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Genomics Company Acquires Open-Source Biomedical Platform

Genomics graphic

(National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH)

3 August 2017. A company providing whole genome analysis is acquiring an enterprise developing open-source computational software for biomedical uses, such as precision medicine. The acquisition of Curoverse in Somerville, Massachusetts is expected to give Veritas Genetics in Boston the capability to conduct analyses with artificial intelligence using Arvados, Curoverse’s data management system. Financial aspects of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Veritas Genetics is a three year-old company founded by Harvard Medical School geneticist and serial entrepreneur George Church. The company offers whole genome sequencing direct to the consumer for medical analysis costing about $1,000. Genomic sequencing reveals the order of nucleic acids, the chemical building blocks in a person’s DNA that contains the individual’s genetic code, providing critical information about one’s present and future health. Most other personal genomic analysis services that charge lower fees look at parts of the genome to determine ancestry or predisposition to certain diseases.

Curoverse creates computational software for biomedical applications, many of which are released as open-source to encourage collaboration and standardization in the industry. The company’s software is built round the Arvados platform for distributed computing in bioinformatics and data science. Arvados is designed particularly for large data sets, like those created with genomic sequencing, and is an outgrowth of the Personal Genome Project, hosted at Harvard Medical School, that encourages sharing of whole genome sequencing data from individuals.

Veritas Genetics expects to use Curoverse’s capabilities to mine genomic databases accessible through Arvados for analysis by artificial intelligence, or AI, techniques such as machine learning. “At Veritas,” says CEO Mirza Cifric in a company statement, “we are building a platform to sequence, and more importantly, interpret hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of human genomes per year. This will only be possible by deploying AI and machine learning at scale, which requires data that is produced, stored and managed in a standardized way.”

Curoverse is also instrumental in development of a Common Workflow Language for genomic analysis that enables processing and integrating of data stored in remote databases or in the cloud. The Common Workflow Language is less of a language, and more of a specification for describing analysis workflows and tools to make them portable and scalable across a variety of software and hardware environments, not only for genomics, but also for other data-intensive disciplines, such as medical imaging and astronomy. Version 1.0 of the specification was released in July 2016.

Church, who also started the Personal Genome Project, says of Curoverse, “There are very few companies in the world that have the expertise and experience of more than a decade in aggregating genomic data and enabling machine learning.” Curoverse is expected to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Veritas Genetics.

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