Mehrzad Samadi, Ph.D. ’14, began working on the development of high-performance computing technology while he was pursuing his doctoral degree in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. At the time, co-founding a startup company with a fellow student and their faculty advisor was not on his radar.
“We were looking at where to apply the technology, and we found genomics to be a good market for us,” he says.
Samadi and co-founder Ankit Sethia, Ph.D. ’15, licensed the technology from the University and launched their company, Parabricks, in 2015. They enlisted Computer Science and Engineering Professor Scott Mahlke to serve as a key technical adviser for the new venture, which is laying the groundwork for transforming genomic-data analysis.
Parabricks uses powerful software to accelerate the computational process of analyzing genetic information taken from patients, leading to faster diagnoses and treatments of diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimers, and reducing computing costs by as much as 75 percent.
“We do two days of computing in less than one hour and incorporate machine learning to provide insights from the genomics data,” explains Samadi, who is CEO of the company.
Currently, the high cost and length of time required to process a whole genome has compelled hospitals and labs to use limited DNA data, which may be insufficient for an accurate, detailed analysis of an underlying disease. Parabricks’s software solution, Samadi says, will enable the expansion of Whole Genome Sequencing data analysis for a large population of patients and help to meet the growing demand over the next decade.
Under the current business model, Parabricks receives raw data from a genome sequencer via the cloud, processes this data using its software service and generates a final report, including a full genome and variant analysis, to the customer in one hour. Parabricks now has contracts with several genomics centers in Southeast Asia, which are either piloting or using its services.
“Our customers are surprised by the speed we are providing, and how our 50X acceleration [of computational processing] will save them lots of time and money,” Samadi explains.
Parabricks presented to investors at the 2017 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, where it received helpful feedback but no concrete investment offers. To date, the company has operated with $400,000 in combined funding from NSF SBIR Phase 1 and I-Corps grants, University grants and Ann Arbor SPARK. In 2018, Parabricks began generating sales and revenue, which opened the door to other financing opportunities.
“Right now, we are focused on getting customers and launching pilots,” Samadi explains. “We are also planning to raise a seed round of $1 million to $1.5 million that would provide us with funding over the next 18 months.”