Alliance Blog

Bioinformatics is a huge opportunity for SoCal

On November 3rd, the Alliance and Techstars co-hosted a discussion on Bioinformatics for a select group of corporate leaders on the campus of San Diego State University. The all-star attendee list included bioinformatics leaders from Illumina, Lilly, Takeda, Dell, UC San Diego, Caris Life Sciences, Petco, Alteryx, and Techstars among others. During the roundtable conversation it became abundantly clear that SoCal could easily distinguish itself as one of the nation’s premier innovation leaders in bioinformatics – a growing market valued at $10.2B in 2021 and projected to hit $39.7B globally by 2030. 

For those new to Bioinformatics, it is “an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data, in particular when the data sets are large and complex” which is now becoming a core competence for biotech and pharmaceutical companies. 

San Diego companies like Illumina, Element Biosciences, BioNano Genomics, and ChromaCode are currently developing compelling capabilities in this specific area. Compounded with relevant research coming out of top academic institutions like UCSD, UCI, USC and UCLA, this growing regional cluster represents a significant opportunity. 

Bioinformatics leadership discussion at SDSU hosted by Alliance for SoCal Innovation and Techstars

The discussion amongst our esteemed guests was both energetic and wide ranging touching on topics such as:

  • Privacy Issues
    • Tackling the data privacy issues and the insurability challenges connected to individual genomic profiles
    • The opportunity to more easily explore new products and innovation in the less regulated market of healthcare for pets
    • Hacking human benefits by initially focusing on wellness to limit HIPAA difficulties (think 23andMe and other voluntary wellness companies’ data)
  • User Issues
    • The challenge of habit breaking and adoption of technology by caregivers
    • Changing perspectives in order to re-teach doctors to trust data insights vs primarily their own intuition and experience
    • The difficulties of making EHR useful for patient treatment vs just for billing and patient history
    • The need to make medical records customer centric with visual insights
  • Ownership Issues
    • Moving beyond the land grab for data pools to discover actionable insights
    • Pushing data analytic tools and training to the front line vs just leaving them with the “data geeks”
  • Mentorship
    • The challenges of the translational process and the benefit mentors play to help innovators more successfully navigate their journey
    • Effective mentoring and how to optimize mentor chemistry (a core competency of Techstar accelerators)
  • Collaboration!
    • The opportunity to leverage diverse innovation sectors like entertainment and defense to accelerate progress in bioinformatics.

The discussion sparked creative ideas and newly considered collaborations that were just scratching the surface of the potential opportunity. The group agreed that a full day symposium on this topic would be highly beneficial and they raised the possibility of injecting a cohort of bioinformatics startups as part of the new SDSU Techstars or even spinning up another accelerator focused specifically in this area. The ideas continued to flow during the cocktail hour and the delicious meal that followed in the lovely courtyard of SDSU’s Engineering Interdisciplinary Sciences Center. Many thanks to Techstars for sponsoring the event and to SDSU for providing the venue.

Since there is still so much to discover and unlimited possibilities and potential, we look forward to exploring this topic again in the future and to connecting diverse industries for cross-sector collaborations and discussions.