Cork’s Helixworks named among 50 finalists for SXSW Accelerator Pitch event

26 Jan 2017

Skyline of Austin, Texas. Image: RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock

Helixworks, the Cork-based DNA data storage start-up, has been named among the 50 finalists for the ninth annual SXSW Accelerator Pitch event taking place in March.

In the past few years, Ireland has had an increasing presence at the annual SXSW conference in the US, most notably last year when people from business, research and culture descended on Austin, Texas to show what the country has to offer.

In 2017, many of these will return again, but an additional win for Irish start-ups came with the announcement that Cork-based DNA data storage company Helixworks was named in the final 50 of the SXSW Accelerator Pitch.

New device turns data into DNA in real time

The start-up was founded from the IndieBio EU accelerator (now called RebelBio) and is led by Nimesh Chandra, who said the company plans to launch a new machine that it has developed, called MOSS 2.0.

According to Chandra, the machine is capable of transforming digital data into DNA in real time and will “break barriers in the speed of DNA synthesis”.

He added: “At SXSW, we will demonstrate, live to our audience and also at the expo floor, a biotech product that is going to cross the barriers of our understanding of biology, our understanding of science – everything. This is going to be a plug-and-play machine with a drag-and-drop user interface.”

Back in July, the company made headlines after it announced that it was the first company in the world to offer DNA data storage to anyone, straight from Amazon.

By purchasing DNA Drive, a person can store 512KB of data onto genetic information that is stored in a golden pill, which could potentially last for thousands of years.

“If you had something like DNA, which is really tiny and very easy to store, [the data] could technically survive a nuclear blast inside a capsule,” Chandra said to at the time. “All of these things make it really long-term.”

Only Irish start-up selected

Helixworks is not the only company looking into the technology, as Microsoft revealed last year that it had purchased 10m strands of DNA to develop new methods of data storage.

Of the 50 start-ups to join the accelerator pitch event taking place on 11 and 12 March this year, Helixworks is the only one to originate from Ireland.

Once all of the start-ups have pitched their companies to a panel of judges and a live audience, one start-up will be selected as the winner of each of the 10 categories and will be included in the SXSW Accelerator.

The full list of companies and where they come from are as follows:

Augmented and virtual reality technologies finalists

Fibrum – Moscow, Russia

Holojam – New York

Lampix – San Francisco

Oncomfort – Houston

Teleporter VR – Istanbul, Turkey

Enterprise and smart data technologies finalists

Deep 6 Analytics – Pasadena

Helixworks Technologies – Cork, Ireland

LivingLens – Liverpool, United Kingdom

Metadata – San Francisco

Speechmatics – Cambridge, United Kingdom

Entertainment and content technologies finalists

Haste – Atlanta – San Francisco

MuuseLabs – Brussels, Belgium

Novel Effect – Seattle

Triseum – Bryan, Texas

Health and wearables technologies finalists

Bloomlife – San Francisco

iSono Health – San Francisco

Litmus Health – Austin

Saathi – Ahmedabad, India

Sound Scouts – Sydney, Australia

Innovative world technologies finalists

AnyQuip – Calgary, Canada

Envi – Los Angeles

FishViews – Wimberley, Texas

Makerarm – Austin – Buffalo, New York

Payment and fintech technologies finalists

AssetVault – London, United Kingdom

CNote – Oakland, California

Envudu – Springville, Utah

Hip Pocket – Lincoln, New England

Kickfurther – Boulder, Colorado

Security and payment technologies finalists

Emergent Network Defense – Washington, DC

Secr Secure – Barcelona, Spain

Umbo CV – San Francisco

UnifyID – San Francisco

Uplevel Security – New York

Social and culture technologies finalists

4Gifters – Milan, Italy

Envy – Palo Alto, California

Lily – San Diego

Module – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

NextBillion – Vancouver, Canada

Sports technologies finalists

Brizi – Toronto, Canada

HorseAnalytics GmbH – Hanover, Germany

Kymira – Reading, United Kingdom

Season Share – Los Angeles

Wyp Aviation – Huntsville, Alabama

Transportation technologies finalists

Driver WatchDog – Buffalo, New York

Fingertips Lab – San Francisco

HAAS Alert – Chicago – Detroit

SPLT – Austin

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic