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Agilent to Integrate GeneSpring, Resolver In Bid to Appeal to Broader Customer Base

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Agilent Technologies and Rosetta Biosoftware last week announced plans to integrate Agilent's GeneSpring desktop gene-expression analysis package with the Rosetta Resolver enterprise-scale expression analysis system.

The agreement will marry two gene expression software packages marketed by Agilent. The company picked up GeneSpring in its acquisition of Silicon Genetics last November, and has served as the exclusive distributor for Rosetta Resolver since 1999.

"As we look at our customer base, we see at any one given account a wide range of needs — some of those are having a highly scalable repository, some of those are having an interactive desktop client," said Jordan Stockton, informatics marketing manager at Agilent. "What the connector does is make sure that there's a high degree of interoperability between whatever tools you're using."

Stockton acknowledged that there is some overlap in functionality between the two packages, but noted that "there's a big difference in the type of users who actually use the tools." Resolver customers, he said, "tend to be centralized core facility users who are full-time informatics professionals. Whereas when we look at the users for GeneSpring, they tend to be distributed throughout the organization, and may be more casual in their use of expression data."

The goal of the connector, which is targeted for release in July, is to allow all those users to access the same gene expression data through their choice of interface.

The integration plan is in line with Agilent's pledge to maintain its relationship with Rosetta after it purchased Silicon Genetics. The same week it announced its plans to acquire the company in September last year, Agilent issued a press release stating that it had also "increased its commitment" to the Rosetta partnership. At the time, an Agilent spokesperson told BioInform that one goal of the announcement was "to reassure customers that all of these product platforms are going to continue. And not just that we're continuing to support them, but that we're continuing to develop them." [BioInform 09-06-04]

Silicon Genetics marketed an enterprise-scale gene-expression platform of its own, GeNet (now called SigNet under Agilent), but Stockton said that product is not a direct competitor to Rosetta Resolver. "That's just a database back end to the GeneSpring interface," he said.

Upgrade Opportunity?

For Rosetta, the integration agreement could provide an "upgrade path" for customers currently using GeneSpring, according to Yelena Shevelenko, vice president and general manager of Rosetta.

The connector is in line with recent moves by Rosetta to extend the accessibility of the Resolver system beyond large core labs and pharmaceutical companies "to a broader range of customers in academic organizations, small biotechs, and even individual labs within pharmaceutical companies," Shevelenko said.

Shevelenko said that Rosetta envisions a number of scenarios in which current GeneSpring users would want to upgrade to Resolver's capabilities, including "academics, where GeneSpring is widely accepted, who recognize the value of sharing data and analysis results," biotechs "who are facing the need of complementing their desktop solutions with scalable data management," and pharmas "who desire to provide scientists with analysis environments of their choice, while protecting institutional knowledge using a central repository for data, for findings, and for the ability to reconstruct analysis results."

E. Sasha Paegle, product manager at Rosetta, said that many labs who are happy using GeneSpring are finding that they require some form of data management as they accumulate more gene-expression data. "We recognize users have a preference for an analysis environment, and desire to retrieve their expression data from a central data management system like the Resolver system. A user may transfer gene expression data from the Resolver system to an environment that they feel comfortable in and analyze it there," he said. "Then at the same time, results may be transferred back to the Resolver system. The idea is to be able to share expression data across an organization."

Agilent licensed Rosetta's Resolver Software Development Kit in order to build the connector between GeneSpring and Resolver. Shevelenko said that the SDK is available for all Resolver licensees, but so far the firm has only entered into formal third-party integration arrangements with Spotfire and Agilent.

Several customers are using the SDK to integrate Resolver with other third-party applications in house, Shevelenko said, adding that the company also integrates the platform with other third-party packages through its professional services organization.

— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])

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