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Cellomics and Genedata Alliance Aims to Augment HCS Throughput; Could Blossom Into Formal Deal

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Informatics firm Genedata and Cellomics have established an informal collaboration to provide workflow and data-management software for high-content screening and high-content analysis, officials from the companies told CBA News this week.
 
The alliance is particularly beneficial to Genedata as it attempts to further drive its software into the HCS arena by building on a previous agreement with Evotec.
 
The collaboration calls for the firms to integrate Genedata’s Screener software with Cellomics’ high-content informatics software that accompanies its ArrayScan and KineticScan high-content imaging platforms. There is no official co-marketing agreement in place; rather, the companies are working with customers who would like to integrate their Cellomics platform with Genedata’s software.
 
“Right now we have a very loose collaboration, and hopefully we will eventually have a proper co-marketing agreement in place,” Mark Collins, Cellomics’ senior product manager for bioinformatics, told CBA News. “This has primarily been driven by our customers who have got or are looking at the Screener product and thought that it would be really great for doing high-content screening.”
 
The integration is being done in two phases, according to the companies. The first phase, which is already completed, allows users of Cellomics’ PlateExplorer utility to export plate and well data in an open XML text format that Genedata’s Screener can import. This allows users to analyze HCS data generated by ArrayScan or KineticScan using the Screener software.
 
The second phase, which is expected to be completed late this year or early next year, will integrate Screener with Cellomics’ platforms using the Cellomics HCi Store web service application programming interface. This will allow Screener to access and display well-level data and corresponding cell images from within the Screener application, the companies said.
 
Although the companies have yet to formally announce the collaboration, Cellomics’ Collins and Genedata scientists will jointly hold a tutorial discussing HCS data analysis at Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s High-Content Analysis Europe conference next week in Vienna, Austria.
 
“The tutorial is not very commercially focused,” Collins said. “Basically we’ll be talking about how you manage, visualize, and mine high-content data – the key factors and criteria to do that. I invited Genedata along because we’ve been working with them for a while, and they have some pretty good software and generic approaches that make sense in terms of analyzing high-content data.”
 
The partnership, while beneficial to both companies, is particularly important to Genedata as it attempts to further break into the realm of high-content screening with software that traditionally has been used for microarray analysis and high-throughput biochemical assay data analysis.
 
“Our strategy is to provide data analysis for high-content screening, and we want to work with HCS providers and image-analysis software providers to give the customer a complete solution from the instrument and the experiment down to the final results, such as the hit list or the data that allows them to profile and assess their compounds or to assess liabilities,” Stephan Heyse, project leader for the Genedata Screener software, told CBA News this week.
 
“Since we provide a specialized solution more in the data quality control and multivariate analysis domain for this high-content data, which are very complex, we can boil it down to relatively simple outcomes,” he added. “But we don’t provide the instruments or image-analysis [software] ourselves, so we try to work together with HCS providers.”
 
Genedata first announced its intention to join the HCS fray a little over a year ago at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences annual conference in Geneva. There the company said that it had forged a partnership with the tools and technologies division of Evotec to “integrate” HCS data at a higher level to increase throughput.
 
According to Heyse, the company pursued a pact with Cellomics soon thereafter, and the partnership was facilitated by the creation of a separate later co-marketing and co-development alliance between Evotec and Cellomics.
 

“They don’t want to have 10 columns of values – they want to know that the compound has this particular activity, but also has the following side effects.”

Genedata’s agreement with Cellomics has similar aims as the agreement with Evotec, Heyse said. The first step of any high-content screen is to obtain raw images of cells in wells or on plates using an HCS reader. From these raw images, analysis software that is typically, but not always, provided by the instrument vendor extracts raw data from the images.
 
“Where we come in is at a higher level of integration,” Heyse said. “We take this kind of raw data and process it first on a plate-by-plate fashion, then in a batch, and then in a whole-campaign context. We’re integrating this information at a higher level across several plates, bringing in the compound information, the concentration values, and combin[ing] that [with] dose-response curves, and on a higher level bundl[ing] all this together to deliver something like secondary results.”
 
Heyse further noted that Genedata’s Screener allows researchers running high-content screens at a higher level of throughput to deliver the pertinent data in one bolus for other individuals in the drug-discovery assembly line.
 
“From a single HC screen, if you use all the information, you can learn quite a lot,” he said. “But this is very complex information that you have to simplify to communicate it further to the chemists, or people in lead optimization, for example. They don’t want to have 10 columns of values – they want to know that the compound has this particular activity, but also has the following side effects.”
 
Cellomics’ Collins added that the Screener software is “very good at post hoc analysis. In other words, you’ve done the image analysis, and maybe some basic data analysis with our tools. They allow you to do some very good quality control, and to look across all the data,” he said.
 
“We all want to maximize the value of making multiple measurements,” he added. “They have some tools that complement what we do and are very good for high-throughput, high-content types of experiments.”
 

Heyse said that Genedata continues to seek partnerships with other HCS vendors – the only other major ones being GE Healthcare, BD Biosciences, and Molecular Devices – but that these talks are only “in the works.”

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