PetaGene, the Cambridge, U.K.-based genomics data compression startup, has raised $2.1 million in further funding. Leading the round is U.S. venture firm Romulus Capital, with participation from other unnamed investors Silicon Valley and London. It brings total funding to $3.2 million.
Previous investor Entrepreneur First, the company builder backed by Greylock Partners, also followed on. PetaGene is an alumnus of EF6, although notably its two founders Dan Greenfield and Vaughan Wittorff already knew each other from their time at the Computer Laboratory in Cambridge University. Both hold PhDs from Cambridge University, too.
The new funding will be used by the company to grow its technical team based in Cambridge, its global sales team, and further expand PetaGene’s product offerings. I’m also told the new funding comes off the back of signing a large contract with a major undisclosed pharmaceutical company.
“As whole genome sequencing becomes more and more commonplace, the amount of data it creates places great strain on infrastructure. We help organisations with managing that data,” says PetaGene co-founder Dan Greenfield. “Through our compression technology, we make that data up to ten times smaller and faster to transfer for research and analysis, democratising precision medicine in the process”.
As it stands, the storage and processing of genomics data adds a significant extra cost and acts as a bottleneck for how fast data can be worked with. By some estimates genomics data will reach 40 exabytes per year by 2025 (exabytes, by the way, is a lot of data!). Therefore, better file compression technology has the potential to be a major enabler of innovation and research based on genomics, including developing new personalised medicine and treatments.
Key to this, PetaGene says its software enables compression of huge amounts of genomic data without compromising on access and data quality. The company claims its products go beyond regular data reduction techniques.
“We have dedicated extensive R&D to building extremely high performance compressors for genomic data, the result being that we outperform existing state-of-the-art compression, sometimes by a factor of 6x or more,” explains Greenfield.
“At the same time our customers want to be assured that the original file can be exactly recovered. Other compression solutions unfortunately aren’t able to restore the original file, and can even sometimes discard or modify internal content without telling their users. We’ve spent a great deal of effort to make sure we preserve the original file bit-for-bit, even providing commercial guarantees to our customers. I can’t really go into the details of our secret sauce here, but we’re very proud of our industry-leading performance, and we continue to keep improving it”.
Krishna K. Gupta, founder and general partner of Romulus Capital, says he was impressed by the part of the genomics value chain PetaGene is targeting, which led the firm to first invest in 2017. “Since then, their ability to successfully develop their product for the cloud and the strong interest from potential customers have only served to reinforce our view,” he says.
Meanwhile, PetaGene’s target customers span pharmaceutical companies, academic research institutions, clinical labs in hospitals, and genomic sequencing companies.
“Our clients pay for our software according to the savings they make,” adds the PetaGene co-founder. “The greater the reduction in size of their data files, the more revenue we receive, and the more they are saving in storage and data transfer costs. We don’t charge our clients for accessing or decompressing the compressed data”.