Companies to watch: DNAnexus


This is an excerpt from the job ad at DNAnexus:

At DNAnexus we are solving the most challenging computer science problems you’re ever likely to see. 
In the last few years, there has been a dramatic development in the world of genomics that has created a huge new opportunity. The price to sequence the full human genome (all of your DNA, not just a sample of it) has fallen to the point were it will soon be affordable for a patient to have multiple samples of their whole genome sequenced to help treat their disease. Want to know what specific gene mutation caused a patient’s cancer? We are building the platform to answer that kind of question. One of the many challenges is the huge amount of data. Think you’ve seen big-data problems? Think again – with each genome comprising 100 GB and months of CPU time to crunch the information, DNA is the next big-data problem, requiring exabytes of storage and parallel workloads distributed across 100,000 servers. We are tackling this by combining web technologies, big-data analytics, and scalable systems on cloud computing infrastructure. 

We are a well-funded start-up backed by Google Ventures, TPG Biotech, and First Round capital. Our founders, Andreas Sundquist, Arend Sidow, Serafim Batzoglou are world-renowned genomics and bioinformatics experts from Stanford University.

We are looking for smart motivated people. Ideal candidates will likely know several of the following technologies: C, C++, Boost, Ruby, Rails, HAML, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, ECMAScript, V8, jQuery, Flash, Flex/ActionScript, Node.js, Python, Perl, PHP, Amazon Web Services (AWS), SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Solr, Sphinx, Hadoop, MapReduce, ZooKeeper, Hive, Pig, Oozie, HDFS, ZFS, MCache. 

And some more about the company from the company’s website:

No proposal is considered too large, as demonstrated through the CHARGE project, a collaboration between Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center (HGSC), DNAnexus, and Amazon Web Services that enabled the largest genomic analysis project to have ever taken place in the cloud. We worked with HGSC to deploy its Mercury variant-calling pipeline on the DNAnexus cloud platform, processing 3,751 whole genomes and 10,940 exomes using 3.3 million core-hours with a peak of 20,800 cores and making Mercury available to 300 researchers participating in the global CHARGE consortium.

Here is the service model and pricing DNAnexus provides, effective May 2014:



“[Big Data] make business strategy interesting again”


TED posted a talk by Philip Evans about how Big Data will transform the business strategy. The screen shot above that I made on the 7:33 minute of the talk implies by Evans “a hundredfold multiplication in the stock of information that is connected via an I.P. address.”

“Now, if the number of connections that we can make is proportional to the number of pairs of data points, a hundredfold multiplication in the quantity of data is a ten-thousandfold multiplication in the number of patterns that we can see in that data, this just in the last 10 or 11 years. This, I would submit, is a sea change, a profound change in the economics of the world that we live in.”

But what his talk is really about is that technology (he gives an example of cost and speed of genome sequencing) is driving the typically vertical structure of businesses to becoming more horizontal, when cooperation is needed to achieve the big data scale.

“That implies fundamental changes in how we think about strategy. … It means, for example, we need to work out how to accommodate collaboration and competition simultaneously. Think about the genome. We need to accommodate the very large and the very small simultaneously. And we need industry structures that will accommodate very, very different motivations, from the amateur motivations of people in communities to maybe the social motivations of infrastructure built by governments, or, for that matter, cooperative institutions built by companies that are otherwise competing, because that is the only way that they can get to scale. … These kinds of transformations render the traditional premises of business strategy obsolete.”

In this light, one might start thinking differently about business endeavors and personal (horizontal?) strategy of contributing to the society.