Two USC alumni, Joseph Dunham and Chris Angermayer, have founded SeqOnce, a company that could potentially change the field of next generation sequencing.
Next generation sequencing technologies allow for sequencing large amounts of DNA or RNA much more quickly and at lower cost than previous methods. These technologies have revolutionized genomics research and have enabled a multitude of new discoveries and applications that were previously not possible. Not only have they transformed the research and medical landscape, these technologies have powered the explosion in consumer genomics companies such as 23andme and Ancestry.com.
The process starts with the collection of a cell sample followed by DNA or RNA extraction, which is then converted into a form appropriate for sequencing called “library construction.” The process of library construction often creates a bottleneck in the workflow, due to the time it takes to process the samples and the advanced skillset that is needed to tackle the complexity of construction for various samples.
As a graduate student and postdoc at USC, Dunham developed a method that significantly simplified and sped up the process of library construction. Recognizing the commercial potential of his discovery, he reached out to his brother Angermayer, a USC alumnus and veteran of the financial service industry, for advice. Recognizing the market opportunity, they started on the long road of entrepreneurship and founded SeqOnce.
How SeqOnce plans to advance next generation sequencing
Dunham and Angermayer have now been working on SeqOnce for the past five years, motivated by belief in their product and its potential to advance the field of genomics. Scott Fraser, the Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering and Director of Science Initiatives who also serves as their scientific advisor, stated that “the most exciting thing about SeqOnce is that they have created a new pipeline that saves both time and money — a rare combination.”
Both brothers are equally involved in the company. Dunham — the chief scientific officer — is in charge of refining their product, while Angermayer — the chief executive officer — is tasked with day-to-day operations and fundraising. Starting a company is a very difficult endeavor, and they recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs surround themselves early with people from the industry who are experienced with the startup world and understand the unique challenges facing a life science startup.
As of late last year, they had advanced their first product — the RhinoSeq library construction kit — to the stage where it was ready for market launch. One of their early customers and test sites is the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, one of the premier cancer centers in the country. Additionally, they recently began working with the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute for testing and future application development. Their next big challenge will be expanding their customer base and launching additional products. They have just begun their next round of fundraising and are planning to raise a series A round of financing later this year.