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[Startups to Watch] Ichthys Genomics aims to challenge global genomics cloud market
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.08.09 11:59
  • Updated 2018.08.09 11:59
  • comments 1

The global genomics market is expected to reach $23.8 billion by 2022, growing 10 percent annually from $14.7 billion in 2017. Genomics is a rapidly growing field, with the market creating an enormous amount of data annually.

Estimates show 2.4 exabytes are created each year. To put things into perspective, social media platforms Twitter generates 1.17 petabytes annually while Youtube creates 1.2 exabytes. In this rapidly growing field, genomics service providing firms are transitioning from using in-house based data centers to cloud-based systems.

Meet Ichthys Genomics. Ichthys is a Greek word that resembles the profile of a fish. Known colloquially as the "sign of the fish" and roughly translating into Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, the CEO explained that he applies the Christian doctrine in operating the firm, although not all members of the team are Christians themselves.

Ichthys Genomics’ team poses for a photo at its headquarters in the Seoul Entrepreneurship Hub in Mapo-gu.

The Seoul-based startup founded in November 2017 was launched by Seo Young-jun to build a cloud-based platform to analyze genomic data for precision medicine and create a cheap, accessible service for all.

Seo specialized in computer science and has developed big data platforms before switching over to computational biology and bioinformatics to enter the healthcare field. Rather than focusing on himself in a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review, however, Seo stressed that his team of 10 was the driving force of the firm.

“Even though most startups focus on the CEO, I believe our team is more important. We have a wide range of skill sets,” Seo said.

The 10 include five who have expertise in computer science, three in biology, one in design and another in the patent. The multidisciplinary team has helped the firm work towards creating a next-generation sequencing analysis system primed to compete against global names in the DNA sequencing world such as Google Genomics, Microsoft, Seven Bridges, and DNAnexus, according to Seo.

“People laugh if we say that we were going to create a better service than leading companies with a team of 10 and ask if it’s even possible,” CEO Seo said. “But that’s what startups are for – we have the potential. We have an energetic team filled with people in their 20s and 30s, and we’ve come together to work for one vision --to pioneer, create, and discover and become a global company through innovation.”

Various cloud platforms will use the genomic platform in development. However, the platform would not require customization according to each cloud. It would instead install an individual’s genomic analysis cluster to the cloud in a matter of minutes. Users will be able to access the service on a variety of cloud services such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Google.

After analyzing the data, the service user would be able to “return” the computing resources they used. Hybrid genomics cloud and on-premise cloud services, such as On-Premises Cloud, and On-Premises and Public Cloud, will also be available.

Ichthys Genomics’ software platform Caleb

In this way, the startup would offer genomic analysis services that can be paid for up-front. That solves the current problem of expensive data analysis costs that require complicated computations and substantial computing resources such as an in-house data center.

“Users often struggle with the drastic increase in cloud service fees. Genomics cloud service firms also want to get an accurate payment from their users regarding the analysis costs. The up-front prepaid system Ichthys offers changes how users pay for genomic analysis,” Seo said.

As a result, the firm will be able to reduce the risk of non-payment by small-scale users or those that cannot be trusted while providing unrestricted services to everyone.

Seo stressed that the service is not targeted to businesses or customers alone – the service is open to all.

“We have made it possible for small-scale analysts and individual users to use these services freely, so Ichthys Genomics services are offered for both B2B and B2C services,” Seo said.

The company is aiming to achieve promotion and sales at the same time through its current B2C business model that targets users who need to analyze small amounts of genetic data. By doing so, the company plans to gradually expand genomics cloud services to the U.S., Japan, and China.

The entrepreneur noted that the startup would first enter the Korean market by establishing various cooperation models in related ecosystems.


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