Faculty startup is latest partner at NIC

Faculty startup is latest partner at NIC

Metagenome Analytics LLC, a start-up bioinformatics company led by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln food science professor, is the latest partner to be announced at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Dan Duncan, the campus’ executive director, said the company, known as MGA, will move into space on campus later this year.

“One of our goals for NIC was to create available space and services that enable faculty startup companies to form and grow,” Duncan said. “Metagenome Analytics, the first faculty based startup announced at NIC, demonstrates our plan in progress.”

Andrew Benson, W.W. Marshall Distinguished Professor of Biotechnology and professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, leads Metagenome Analytics. MGA partners include Khalid Sayood, professor of electrical and computer engineering, postdoctoral researcher Rohita Sinha; Ufuk Nalbantoglu of Erciyes Universitesi in Turkey; and UNL graduate The “Ty” Nguyen of Professional Computer Solutions.

The partners bring a robust combination of expertise to the bioinformatics marketplace that includes deep insight into microbiome research and genomic biology of microorganisms coupled with a broad range of know-how in cloud-based computing and development of pipelines, databases, and algorithms.

“The MGA team is fortunate to be a part of the growing momentum at NIC,” said Benson, who serves as the company’s managing partner. “We view the environment being created at NIC as a tremendous opportunity for MGA to help drive the science that will radically change how we think about the safety and security of our food supply.”

MGA’s products target the food and public health sectors, allowing public and private entities to capitalize on next-generation DNA sequencing technology. Next-generation sequencing is a game-changing technology for detecting and tracking microorganisms but there are lofty computational barriers that often preclude access to the technology. The compnay bridges the computational gap between its clients and next-generation sequencing diagnostics with automated, cloud-based systems. The company also works with clients to ensure appropriate levels of data interpretation and development of action plans.

The company's products allow clients to differentiate and track subpopulations of pathogenic microorganisms or monitor complex communities made of thousands of different microbial species, ultimately translating massive amounts of complex next-generation sequencing data into actionable information to improve productivity, quality and safety in the food industry. MGA's bioinformatics products reach beyond the food industry, where they enable NGS applications in the biotech and public health sectors. This was exemplified by the recent release of NeoSeek Salmonella, the first next-generation sequencing-based diagnostic for Salmonella that was jointly developed by MGA and Neogen, an international food-safety company.

“Neogen is pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with MGA,” said Neogen’s chairman and chief executive officer, Jim Herbert. “MGA’s bioinformatics expertise enables them to analyze vast amounts of data to assist in development of practical solutions for sub-species level identification of foodborne pathogens.”

“Locating at NIC will enable partnerships between MGA, UNL, NIC and others to create a center of excellence that can unite the food and public health sectors and regulatory agencies in unique ways to fully engage next-generation sequencing technology,” Benson said.

MGA will offer internship opportunities for UNL students interested in careers in bioinformatics. The company also will offer workshops and conferences on the applications of next-generation sequencing in the food and public health sectors.

NIC is a research campus designed to facilitate new and in-depth partnerships between the university and private sector businesses. At full build-out, NIC will be a 2.2-million square-foot campus with uniquely designed buildings and amenities that encourage people to create and transform ideas into global innovation. For more information, click here.