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How Fred Hutch Spinout LabKey Bootstrapped Its Way to Compete in Health Care’s Big Data

By January 3, 2019No Comments

Thirteen years ago, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center spun out a small startup with a mission to help researchers get a handle on all the data that medical devices were generating.

That company, LabKey, has since grown from six to 50 employees and counts Merck, MIT and Britain’s public health agency as clients. But the company never strayed far from home, now occupying an office a few blocks from where it was born in Fred Hutch’s Seattle headquarters.

LabKey’s story contrasts sharply with that of Juno Therapeutics, an immunotherapy company that spun out of Fred Hutch, raised millions in venture capital, and was bought by Celgene for $9 billion in January 2018. To this day, LabKey hasn’t raised outside funding, following its own path to success in a competitive area of technology and life sciences.

The company’s geography was important to LabKey’s start. Its founders were a group of software engineers, several from nearby Microsoft, who in 2003 started working to help researchers sift through data on proteins in order to better detect early-stage cancer.