Part of the "Under the Microscope" Series admin November 15, 2014

Shannon Carmont, BioNB Communications Intern

Chris Baker, a professor at the University of New Brunswick, is an ambassador for the Canadian bioinformatics sector. He and his team have developed a tool that has earned them international attention as innovators in bioinformatics. This year he is on sabbatical from his teaching responsibilities and is spending his time traveling the world participating in accelerator programs and presenting at industry conferences.

Bioinformatics is the development of methods and tools for understanding biological data. It is the intersection of computer science, statistics, mathematics, engineering, and biology. Bioinformatics has become an important part of many areas of biology, particularly in areas that require processing and analysis of massive amounts of data such as DNA modeling and sequencing.

Baker is a co-founder and CEO of IPSNP (pronounced ip-snip), a bioinformatics company that has developed HYDRA, an innovative search engine with broad applications. What began as an open source collaborative project with a few colleagues has become a revenue-positive start up with potential for international expansion.

Currently, those who produce vast amounts of data are faced with the complex question of how to store, integrate and reuse that data in a user friendly way. Most data integration projects are implemented by large teams of programmers and database administrators and the data becomes outdated within months. “It’s just an inefficient knowledge management approach, and there are smarter, and more cost effective ways to do it.” said Baker.

IPSNP’s HYDRA product has competitive advantage because it does ad-hoc query-based data federation. It pulls data from various distributed databases and can run data manipulation algorithms, to deliver the most current answers to specific questions. Baker and his team have identified the health and pharmaceutical markets as first targets for HYDRA technology. In healthcare they are integrating data to track incidents of hospital acquired infections, while in pharma the tool can be used to identify patients which meet the criteria for clinical trials. Baker says “the technology also has applications for countless other markets, including finance”.

Currently Baker is in Boston, participating in the Canadian Technology Accelerator. The focus of the program is to help him and his company progress more rapidly. This experience has given Baker the chance to learn from experienced mentors and has enhanced IPSNP exposure in Boston which is a hub for many of the pharmaceutical giants. Baker is focusing his efforts now on finding leads, validating them, and converting them into clients. It is through establishing credibility with limited contracts that IPSNP intends to grow further.

In February, Baker will be moving to London to participate in another accelerator program, this time providing access to the hub of European markets.

In addition to his accelerator experiences, Baker has been invited to participate in a variety of conferences. In November, he will be presenting to a group at MIT about HYDRA and its innovative approach to data federation. In December, Baker will be heading to Berlin to present his product to an audience of pharmaceutical and health professionals. With the help of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Baker will be meeting with up to 10 pharmaceutical companies while he is in Berlin. “The Canadian government’s trade commissioners in all of the overseas embassies and consulates provide a great service to Canadian entrepreneurs,” said Baker, who appreciates the access that they have afforded him to potential clients.

Baker is appreciative of the opportunity to be participating in these accelerators.  “The chance to get away to connect with people who want to know your story is hugely transformational.” It will be a better connected, and more market ready IPSNP that returns to New Brunswick next year.

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