I grew up in communist Hungary and moved to the United States with my family at the age of eight. How we got here is an interesting story better left for another article. The point is that most kids growing up in the US had chores like taking out garbage or mowing lawns. However, in Hungary my chore was to ride my bike to the only store in town and stand in the bread line, sometimes for hours. My reward for this was often a Coke I bought at the bar next door. The year was 1975 and for my brother and me standing in a bread line was a normal part of life with hours spent trying to game the system to get the best bread.
Hungary had lots of bakers, many really good. But the bread had to navigate a difficult path from the baker to my family’s tummies: Few trucks, poor storage, and too few stores to distribute. There was too much bread for some areas and too little for others; many loafs grew stale or moldy or went wasted, uneaten. We never knew what we would find. But often when I arrived to the front of the bread line I was amazed to find that the shelves were full! How could this be when there seemed to be plenty of workers handing out bread?
When we visit academic or commercial sequencing facilities we see the same issues. Plenty of lab technicians, plenty of instruments, unused machine time and plenty of empty, unused lanes on sequencing runs. Yet in many labs, freezers are full of partially filled boxes of various types of prepped libraries…all waiting to get on one or another instrument at some yet to be determined date. Why is this?
This is genomics’ equivalent of the breadline, folks with advanced degrees waiting for data - science’s equivalent of bread - with little control over access or timing. What a waste…
It is somewhat ironic that after 40 years in the US I find myself starting a company focused on solving a distribution and access problem, not for bread but for genomics. Making bread and sequencing samples are actually very similar businesses and as such manifest very similar problems. Both are abundantly available, yet both resist the notion they are “commodities.” Both require a machine - an oven or a sequencer - a few simple ingredients and well-trained operators who all claim they are the best at sour dough or . However, being skilled in production doesn’t translate to matching market needs. Nobody gains if the bread goes bad or the lane goes unused no matter how delicious the loaf or good the prepped library is.
Cloud based solutions can put an end to Genomics Breadlines. No, we don’t mean a Google search that results in a list of service providers! Those lists are not actionable and don’t speed up or decrease the cost of science. We propose an app that will tell us the availability and status of every single scientific instrument () in the world. We mean shared access with the ability to book time on them! We mean optimizing machine utilization by matching samples to available machine time throughout the world. Until then we will have to know by tribal knowledge which shops have good bread and which good library preps. With our app one can identify the good bread without the lines!
Here is a Tweet-able summary… “Don’t Get Caught in the Genomics Bread Line!”