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Bill Ladd, Director of Bioinformatics, Spotfire

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AT A GLANCE: Received BS in chemical engineering from Princeton and PhD in statistics/bio- statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining Spotfire, spent 10 years working and consulting for Merck in the area of preclinical and statistical computing and led the bioinformatics methods group at Gene Logic. Currently lectures on gene expression analysis at Northeastern University. Interests include biking, camping, and reading.

QWhere will bioinformatics be in two years? Five years?

AIn two years, bioinformatics will look much like it does today. However, organizations will be acutely focused on more tightly/intelligently integrating “best of breed” vendor systems, tools, and products to augment their existing IT infrastructure and drug discovery processes. There will be growing emphasis on supporting proteomics and SNP applications.

It’s tough to say, but in five years bioinformatics should start to enable some very real drug discovery and development. Bioinformatics will probably grow from its comfortable home in “research” or “discovery support” and extend roots more deeply into the development and clinical aspects of the process.

Bioinformatics might also experience an “across the supply-chain” trend, where R&D will become more integrated with clinical trials; manufacturing; and brand management.

QWhat are the biggest challenges the bioinformatics sector faces?

AMaking sure that scientists, the people conducting experiments, can use bioinformatic applications simply. Scientists use wetlab tools — pipettes, cloning vectors, PCR kits, etc. — based on design, cost, performance, and ease of use. Bioinformatics groups and vendors will be challenged to make products and systems accessible to scientists. Bioinformatics must become an extension of the experimental process.

QWhat do you see as the most important area for bioinformatics to address beyond genome sequencing?

AMicroarray technologies are helping us build a new understanding of biology based on gene product abundance, polymorphism, and pathway interactions. Most new data will come from protein arrays and transcription arrays. Bioinformatics must bring all of this new data together with the genomic sequence data to give us a clearer understanding of biological processes, both in normal and disease states. Scientists and the bioinformatics supporting the experimental process are “writing the book” for this new era.

QWho are your current customers? Which additional customer group do you aim to capture?

AWe have an installed customer base in all of the top global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Chemists, biologists, technicians, and statisticians are already using our product across the discovery process. We feel that we can use our expertise in manufacturing analytics, such as quality control and process optimization, to help us expand into analytics for pharmaceutical manufacturing.

QWith what companies do you have partnerships?

AAffymetrix, Celera, Incyte, Rosetta, Current Drugs, Genomic Solutions, IDBS, MDL, Molecular Dynamics, PPGx, Proteome, Thermo LabSystems, ACD, Aspen Technology, MSI.

QWhat non-existing technology is number one on your customers’ wish list?

AOur customers know that there is no “silver bullet” in this area. We are engaged with our customers and listen carefully to them. We hear a lot about integration. A button to “get all the data from all of my systems about this gene, drug, protein, etc.” would probably be it.

QDo you see yourself more as a software provider or as a consultant?

AWe definitely see ourselves as a software provider of eAnalytic applications.

QWhere does the company’s financing come from?

AA mix of VC and hedge funds: venture capital from Atlas, Sprout Group, InnovationsKapital, and crossover money from Cooper Hill, Pequot, Soros/Quantum, and Eureka.

QWhat products do you have in the development pipeline?

AMore easy-to-use algorithms and interfaces to discovery methods and relevant content data sources.

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