Envisagenics, a Huntington-based startup developing software to help drugmakers better analyze genomic data, has received $100,000 in funding from Accelerate Long Island and the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund.
The funding includes a $50,000 grant from Accelerate, a promoter of tech growth on the Island, and a $50,000 loan that can be converted into equity from LIETF, a startup seed fund. Accelerate's share comes from a grant from Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency.
Founded by Maria Luisa Pineda and Martin Akerman in 2013, Envisagenics is a "bioinformatics" company, meaning it works at the intersection of biology and computer science. Using proprietary algorithms based on earlier research done by Akerman at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the company's SpliceCore software aims to be a vital tool for pharmaceutical researchers.
"Scientists around the world could reduce the time and the cost it takes for them to develop a drug," said Pineda, chief executive of the company. "It cuts . . . the failure risk to actually make or develop drugs."
Akerman, chief technology officer, said that while advances in gene sequencing and mapping has led to greater scientific insight, they have also created a problem when trying to analyze the terabytes of information that genetic material can generate.
"In the last decade or so there was a big turn in biology, because we gained this new ability to look at genes at a very large scale," Akerman said. "That is good, but it creates a new problem, which is multiplicity of data."
SpliceCore, which currently has one beta customer, helps drugmakers better analyze and interpret big data taken from the human genome. That information can be used to select the most appropriate drug candidates for combating certain diseases with genetic roots, such as some breast cancers and spinal muscular atrophy.
The company, which operates out of LaunchPad Huntington, a co-working space for startups, plans to use the money to cover legal costs associated with the software's development, and to hire a bioinformatics scientist and a software engineer. The company's staff now consists of the two principals. It is also in the process of seeking investors for its first round of venture capital financing, which the company said would allow it to hire a few dozen employees in the next year.
"We definitely need a substantial amount to hire the right amount of people to scale up to have a soft launch of our product in a year," Pineda said. SpliceCore will eventually be cloud-based, she said.
The funding marks the first time the company has received outside investment. Investing in biotech companies can scare away some investors not interested in waiting years for new medicines to be developed. Because the company develops software, results will be seen relatively soon, said Mark Lesko, executive director of Accelerate and an adviser to the company.
"We expect them to generate revenues very quickly, and we'll know in pretty short order if this is going to be a profitable business," Lesko said.