupt_sf16_amaryllis-2768

Between the kits and transcription they do themselves, Amaryllis could do upwards of $100,000 in business a month just at current levels of production. But with just the two of them and their mostly academic backgrounds — Covington has done web app work, but nothing like building a whole service — the company is in the earliest of stages.

Eventually they hope to make the kit business self-sustaining, outsourcing its production entirely. And with no one dedicated to sales, marketing, support or labor, they need staff.

“We have a robot here…” Townsley offered. “And we’re close to UC Berkeley so we’ve put in for a few interns.”

Ultimately, they’ll need money, he admitted.

“We are looking to raise, because growth will be very slow if we can’t immediately start hiring people to do stuff. We’re two people, and there’s really 10 people’s worth of work to do. It might make a lot of sense for us to not worry about the kits at all, and for us to just focus on developing new products,” said Covington. “We’d be scaling by adding some technicians and some dedicated people in sales.”

Amaryllis is a company as young as they get, but its product leapfrogs existing ones by a huge margin. With biotech companies bringing in billions in funding and revenue, that’s a hot commodity, and because of the serendipity involved in its origin, a highly rare one. Don’t expect these guys to be pipetting their own vials a year from now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQePQMfWZwA

More TechCrunch

Another fintech startup, and its customers, has been gravely impacted by the implosion of banking-as-a-service startup Synapse. Copper Banking, a digital banking service aimed at teens, notified its customers on…

Teen fintech Copper had to emergency discontinue its banking, debit products

3D tools behemoth Autodesk has acquired Wonder Dynamics, a startup that let creators quickly and easily make complex characters and visual effects using AI-powered image analysis. The two companies have…

Autodesk acquires AI-powered VFX startup Wonder Dynamics

Farcaster, a blockchain-based social protocol founded by two Coinbase alumni, announced on Tuesday that it closed a $150 million fundraise. Led by Paradigm, the platform also raised money from a16z…

Farcaster, a crypto-based social network, raised $150M with just 80K daily users

Microsoft announced on Tuesday during its annual Build conference that it’s bringing “Windows Volumetric Apps” to Meta Quest headsets. The partnership will allow Microsoft to bring Windows 365 and local…

Microsoft’s new ‘Volumetric Apps’ for Quest headsets extend Windows apps into the 3D space

The spam reached Bluesky by first crossing over two other decentralized networks: Mastodon and Nostr.

The ‘vote Trump’ spam that hit Bluesky in May came from decentralized rival Nostr

Welcome to TechCrunch Fintech! This week, we’re looking at the continued fallout from Synapse’s bankruptcy, how Layer wants to disrupt SMB accounting, and much more! To get a roundup of…

There’s a real appetite for a fintech alternative to QuickBooks

The company is hoping to produce electricity at $13 per megawatt hour, which would be more than 50% cheaper than traditional onshore wind.

Bill Gates-backed wind startup AirLoom is raising $12M, filings reveal

Generative AI makes stuff up. It can be biased. Sometimes it spits out toxic text. So can it be “safe”? Rick Caccia, the CEO of WitnessAI, believes it can. “Securing…

WitnessAI is building guardrails for generative AI models

It’s not often that you hear about a seed round above $10 million. H, a startup based in Paris and previously known as Holistic AI, has announced a $220 million…

French AI startup H raises $220M seed round

Hey there, Series A to B startups with $35 million or less in funding — we’ve got an exciting opportunity that’s tailor-made for your growth journey! If you’re looking to…

Boost your startup’s growth with a ScaleUp package at TC Disrupt 2024

TikTok is pulling out all the stops to prevent its impending ban in the United States. Aside from initiating legal action against the U.S. government, that means shaping up its…

As a US ban looms, TikTok announces a $1M program for socially driven creators

Microsoft wants to put its Copilot everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before Microsoft renames its annual Build developer conference to Microsoft Copilot. Hopefully, some of those upcoming events…

Microsoft’s Power Automate no-code platform adds AI flows

Build is Microsoft’s largest developer conference and of course, it’s all about AI this year. So it’s no surprise that GitHub’s Copilot, GitHub’s “AI pair programming tool,” is taking center…

GitHub Copilot gets extensions

Microsoft wants to make its brand of generative AI more useful for teams — specifically teams across corporations and large enterprise organizations. This morning at its annual Build dev conference,…

Microsoft intros a Copilot for teams

Microsoft’s big focus at this year’s Build conference is generative AI. And to that end, the tech giant announced a series of updates to its platforms for building generative AI-powered…

Microsoft upgrades its AI app-building platforms

The U.K.’s data protection watchdog has closed an almost year-long investigation of Snap’s AI chatbot, My AI — saying it’s satisfied the social media firm has addressed concerns about risks…

UK data protection watchdog ends privacy probe of Snap’s GenAI chatbot, but warns industry

U.S. cell carrier Patriot Mobile experienced a data breach that included subscribers’ personal information, including full names, email addresses, home ZIP codes and account PINs, TechCrunch has learned. Patriot Mobile,…

Conservative cell carrier Patriot Mobile hit by data breach

It’s been three years since Spotify acquired live audio startup Betty Labs, and yet the music streaming service isn’t leveraging the technology to its fullest potential — at least not…

Spotify’s ‘Listening Party’ feature falls short of expectations

Alchemist Accelerator has a new pile of AI-forward companies demoing their wares today, if you care to watch, and the program itself is making some international moves into Tokyo and…

Alchemist’s latest batch puts AI to work as accelerator expands to Tokyo, Doha

“Late Pledge” allows campaign creators to continue collecting money even after the campaign has closed.

Kickstarter now lets you pledge after a campaign closes

Stack AI’s co-founders, Antoni Rosinol and Bernardo Aceituno, were PhD students at MIT wrapping up their degrees in 2022 just as large language models were becoming more mainstream. ChatGPT would…

Stack AI wants to make it easier to build AI-fueled workflows

Pinecone, the vector database startup founded by Edo Liberty, the former head of Amazon’s AI Labs, has long been at the forefront of helping businesses augment large language models (LLMs)…

Pinecone launches its serverless vector database out of preview

Young geothermal energy wells can be like budding prodigies, each brimming with potential to outshine their peers. But like people, most decline with age. In California, for example, the amount…

Special mud helps XGS Energy get more power out of geothermal wells

Featured Article

Sonos finally made some headphones

The market play is clear from the outset: The $449 headphones are firmly targeted at an audience that would otherwise be purchasing the Bose QC Ultra or Apple AirPods Max.

7 hours ago
Sonos finally made some headphones

Adobe says the feature is up to the task, regardless of how complex of a background the object is set against.

Adobe brings Firefly AI-powered Generative Remove to Lightroom

All cars suffer when the mercury drops, but electric vehicles suffer more than most as heaters draw more power and batteries charge more slowly as the liquid electrolyte inside thickens.…

Porsche Ventures invests in battery startup South 8 to boost cold-weather EV performance

Scale AI has raised a $1 billion Series F round from a slew of big-name institutional and corporate investors including Amazon and Meta.

Data-labeling startup Scale AI raises $1B as valuation doubles to $13.8B

The new coalition, Tech Against Scams, will work together to find ways to fight back against the tools used by scammers and to better educate the public against financial scams.

Meta, Match, Coinbase and others team up to fight online fraud and crypto scams

It’s a wrap: European Union lawmakers have given the final approval to set up the bloc’s flagship, risk-based regulations for artificial intelligence.

EU Council gives final nod to set up risk-based regulations for AI

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion