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As HCA Market Shifts, BD Bundles AttoVision Software With Accelrys’ SciTegic Platform

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Accelrys this week announced that Becton Dickinson will integrate Accelrys’ SciTegic Enterprise Server data analysis and reporting platform into its AttoVision high-content screening software, and will offer the product to its customers by the middle of next year.
 
The resulting system is intended to improve how researchers analyze, categorize, store, and report images and data generated on Becton Dickinson's Pathway instrument, an Accelrys official told CBA News this week.
 
The deal comes as an increasing number of customers in the HCA space have been demanding such comprehensive data management solutions, tools for which have already been launched by GE Healthcare and PerkinElmer.
 
The SES platform has an interactive reporting capability that will allow BD customers to perform interactive QC on the data downstream by, for example, drilling down to original images after a QC summary of the data has been generated.
 
The SES platform “will improve statistics and analytical capabilities for doing QC on the data once it has been acquired and analyzed,” said Timothy Moran, director of imaging for the company.
 
The OEM agreement also provides BD customers with “tools to move data in and out of any OBDC-compliant databases, so they are not stuck using a particular vendor’s HCS storage platforms,” and offers them a web services tool that will enable them to access their HCS data remotely.
 
“We are able to provide whole experiments, such as microplates, and allow customers graphical interfaces to manipulate the plates all the way down to the object level, and to do this in really easy-to-use graphical interfaces of heat maps, and connected, interactive dose-response curves, and interactive scatter plots and XY plots,” Moran said.
 
Tom Driscoll, vice president of the BD’s bioimaging business, declined to comment, noting that “it may be a bit early in the co-development program” to discuss.
 
‘Seeing a Trend’
 
“I think the trends that we are seeing now have moved away from needs for higher-quality image acquisition and image analysis algorithms on the assays,” and into experimental data workflow, quality control, and reporting, said Moran.
 
“One of the biggest challenges that we heard about was the disconnect between raw data and experimental design, and a need to integrate all of the data in a QC process, and to be able to report that at an enterprise level, and be able to drill down right back to the images of the cells,” he said.
 
“I think the pipeline and sort of the bottleneck now are in the data analysis and manipulation, and less in the assay design where they used to be,” Moran said. “We are also seeing a trend toward convergence. A lot of the large pharmaceutical companies are trying to streamline their HCS efforts.”
 

“[T]he pipeline and sort of the bottleneck now are in the data analysis and manipulation, and less in the assay design where they used to be.”

For instance, because big pharmas may have several HCS instruments from various vendors at different sites, some have asked Accelrys to help standardize their HCS data workflow processes. Part of that process is standardizing the data itself, said Moran.
 
“The big issue has been the disconnect between the raw data and other data associated with the experiment, such as sample prep and sometimes compound activity,” he said.
 
Accelrys’ workflow tools, such as Pipeline Pilot, can integrate these data and enable better QC efforts by, for example, identifying whether a particular sample preparation may have been responsible for some of the imaging results.  
 
Other companies in the HCA space have noticed the trend and have launched their own products. For instance, last month GE Healthcare debuted its IN Cell Miner high-content manager, and PerkinElmer began selling its Columbus high-content data-management system (see CBA News, 10/24/08).  
 
Denise Pastore, IN Cell marketing director for GE Healthcare, said customer response to the new platform has been “really positive. We have had a lot of interest, because it really addresses the current needs of the customers in regards to HCA management.”
 
The product is designed to retrieve, annotate, and organize data — “something that [customers] were really struggling with,” she said.
 
Earlier software packages on the IN Cell Analyzer performed image analysis and visualization, but not data management. The Miner software ”completes the entire workflow,” said Pastore.
 
She added that, “For us, the Miner is really a platform-based solution, and is the first in a series of software solutions that we will be releasing to support data management.” She did not elaborate.
 
For its part, PE’s Columbus data-management system uses open-source software from the Open Microscopy Environment, “a fact which is very much appreciated by all of our customers,” Martin Daffertshofer, global software product manager at PerkinElmer Cellular Technologies Germany, told CBA News this week in an email.
 
The technology combines Acapella image analysis with image management. Image data can be analyzed or re-analyzed on the server computer, which means researchers “can run batch processes from a local computer,” Daffertshofer said.
 
He added that researchers can review image-analysis results with heat map representations that can enable them to compare different measurements or analyses.
 
After customers run an experiment or a series of experiments, or a screening, they want to be able to get their data back. They want to be able to locate it very easily, they want to be able to remember why they ran it, and what were the results. “This demand is coming not only from our commercial users, but our academic users as well,” Pastore said. 
 
Drug-Discovery ‘Workhorse’
 
“Today HCS has been established as workhorse in drug discovery, although the potential of underlying imaging technology has not yet been fully explored,” said Daffertshofer. He also mentioned that the most urgent request PE hears from HCS users is for software that bridges instruments from various vendors with flexible and fast image analysis based on an open image data-management systems.
 
In HCS, various instruments with different image formats are used for specific aspects of the workflow, including assay design, assay development, and primary screening, Daffertshofer said. A seamless workflow requires standardized image analysis, as well as open interfaces to all vendor-specific image formats.
 
In the HCA workflow, the software package can provide the missing link, because it enables customers to use their historical and present data, and to use their historical data as a benchmark, Pastore said.
 
“You can retrieve that data very easily and save it for future use or future experiments, and you can do comparisons between what you had run, what you are currently running, and what you plan to run,” she said.
 
In terms of future OEM agreements, Accelrys’ Moran said, “I do not think there is anything in HCS that I can speak of right now, except to say that it has always been our goal to maintain systems-agnostic capabilities. We are friends with all of the HCS vendors and have been working with them from the onset.”

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