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28 June, 2015 - 15:29 By Kate Sweeney

Making sense of genomics in an age of change

Abel Ureta-Vidal and Will Spooner of Eagle Genomics

Cambridge is a hotbed for the business of bioinformatics and biotech innovation. It is the world centre for the study of genomics and large-scale scientific information. Its scientific and technological breakthroughs regularly contribute to discoveries of worldwide importance.

Eagle Genomics, based at the vibrant and expanding Babraham Research Campus, was born out of the need to help R & D organisations extract meaning from genomic information, and using it to drive commercial value. Will Spooner, chief science officer at Eagle Genomics observes: “Only a few years ago, the scientific and medical worlds were excited by the vast flows of data emerging from revolutionary new DNA sequencing technology. 

“We speculated that fields from medicine to plant breeding to bioprocessing would be transformed. A lot of unrealistic expectations were raised. I believe that the challenge is no longer how fast we can sequence these genomes, but how well we can we can use the resulting datasets in practical applications such as development of precision medicines.

“Optimistically, we have all seen great advancements in technology. And, the newly elected UK government has reaffirmed its intention to continue investing in genomic research in healthcare. 

“This makes the UK biotech sector an extremely positive environment to operate in. There are, however, still issues to resolve on how to make all this technology and various datasets ‘talk’ to one another, and to really be able to securely share this information amongst key collaborators.”

Abel Ureta-Vidal, CEO of Eagle Genomics, added: “Eagle Genomics started in 2008 after seeing a need for helping scientific organisations to better manage their genomic information. These datasets tend to be cumbersome, notoriously large and supplied in an ever-increasing variety of formats that don’t necessarily integrate well with each other.

“Last year we unveiled our novel cloud-enabled platform, eaglecore, to overcome the inefficiencies of managing and analysing genomic datasets. We showcased it in April 2015 at Bio-IT World in Boston and were delighted to be selected as a finalist for the ‘Best of Show’ award.

“The reason I believe eaglecore caught the judges’ eyes was that it addresses a key unmet need. We expect to be making an even bigger impact in 2015. That’s why eaglecore is a product to watch this coming year.” 

Spooner said: “Making sense of genomic information is more than just a computational challenge. It takes people getting together to share ideas and foster collaborations.

“Over the past five years we have been running the Eagle symposium which now attracts over 100 scientists from both industry and academia, sharing information to further R & D innovation. Our sixth symposium will be at the Genome Campus in February 2016. Eagle continues to champion open innovation both through our meetings and collaborative features of our software.”

Abel concluded: “Eagle Genomics’ mission is to simplify the already complex management of genome sequencing analysis. We follow the top scientific trends in bioinformatics and translate these into industry when appropriate.

“Researchers are on the tip of major breakthroughs, such as new methods for antenatal and cancer diagnostic testing. These efforts are increasingly inhibited by lack of data transparency, inability to share and compare relevant information and access datasets in a comprehensive, and logical way. Eagle believes that by addressing these challenges we will expedite development of products that promise to improve quality of life worldwide.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Eagle Genomics’ CEO Abel Ureta-Vidal (left) and CSO,  Will Spooner

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