The startup community that resides in downtown Manhattan’s JLABS space recently welcomed a new neighbor. Eagle Genomics, the “Microbiome AI Discovery Platform” launched their first location in the United States, with already existing locations in Paris and the U.K.
JLABS@NYC is a life science incubator in downtown NYC. The labs “provide a flexible environment for start-up companies pursuing new technologies and research platforms to advance medical care.”
The evening event kicked off with comments from Anthony Finbow, CEO of Eagle Genomics, and the story of Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and antibiotics’ role in “profoundly changing our society.” He explained how, along with the discoveries of Koch and Pasteur, these early founders of the field of microbiology “shaped the entire context of how our society has understood about health and wellness over the last 100 years.”
But, he noted, “something profound is changing in our society.” A “secular change in the way we perceive the microbes around us is leading us on a different path.”
Enter Eagle. They want to “provide the bridge between the data and the insight” to equip scientists to do more productive and faster research. If microbiology is a data science, Finbow notes, then we need to equip scientists with the tools, mechanisms, and environment to do the science in a more productive way than has been possible before.
Finbow tells GEN that although Eagle was founded in 2008, they initially didn’t focus on the microbiome. When he took on the role of CEO last year, he pivoted the company’s focus to the microbiome because “he sees a big opportunity for enterprise-sized organizations to research these microbial communities, understand how they impact human health and the planet, and then use that information to produce safer and more effective products.” His motivation includes a brush with death in 2005 after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that, Finbow suspects, was associated with an antibiotic therapy he had previously undergone to treat an ulcer.
Finbow sees roles for Eagle in the industries of food and nutraceuticals, health and personal care, and agriculture. Like the animal in its moniker, the company’s goals are lofty, with sights to “address the major challenges facing humanity around the microbiome.”
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere
What does a company that refers to itself as “the life sciences knowledge discovery platform company” do? Their expertise is in curating, analyzing, and interpreting life sciences data. In combination with Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology and Cognitive Services’ AI-augmented platform, the goal is to enable customers to gain new insights in the microbiome, particularly its application in healthcare, personal care, cosmetics, and food. The platform is already deployed in global companies including Unilever and GSK.
The e[automateddatascientist] platform “puts data science at the fingertips of scientists” to “transform data into actionable insights that drive scientific decision making.” With the challenges around data management becoming a growing problem, Eagle genomics will “remove the pain in data management.”
The company’s website lists examples of their projects, including a microbiome-based toothpaste product made by Unilever. Eagle notes that Unilever’s data analysis software lacked in computing power to run the analysis. But, in partnering with them, Eagle created a cloud-based system architecture that “provided an opportunity for limitless expansion and enabled parallel analysis.”
Another example comes from a search for molecular biomarkers for acute pancreatitis with Glaxo Smith Kline. In a study resulting in over a thousand measurements with “detailed clinical, protein, and metabolomic, including longitudinal, data types available” Eagle created a platform for biomarker discovery.
A collaboration between Horizon Discovery and Eagle established a high-quality sequence map based on Horizon’s GS Knock-Out CHO K1 cell line. Eagle Genomics was commissioned to complete the high-quality genome assembly and gene annotation, using technology in collaboration with the Ensembl group at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).
The launch hosted a panel, including Dirk Gevers, PhD, global head of microbiome solutions, World Without Disease Accelerator at Janssen; Sam Samaras, PhD, global vice president science & technology, beauty and personal care R&D at Unilever; David Houlding, principal healthcare lead, industry experiences, Cloud + AI at Microsoft; and Rob Genieser, managing partner of venture capital firm ETF Partners (Eagle’s venture capital funder). The group reflected on the importance of focusing on the microbiome and the almost limitless roles that it plays in our lives.