Bangalore: Sanjeev Kumar is not the typical entrepreneurial adrenaline freak. An electrical engineer by training, who best likes churning out computational algorithms, he was inspired to use mathematics to solve life sciences problems after watching his biologist wife attempt that in academic and industry projects.

Skills in demand: BioCOS’ Kumar has two prototypes that he hopes to offer commercially by Feb 2009. Hemant Mishra / Mint

The result was BioCOS Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd, a start-up incubated by the duo at the Indian Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, Bangalore in February. “After about a decade in the technology industry, you reach that ‘floating’ stage where you neither contribute to the core technology development, nor to the top management…then you start looking for challenges," says Kumar. His challenge: how to use his expertise to analyze reams of data in biosciences.

BioCOS is building and applying algorithms to proteomics (the study of proteins) and other biological data for a variety of tasks: image processing and analysis of data from various imaging instruments; analysis of blood chemistry on hand-held biomedical devices; building molecular network models for identifying early biomarkers (an indicator of a biologic state) for diseases—diabetes and cancer to begin with; and develop techniques for cleaning up data.

“The key differentiating leverage from other bioinformatics solutions would be seamless interpretation and integration of data from various…sources," says Taher Abbasi, founder of a start-up called Cellworks Group Inc., which operates in a related field. Abbasi thinks BioCOS’ ability to automatically interpret and synthesize information from existing imaging formats to a searchable format addresses a key business need.

Kumar has two prototypes under validation, which he hopes to offer commercially by February 2009. “We are targeting our first commercial customer before we complete a year," he says. Instrument makers such as Agilent Technologies Inc., Olympus Corp., Carl Zeiss Inc., Bruker Corp. and others are obvious choices, but for now his customers are his collaborators in technology development, including the Indian Institute of Science, and the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore. Another such collaborator is Gundu H.R. Rao, professor (laboratory medicine and pathology) at the University of Minnesota, with whom Kumar is developing packages for microdevices. Rao says Kumar’s skills are in much demand in the biomedical industry.

BioCOS Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd is one of the nominated firms at the Tata NEN Hottest Startups competition, of which Mint is the official print media partner. Details of the competition can be accessed at