Genomic Big Data App Maker Coriell Wins IBM Entrepreneur Award

New Jersey-based health care application maker beat out 1,200 applicants from 24 countries in the fourth annual competition.

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SAN FRANCISCO—In a competition not unlike the globally popular "American Idol," IBM on Feb. 6 named Coriell Life Sciences as the 2013 winner of its fourth annual Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Like the popular singing-competition television show, which has been adapted in 46 countries, Coriell had to survive the challenge of thousands of contestants in a wide range of countries to win the top honor. The company's easy-to-use yet sophisticated technology impressed the judges at the annual IBM SmartCamp contest finals in San Francisco, giving the Camden, N.J.-based company the award over seven other international finalists.

This year, IBM hosted 17 local SmartCamp competition events, 16 mentorship events and four regional contests. More than 1,200 applicants from 24 countries participated in the competition.

Coriell Had Won North America Regional

Coriell, which along with new-gen farming app maker OnFarm had won IBM's North America regional competition last September, has developed an enterprise application that enables doctors to make more informed decisions on selecting medication for their patients. It brings genomic science and big data IT into practical use for everyday medicine.

Using a single analytics test created by Coriell, doctors are provided with a report of drug results telling them in each case which medications will work, which will be dangerous and what dosage is optimal, based on an individual's DNA.

Here's an example of a Coriell use case:

A cardiologist is considering prescribing a popular blood-thinning drug for an 85-year-old woman. The doctor is concerned about the potential for an adverse reaction, so she runs a swab across the inside of the patients' cheek to collect a tiny amount of genetic material. The sample goes to the DNA lab for testing, and the results—compiled by the genomic app and analyzed using a big data-enabled back end—come back as an electronic medical record. In this case, the news is good; the patient can use the drug.

Simple Procedure Easy to Administer

This seemingly simple procedure—which has been seven years in development—is the centerpiece of the 1-year-old company's new system for evaluating drug effectiveness and safety. "We are empowering doctors and helping patients by simplifying genomic science," said Scott Megill, Coriell's co-founder (center in photo).

Finalists in the Feb. 6 event, held at the Bently Reserve in San Francisco's Financial District, were as follows:

--Shopa (U.K.), a social network advertising company that received the most votes in an election conducted online;
--OnFarm (U.S.), a cloud app that uses big data analytics to help farmers work more efficiently and cost effectively;
--Geekie (Brazil), a new cloud-based online education tool that customizes learning programs for students;
--Nova Lumos (Israel), which markets a portable device that provides affordable solar power upon payment;
--Reengen (Turkey), which provides analytics to utilities and commercial buildings, and monitors and reports on smart grid performance;
--Temando (Australia), which makes smart shipping software that helps improve sales success in e-commerce applications; and
--TMC (Malaysia), which has a cloud-based system using sensors and analytics to assess risk for landslides, mostly for the mining industry.

Coriell is an offshoot of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, a 60-year-old, Philadelphia-based nonprofit research organization. In 2007, the Institute launched an effort to bring genomic information to health management, with Coriell Life Sciences being established to commercialize the results of that research.

Putting Big Data, Genomic to Work for Daily Medicine

Vast amounts of genetic information about individual patients have been available for a number of years, but it has been difficult to get at and expensive. "This company bridges the gap," said Dr. Michael Christman, the Institute's CEO (at left in photo).

Coriell is in the process of raising venture capital to fund the expansion of its business. So far, it has raised $2.2 million of its goal of $4 million. The company is negotiating with resellers in 25 states.

The company also is making plans to upgrade the system by embedding IBM Watson technology into its app. At the moment, Coriell has a labor-intensive process of gathering information and evaluating it, using a team of human experts.

Plans to Add Watson Into the System

Watson, which beat two grand-champions on the TV quiz show "Jeopardy" ingests huge amounts of information and answers questions put to it in ordinary language. "With Watson, we can turbo-charge our process," Megill said.

SmartCamps are an integral part of IBM's Global Entrepreneur Program. The SmartCamp process, now in its fourth year, is designed to identify and support startup companies developing innovative solutions using cloud, big data, analytics, mobile and social technologies.

The process, of course, also offers IBM an insight into where new ideas are emanating so that the venerable all-purpose IT company can have the first option to monetize and/or support the new products.

Winners were selected by a panel of expert judges consisting of venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, and business and technology experts. About 1,200 companies are affiliated with the program, IBM Marketing Manager Ria Hyman told eWEEK.

The IBM Global Entrepreneur Program, supervised by Sandy Carter, general manager of ecosystem development at IBM (at right in photo), has become an incubator for IT startups. Past SmartCamp participants have raised more than $115 million in venture capital funding to help expand their businesses. Several companies have gone on to bring new offerings to market with IBM.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...