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BC Platforms Seeks Partners to Add New Capabilities to Data Integration Platform, Preps Cloud Offering

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Finnish firm BC Platforms, a company whose business is based on selling licenses to a proprietary data integration and management platform, is actively seeking partners to work on new analysis tools for its system that will provide more capabilities for its clients in academia, healthcare, and industry.

Anni Ahonen-Bishopp, BC Platforms director of research and development, told BioInform that the company has already inked a deal with one unnamed partner and has begun integrating that vendor's genetic prediction modeling software into its system. It also is creating an accompanying application programming interface that will allow users to incorporate their own prediction and scoring models as well as information from other sources. In addition, BC Platforms is negotiating arrangements — also involving prediction and modeling tools — with other unnamed partners involved in EU-funded research projects that hopefully will be finalized by year's end, she said.

The company has concluded at least one integration partnership with an unnamed European firm that provides software for genetic counselors, she said. It also is working with European cloud vendors and providers to come up with specialized cloud-based infrastructure and services for genetic and clinical data analysis that do not violate legislation that countries have put in place to govern data movement in these resources, she said.

Furthermore, the company is planning to launch BC Cloud, through which it will offer its data management solutions, such as a tool for managing genome assemblies, under a platform-as-a-service model, Ahonen-Bishopp said. BC Platforms plans to launch this particular offering at the American Society of Human Genetics' meeting next month and will likely disclose licensing and service level agreement details at that time, she said.

BC Platforms officially launched in 1997 with the slightly longer moniker Biocomputing Platforms. It began as a spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before being moved to Sweden and finally settling in Finland where its headquarters are now located in the city of Espoo. It was co-founded by Timo Kanninen and Anita Eliasson who are now its chief technology officer and chief operating officer, respectively.

Initially, the company catered exclusively to researchers in academia, providing them with a platform and tools for managing and integrating genetic and clinical data in their projects and studies. But last year the company sensed a growth opportunity arising from industry's increasing use of larger quantities of genetic, phenotypic, and other kinds of information in research and development projects, Ahonen-Bishopp told BioInform. It decided to expand its business into the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and biotechnology markets believing that it has the requisite expertise and tools developed from years of working with clients in academia, where such research activities have been the norm for quite some time.

BC Platforms sells a platform capable of running on either local clusters or virtual compute or a combination of both that is designed for running and managing large quantities of data including genetic, phenotypic, and expression data. It is well suited for computational-intensive projects, Ahonen-Bishopp, said.

The basic system is a data integration platform that includes an API for incorporating information from external databases and repositories and instruments; tools for viewing and exploring data; and built-in formats for storing, managing, and quickly accessing data, Ahonen-Bishopp explained. Currently, existing customers have used the API to pull in some 30-plus published research packages used in studies involving tasks such as genetic imputation, genetic association, linkage, and stratification studies.

On that system, the firm has developed a series of modules that are designed to support analysis workflows, she said. It has combined these modules into four distinct offerings. The first of these is BC Genome, which, as the name implies, is tailored for genomic studies. It offers tools for managing NGS data and workflows — such as for alignment, variant calling, and functional annotation — in, for example, association and linkage studies.

A second solution called BC Tools has many of the same capabilities as BC Genome, but is designed for the sort of "high performance and quick delivery environments" found in bioinformatics core facilities, and it also caters to clients who want a more customizable platform, according to the firm's website.

A third product, BC Clin, designed for use in healthcare settings, helps users manage and use collections of patient data from electronic health records for instance; implement web-based patient questionnaires; and run queries, generate reports, and stratify patients. Also available is BC Sample, which is a laboratory sample tracking and process management tool.

BC Platforms has licensing options for individual labs and one that larger enterprises — an entire research hospital or university system for example — can take advantage of. The exact price point varies depending on which modules users elect to include in their system as well as the actual number of users on the system, Ahonen-Bishopp said. Discounted pricing is available for academic users. Currently, BC Platforms has customers in the US, Europe, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

These various applications available for different tasks and APIs let users bring in data and other resources, which sets BC Platforms apart from similar solutions that are marketed to some of the same clients, according to Ahonen-Bishopp. Some of these solutions focus exclusively on specific tasks, for example, some only offer analysis algorithms but little else, she said. In addition, access to tools provided by US cloud-based bioinformatics vendors like DNAnexus, for instance, are still somewhat limited in Europe, since countries on the continent have legislation that requires data to remain in country, she noted, and that’s a market that BC Platforms intends to tap into.

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