It’s Day 1 again for Seattle-based Spiral Genetics.
The decade-old DNA analysis startup has left its parent company Fabric and is sparking its re-launch by partnering with Microsoft to analyze the genomes of people with heart disease.
Led by CEO Adina Mangubat, Spiral Genetics also just graduated from the Silicon Valley Y Combinator accelerator program.
Mangubat founded the startup in 2009, shortly after she graduated from the University of Washington. In the early years, Spiral Genetics was focused on doing genetic analysis faster and cheaper for doctors and researchers. It was bought by Omicia, which later rebranded to Fabric, for an undisclosed amount in 2017.
Spiral didn’t reveal the financial details of its return to independence, referring to the move as an “un-acquisition.” Going independent will allow it to focus on its new direction, which is more about using genetics to inform the health of an entire population.
The goal of the Microsoft partnership is to train algorithms to predict which people may be at risk of cardiovascular problems later in life.
“We are now at a time where we can discover things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” Mangubat told GeekWire. “We finally have enough data,”
In the years since she first ventured into the genomics arena, Mangubat has seen a dramatic change. The time it takes to sequence the human genome has dropped from around a month to an hour, and the cost of sequencing has similarly plummeted.
But the future, as Mangubat sees it, isn’t all about faster and cheaper.
“We realized was that it’s not enough to analyze individual genomes quickly,” she said. “What you actually want to do is you want to analyze group populations of people simultaneously.”
So far, around 1.5 million genomes have been sequenced globally, yet only one percent of genome variants have been fully characterized, according to Illumina, a leading manufacturer of genome sequencers.
Spiral will use machine learning to compare genetic markers with characteristics such as heart disease to identify correlations between the two. Mangubat said that Spiral’s secret is arranging the data in such a way that it is usable by machine learning algorithms.
Spiral has taken in $250,000 in revenue and has a signed letter of intent for a customer to purchase licenses totaling $1 million, the company said.
The startup is working with Desney Tan and his team at Microsoft Healthcare, a relatively new group that has been actively launching cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning services for use in healthcare. It’s also working with three national genome sequencing projects and two large U.S. sequencing institutions.
“Adina is a creative entrepreneur and amazing leader, and her team at Spiral Genetics have done great work developing software that utilizes a novel methodology for large-scale population genomic analysis,” Tan said in an email.
The Microsoft partnership involves financial support, access to Azure and a collaboration with the Microsoft Genomics team. Tan said the goal of Microsoft Genomics and its partnerships is to grow the use of data from genomics and other cell-level data to improve healthcare.
Spiral, which has a team of eight people, is currently raising money. Mangubat said her past fundraising experience and the Y Combinator network has made that process easier.
“Fundraising can be a slog, and that’s not been my experience this time around,” she said.