Carmel Entrepreneur Invents ‘Google of Microbes’ Software
There is much excitement surrounding microbes in life sciences research—and for good reason. Dr. Rajesh Perianayagam says scientists have discovered 17 microbiome-related cures and therapies for an equal number of diseases. But this flurry of excitement—and the recent proliferation of genetic sequencing technology—is drowning scientists in data. Perianayagam has created a software called Loci—a tool he likens to Google—that he says manages, analyzes and transforms information overload into real innovation.
Perianayagam, founder and chief executive officer of Carmel-based startup Karyosoft, says the scientific community began realizing the benefits of microbes about five years ago. Researchers use next generation genetic sequencing technology to discover “good bacteria” and other microbes that can improve human and animal health, as well as crops.
“Microbial research has taken huge leaps and has started growing very fast,” says Perianayagam. “Because of the next generation sequencing technology that came into the picture in the last five years, [researchers] can sequence a genome for less than $1,000. So scientists are generating huge amounts of sequence data to discover beneficial microbes. The problem is, scientists typically don’t have computational skills, so they’re dependent on analysts all the time.”
Perianayagam says this causes great delay in discoveries, creates an overwhelming amount of workflow for bioinformaticians, and ultimately, costs organizations millions of dollars. He believes Loci bridges the gap between scientists and meaningful data.
“[Loci] basically unifies all the genomic sequence data in one place and connects it to microbiome scientists with just a few clicks and simple-to-use software solutions,” says Perianayagam. “Our approach is to make the software so easy that any scientists can use it, even without computational skills. They can use it to mine the data by themselves and provide innovation.”
The invention grew from Perianayagam’s own R&D experience. A biologist by training and a Dow AgroSciences and Roche Diagnostics alumni, he often experienced the pregnant pause of waiting for his data to be translated.
“The [industry] focus is still on the how-to of sequencing the genome and how low the cost can be. But there’s less focus on how to effectively manage, analyze and transform the data into an innovative product; that’s the big gap,” says Perianayagam. “That’s where we come into the picture—focusing exclusively on data management and data mining with an easy-to-use software solution for biologists; that differentiates us from the competitors.”
Karyosoft recently completed beta testing of the technology and is now working with seven clients, mostly in Indiana, to pilot Loci. Academia comprise the largest number of users, followed by institutions and industry clients.
Perianayagam says working with the Purdue Foundry to sharpen his business acumen was “the best decision I made,” and he’s content to keep his roots in Indiana.
“The support we’re getting through Indiana, and the life sciences especially, is amazing. We’re at that early stage of rapid growth, so I’m fortunate to have that timing; it’s already helping me and will continue to help in the long run,” says Perianayagam. “When I started the company, I had no idea about the entrepreneurial community taking shape in Indianapolis. I can confidently say this is the best time to be in Indiana if you’re an entrepreneur.”