Qlucore this week entered the Chinese market after inking a deal with Beijing-based genomic services provider SinoGenoMax. Under the terms of the agreement, SinoGenoMax will market Qlucore's flagship Omics Explorer software to its clients in the Chinese pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors.
Qlucore CEO Carl-Johan Ivarsson told BioArray News this week that the Lund, Sweden-based company had been "looking for a strong partner that knows the market with good connections with industry, academia, and the government in China."
He said that working with SinoGenoMax to sell its software in China, as opposed to trying to serve that market directly, "makes sense" for Qlucore, which is trying to tap into what Ivarsson characterized as an expanding market for genomics and proteomics analysis tools.
"There is a lot of activity in China going on in terms of [the use of] genomics and array technologies," said Ivarsson. "We have gotten download requests and inquiries from people who are doing research in China without any active marketing, so we are very confident in the existence of a market for our software there," he said.
Qlucore uses its own sales force to serve the European and American markets. Ivarsson said that his company is in the process of finding a representative for its business in India.
SinoGenoMax was founded in 1998 by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Peking University, Chinese Academy of Science, and Beijing institute of Medical Sciences. It offers a range of genomic services and has participated in several large-scale genome research projects, including the Human Genome Project. The firm employs 100 people and operates a 5,000-square-meter facility in the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area.
While SinoGenoMax has to date focused on services, Ivarsson said that it will serve as a distribution partner for Qlucore's software. "The main focus is to sign up new customers to use the tool around China," he said.
Patrick Lee, president of SinoGenoMax, said in a statement that the software will "form an important part of our commercial offering to the scientific community in China," and that the company expects to see "significant demand" for such tools.
Beyond meeting local demand, Qlucore hopes the deal with SinoGenoMax will give it an edge over rivals in the world's second largest economy. Omics Explorer competes against offerings such as Tibco's Spotfire, Genedata's Expressionist, Golden Helix's SNP & Variation Suite 7, BioDiscovery's Nexus Copy Number and Nexus Expression tools, and many others. Golden Helix, for instance, partnered with CloudScientific to serve the Chinese market last year.
Ivarsson described competitors' packages as "statistics- and table-driven," and said that Qlucore's advantage in the software market was its visualization capability.
With competitors' offerings, "you put your data in, you have to select a statistical test and the data is calculated for a while, and then you can visualize the results," he said. "Whereas we are visualizing throughout the process — from the first step when you load the data, we bring up a plot of your data," he said.
Qlucore was founded in 2007 by researchers at Lund University's departments of mathematics and clinical genetics. The firm's software relies on a "core engine" that visualizes the data in three dimensions, helping the user to "identify hidden structures and patterns," according to its website. Qlucore claims its software can aid users in the analysis of array and RT-PCR-based gene expression; array-based DNA methylation; array-, gel-, and mass spectrometry-based protein expression; and RNA-seq.
The company's first offering was called Qlucore Gene Expression Explorer 1.0, but the name was later changed to Omics Explorer to reflect its expanded capabilities. Since its initial release in 2007, the software has been updated to achieve compatibility with a number of array platforms, including those sold by Affymetrix and Agilent Technologies.
Ivarsson said that the company continues to invest in its graphics, based on the "idea that complex data is best analyzed by humans, because the human brain is a very powerful tool in recognizing patterns and structure in complex data."
He said that the company started out with plots based on principal component analysis, and has since added heatmaps and different kinds of scattered plots. "I think a static plot doesn't really provide use with the tool that is required to analyze complex things," said Ivarsson. "You have to be able to see something or see a plot where you don't see anything, so that you can work in a flow," he said. "That is what makes us unique."
Qlucore is also looking to serve customers who are not statisticians or bioinformaticists. "Array technologies were very novel 10 to 15 years ago," said Ivarsson. "The people who analyzed or worked with data at that point were specialists or had to become specialists in data analysis," he said.
"Arrays are now a much more common tool for medical doctors and chemists and they would like to focus on the research area on the application, than on a tool," he added. "Our tool is more for biologists than statisticians."
Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioArray News? Contact the editor at jpetrone [at] genomeweb [.] com.