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Start-Up Creating Software to Simplify Biomedical Analytics

DNA analysis graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

3 Feb. 2023. A new enterprise began public operations to provide researchers with better analytical tools for making sense of mountains of complex genomics and related biomedical data. Via Scientific Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. is founded by bioinformatics faculty at University of Massachusetts medical school in Worcester that licenses their academic work for development into software for research labs.

The one year-old Via Scientific offers a software package called Foundry that the company says can simplify analysis of complex biomedical data from multiple databases and disciplines, a condition faced in many of today’s labs. Biomedical researchers, says the company, need to capture and process data from genomics databases, as well as transcriptomics with data on transcription of genetic codes to RNA, proteomics that track proteins created by cells from RNA, and epigenomics with data on non-genetic influences on gene expression. Via Scientific says biomedical researchers spend too much time managing these multi-omics data, which distracts from their core scientific work.

“Scientists are consistently challenged to keep up with our ability to ask questions and imagine possibilities,” says Melissa Moore, professor in the UMass RNA Therapeutics Institute and co-founder of Via Scientific in a company statement released through Cision. “Foundry transforms ‘process time’ into ‘scientific time’, so scientific teams can focus on unlocking the underlying science that results in new insights and breakthroughs.”

Co-directors of the UMass Bioinformatics Core

Via Scientific says Foundry makes it possible for researchers to access, import, integrate, and manage large-scale data sets from multiple sources. The software, says the company, allows researchers to create new data groupings and vocabularies by dragging and dropping icons, making it faster and easier to create models and analytical routines without writing code. In addition, says Via Scientific, Foundry outputs can be processed further with other analytical software such as RStudio and Jupyter Notebook. And, says the company, Foundry can prepare public databases meeting NIH’s data management and sharing standards.

Foundry is based on research by company co-founders Alper Kucukural and Manuel Garber, co-directors of the Bioinformatics Core at UMass medical school. Garber’s lab studies cellular responses to genetic stimuli, particularly regulation of gene expression from non-coding genetic and transcriptional elements, as well as aberrant cell signaling in autoimmunity. Kucukural designs and builds bioinformatics tools for high-throughput genomic and omics-related solutions, including RNA sequencing and protein structure analysis.

UMass medical school is licensing Kucukural’s and Garber’s bioinformatics work to Via Scientific for development of Foundry. Financial and other terms of the license are not disclosed. The university and Via Scientific expect the software to help reduce a need by labs for bioinformatics specialists whose only job is to manage research data. “Because database structure and data processing tools and algorithms are continuously evolving,” says Kucukural in a university statement, “only data analytics experts are able to keep up. The new bottleneck for scientific discovery is thus the shortage of such experts.”

Garber adds that “the kind of work we’re talking about is very difficult, time intensive, and both data and code intensive. Scientists and bioinformaticians would rather focus on interpreting data and advancing scientific discovery than becoming code experts and developing operations. Our software platform automates this process for scientists and puts them back in the lab.”

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