Starting today, researchers can now order a “plug-and-play” human genome interpretation system from Knome, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based genome analysis company co-founded by Harvard Medical School’s George Church. The nearly 600-lb box of computer hardware that is pre-loaded with genomic interpretation software sells for $125,000 and is designed to simplify the task of gleaning useful medical information from a patient’s DNA.
The “lab in a box” model contrasts with a program underway at genomics giant Illumina, which plans to enable customers to upload their DNA sequences to a cloud-based data storage and analysis system for interpretation. And selling a product that integrates hardware and software together is a new move for Knome, which has previously provided genome analysis as a service to customers who send in their samples or raw DNA data. So why would Knome want to move into the hardware distribution business?
As reported by GenomeWeb Daily News, the idea for an integrated system grew from discussions the company had with early users of its KnomeClinic software, which is design to help health-care professionals interpret genomic data (see “Knome Software Makes Sense of the Genome”). The reasons seem to be two-fold: security concerns over the medical information and the lack of good IT support at some medical institutions.
Martin Tolar, Knome’s CEO, said that these early-access users …. had a number of recommendations, but the primary one was that “they wanted a solution that was within the four walls of the institution for privacy and regulatory reasons.”
Initially, he said, “we were considering having enterprise software that would be installed at each of the institutions, but it became very clear that not everybody had the hardware and the capabilities to run such a complicated system. And also, [we decided that] if we can optimize the hardware for the software that we’ve built, it’s going to be much more effective and efficient. So that’s why we decided to put it all in one box.”