Why should data-driven biotech start-ups opt for a cloud-based computing environment?
The R&D of modern biotech start-ups relies more and more on the computational environment. They need it for example to store and analyze experimental data. Traditionally, companies have been setting up their computational centers on-premises. However, advancement in digital infrastructure is now providing an attractive alternative in the form of cloud computing. In this blog post, we’ve listed several examples of how a biotech start-up can benefit from the opportunities offered by cloud computing.
Big biological data and cloud-based computing facilitate the development of a proof of concept (PoC)
In the past decade, we’ve observed rapid progress in fields like sequencing, gene editing, single-cell transcriptomics and other types of “omics”. As a result, scientists have been generating enormous amounts of extremely complex, multi-dimensional data. The availability of this data via public data domains and biobanks makes it possible to test and validate R&D ideas, including those with commercial potential. This opens an opportunity for biotech start-ups to lift off the ground even before they have a wet lab facility and can collect their own data. Using cloud computing, start-ups can begin with data analysis and create a proof of concept fairly quickly and with a relatively low budget.
Major cloud providers offer moreover tools that can additionally speed up the process of building pipelines for biotech applications. Examples include AWS for Genomics, Google Cloud Life Sciences, and Microsoft’s Azure HPC for health and life sciences.
Cloud-based computing makes a biotech start-up more agile
Cloud resources can be rapidly scaled up and down. This scalability allows a start-up to quickly adapt to changing needs regarding computing resources (CPU, memory), dedicated services for the web (landing pages, apps), data sharing capabilities, volumes of data to be analyzed, etc. It also means that start-ups pay only for what they use, and therefore are more cost-effective and flexible in their spending.
Competitive advantages of cloud-based computing
Biotech start-ups face fierce competition and every ingredient that puts them ahead of their rivals is important to consider. The use of cloud computing increases start-up competitiveness in more than one way. For example, it enables easier access to state-of-the-art computational techniques. Many sophisticated AI, ML and deep learning algorithms require hardware that fulfills specific needs regarding GPU acceleration and memory. Setting up a powerful enough computing environment on-premises is difficult and costly, therefore cloud computing centers, with all the necessary and advanced infrastructure in place, offer a much more effective way to keep up-to-date with and benefit from the progress in hardware development.
Besides this technological enablement, it is worth considering how having a cloud-based computing infrastructure influences the perception of a start-up by prospective talents. Rapid scalability, flexibility and relatively low cost of cloud services mean that operating in the cloud is the way to go forward for all modern companies that deal with data analysis. Innovative talents might therefore expect that the start-up they consider joining will have its computing infrastructure based in a cloud environment. Attracting such talents will facilitate the formation of a forward-thinking team and sharpen the start-up’s competitive edge.
Cloud application case 1: making wet lab R&D more efficient with cloud-based computing
When a start-up launches its wet lab facilities, the computing environment on the cloud can play an important role in the automation of lab processes. With the IoT, it is increasingly easier to transfer data from a sequencer or other on-premises lab equipment directly to the cloud. Once there, the pipelines designed earlier can be used to automatically analyze the data in real time, accelerating the start-up’s R&D.
Cloud application case 2: customer service supported by cloud-based computing
Start-ups that plan on offering their customers computational tools and services via online platforms can additionally leverage cloud computing environments for that purpose. As their user base increases, the easy and quick scalability of the cloud will again pose a valuable advantage and support the start-up’s agile growth.
How does cloud-based computing help start-ups get funding?
All benefits of using a cloud computing environment act in favor of a start-up when it is evaluated by investors and funding bodies. Other aspects they will surely scrutinize are potential risks and planned countermeasures. With data-driven life science and biotech R&D, a question about data security usually appears very quickly. The loss, theft, leak, and unauthorized access to and manipulation of sensitive biological data will have disastrous consequences for a start-up that is legally obliged to keep the data secure following relevant regulations such as GDPR (EU) or HIPPA (US). It is therefore critical to assure proper cyber security and prevent any potential data breaches. Cloud computing providers who assure the highest and most state-of-the-art data security measures, privacy features and reliable backup systems can greatly facilitate data protection. It is important to realize, however, that even when operating within the safest cloud environments, start-ups still have to implement further data security measures. In this article by Security Magazine, Joseph Carson, chief security scientist and Advisory CISO at ThycoticCentrify, advises: “Organizations adopting cloud services must also adopt a cloud security strategy designed to reduce the risks of cloud assets, such as data encryption, multi-factor authentication (MFA) and privileged access security.”
Expert knowledge is necessary to set up cloud-based computing efficiently
Though having a computing environment on a cloud offers biotech start-ups great advantages, the technical setup is not simple. Therefore, if you want to implement such a solution to your start-up but you lack the expertise, we strongly suggest that you talk to the experts in the field*. Our cloud specialists have helped many start-ups to set up efficient and secure computing centers on the cloud. We will be happy to help you with your idea too!
* Not sure what’s best for your biotech start-up – freelance bioinformatician, bioinformatics expert from a consulting company, collaboration with a university bioinformatics group or hiring your own bioinformatician?
Download the eBook “Setting up Bioinformatics in a Data-Driven Biotech Start-Up” for a quick comparison of cloud-based vs on-premises computing environments (and other important topics!).