Ludesi, a bioinformatics company based in Lund, Sweden, has raised SEK 25 million ($3.4 million) from venture capital firm InnovationsKapital that it will use to ramp up sales of its current offering – a 2D gel-analysis service – and support development of a second product line.
Ludesi CEO Ola Forsstrom-Olsson declined to disclose details of the new product offering, citing the fact that it is being co-developed with another party. But he told BioInform that it would remain in line with the company’s mission, which is to “eliminate analysis errors and analysis time for every technology in expression proteomics.”
Ludesi’s first product, the 2D Analysis Center, is a secure web-based system that researchers can use to submit their digital 2D gel images to the company’s analysts. Ludesi analyzes the gels with its proprietary software and provides the results back to the customer. The company charges on a per-gel basis.
Forsstrom-Olsson said that the company hasn’t yet decided whether to offer its second product under a similar model.
“We’re focusing on the customers’ problems, [so] how this is distributed will be a decision we make at the end, when we see how good the results are when the customer views the product itself,” he said.
The company opted for a services model for its first product due to the difficulties associated with 2D gels. “If you look at most scientists today who work with 2D gel analysis, they have a problem getting good data from their studies and they have a problem being able to reproduce the results that they get,” Forsstrom-Olsson said. “We have several studies showing that when two people run the same images running the same software, they get different results, and that’s not scientific. That’s not good enough.”
Ludesi can offer researchers “much higher reproducibility and much higher accuracy in the results,” he said.
On its website, the company offers two examples in which customers compared results from the 2D Analysis Center and with their current image analysis software. In one such comparison, at a “global pharmaceutical company,” Ludesi found nearly six times more spots in the same images, increasing the number of regulated protein spots from 9 to 53. In another, a “world-leading research facility” identified more than four times more protein spots, increasing the number of regulated protein spots from 30 to 133.
Some researchers are turning to liquid chromatography over 2D gels for protein separation, but Forsstrom-Olsson said he still sees plenty of room for growth in the market for 2D gel analysis.
“I would say that there is at least double-digit growth in 2D gel analysis every year,” he said, in spite of the fact that people in the field have been predicting the demise of the methodology for years. “Every year people say 2D gels are dying and there will be something else, but the more you look into it, the more you find that all the different technologies that appear are more or less complementary. They are needed for different things and they will be needed together in conjunction with each other,” he said.
Forsstrom-Olsson said that the broader market for proteomic analysis software is on the upswing as progress in the field shifts from being “technology-driven” to being “biology-driven.”
“We have several studies showing that when two people run the same images running the same software, they get different results, and that’s not scientific. That’s not good enough.”
Five years ago, “proteomics was highly technology driven, and it was almost only experts who were working in proteomics, and you had a very, very strong focus on what technology is better than the other,” he said. “And now you have people who are not really interested in what the best technology is, but rather how can I solve my problem? How can I get the information I need to get the information for my project?”
As more end-user biologists move into the field, he said, “They look at the proteomics toolbox, so to speak, and they pick the appropriate technologies to go with their project.”
In addition to the new product development, Ludesi plans to use the financing to build up its sales and marketing force. The company has spent the last year and a half establishing “world-leading reference sites,” including several academic centers and Mitsubishi Pharma, Forsstrom-Olsson said, and the company is now ready to start marketing its current offering more aggressively.
The firm, founded in 2001, had previously raised a small amount of financing from Swedish investment groups FöretagsByggarna and the Sixth AP Fund, but Forsstrom-Olsson said that the company has primarily supported itself through service revenue.
“That put us in the position where we could choose not to raise money; we could choose to grow organically by the strength of our sales and our customers,” he said. “But we wanted to do a more rapid expansion. We wanted to roll out sales and we need to have more power to do it.”
Forsstrom-Olsson said that the company plans to release an updated version of its 2D gel analysis software within the next six months and that it is shooting for a spring 2007 launch date for its second product line.