On the heels of releasing a new version of its flagship image-analysis software, German firm Definiens this week said that it has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to further develop image-analysis products.
Under the terms of the collaboration, MIT will use Definiens’ Enterprise Image Intelligence suite of products, which includes Cellenger, a version of the Enterprise Image Intelligence suite designed for high-content image analysis.
According to a statement by Definiens, MIT will install the Enterprise Image Intelligence product suite at the Whitehead Institute-MIT BioImaging Center in Cambridge, Mass. The software will be available for the entire MIT community to use, and MIT will “enable industry representatives with commercial interests to view, evaluate, and explore” the product onsite, Definiens said.
Definiens also said that it will consider working with MIT to develop new software or to link platforms in order to tailor the products to the institute’s needs.
It is not known if the placement constitutes an actual sale for Definiens. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Definien’s relationship with MIT “goes beyond that of an academic customer,” Rene Hermes, Definiens’ vice president of marketing, wrote in an e-mail to CBA News. “Definiens will support MIT’s mission to enable the integration of the various components of the imaging supply chain in research and will facilitate the connections between the different platforms and data visualization.”
The Whitehead-MIT BioImaging center is equipped primarily for light, electron, and atomic-force microscopy of cellular and tissue samples for basic biomedical research and screening, according to its website.
Its list of partners includes Cellomics for well plate-based cellular imaging; Applied Precision for high-resolution deconvolution fluorescence microscopy; Zeiss for laser-scanning confocal microscopy; PerkinElmer for spinning-disk confocal microscopy; Digital Instruments for atomic force microscopy; and Jeol for cryoelectron microscopy.
It is unclear which “components of the imaging supply chain” Whitehead-MIT will integrate with the Definiens platform. Calls and e-mails to various Whitehead-MIT BioImaging Center representatives were not returned in time for this publication.
In a statement, Whitehead-MIT BioImaging Center director Paul Matsudaira said that “Image analysis software is needed to quantify subtle details in light and electron microscopy images. For systems biology applications, large numbers of measurements are required from a wide variety of experimental conditions, which requires software to efficiently handle large amounts of data.”
The Whitehead Institute is also home to CellProfiler, an open-access image analysis software suite for high-content screening and other microscopy applications.
CellProfiler, developed by Anne Carpenter, a postdoc in David Sabatini’s laboratory, could be considered a direct competitor to Definiens’ image-analysis software, at least in the area of high-content image analysis. Definiens told CBA News that it was familiar with CellProfiler, but that “a linkage or overlap of the two solutions was not explored as part of the partnership discussions.”
Carpenter told CBA News this week that a significant percentage of researchers at the Whitehead-MIT BioImaging Center are using the open-access CellProfiler software in their research. She said that many are also using Cellomics’ image-analysis software.
“I think that their idea is to have access to as many tools as their users might want, and then the users can decide which tools are most useful,” Carpenter said. “It’s pretty common for people to want to have a lot of resources at their disposal.” She added that if Definiens was giving Whitehead-MIT BioImaging its software for free, then it was a no-brainer for the facility to “take it, try it out, and see what happens.”
“MIT will have access to early versions of the Definiens products and Definiens will be able to host visits at MIT for demonstration and training.”
The deal may also serve to further expand Munich, Germany-based Definiens’ North American operations. In his e-mail, Hermes wrote that “MIT will have access to early versions of the Definiens products and Definiens will be able to host visits at MIT for demonstration and training.”
The company already has sales and service offices in Morristown, NJ; Denver, Col.; Reston, Va; and Bruno, Calif.; and last week told CBA News that half of its revenues related to life-sciences software come from North America.
Whether or not the company will eventually open an office in the Boston area, it appears as if it will at least have a showcase in that area for its products. According to Hermes, the company has also recently hired a new sales representative to be stationed in the Cambridge area.
Last week, Definiens officially announced the release of Cellenger v1.4, the high-content screening iteration of its Enterprise Image Intelligence technology. The company also said that it plans to launch the next generation, v2.0, in January at Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s High-Content Analysis meeting in San Francisco.
It is unclear whether Whitehead-MIT will have a hand in the development of Cellenger v2.0 or beta-test the product.