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BioSoft Integrators Sets up Shop in Asia, Signs PacBio Compute Hardware Deal

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BioSoft Integrators, a San Diego, Calif.-based life science informatics services company, opened a new office this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to support customers in the Asia Pacific region.

Also this week, the company disclosed a partnership with Pacific Biosciences that allows it to provide high-performance compute and storage solutions to customers of the PacBio RS single-molecule sequencing system.

BioSoft officially opened its doors at the beginning of this year. Its products include LabOptimize, a generic laboratory information management system that the company customizes to meet clients’ specifications. It also builds bespoke compute clusters for sequence data analysis using infrastructure provided by PSSC Labs. The company also offers infrastructure installation and maintenance services.

The PacBio agreement puts it in the same company as Cycle Computing, which the sequencing vendor tapped last year to offer a cloud-enabled version of its Single Molecule Real Time Analysis software, (BI 9/23/2011) as well as PSSC Labs, which is another PacBio hardware partner.

In an email to BioInform, Jonathan Bingham, PacBio’s product manager for software and informatics, described his firm’s partnership with BioSoft as “a natural fit.”

PacBio “works with a variety of IT vendors in non-exclusive relationships to provide customers with the best options for data analysis,” he said. “BioSoft Integrators focuses on providing high-quality hardware and consulting services.”

BioSoft’s PacBio package includes a complete server architecture pre-loaded with SMRT analysis software, on-site installation and configuration, remote cluster management, and full data center design, Stu Shannon, BioSoft’s co-founder and chief operating officer, told BioInform.

BioSoft offers a single workflow site license for its LabOptimize LIMS that covers an unlimited number of users and instruments, he said. The company also offers a software maintenance package for a “minimal” yearly fee.

Pricing for BioSoft’s LIMS, clusters, and services vary, but “we are very price competitive” when compared with similar firms in the marketplace, Shannon said.

On that front, BioSoft competes with a number of LIMS vendors including GenoLogics, which recently updated its system (BI 10/12/2012) and has an existing agreement with Illumina allowing the sequencing platform developer to market its software (BI 2/4/2011). Other challengers include Core Informatics and Sapio Sciences, who also target their products to life sciences customers.

On the hardware side, BioSoft competes with a number of players, including IT firms like Dell that have existing arrangements to provide hardware for sequencers; sequencing vendors that offer their own clusters, such as Illumina's IlluminaCompute offering; informatics companies like Knome that are providing turnkey hardware/software systems (BI 9/28/2012); and home-built solutions cobbled together by internal IT departments.

BioSoft intends “to stay ahead by being very agile and being able to change rapidly with changes in science,” he said. That shouldn’t be too difficult, he added, because as a small company, "we are able to accommodate change a lot faster than some of the larger companies that have their way of doing things.”

Additionally, BioSoft’s approach to the market could set it apart from its competitors since it focuses on providing infrastructure for labs to combine tools and platforms from multiple sequencing vendors, Shannon said.

Shannon — who worked for Illumina prior to launching BioSoft alongside CEO Henry Marentes, another Illumina alum — explained that BioSoft’s goal is to serve as “a one-stop shop” for the tools necessary to integrate the “disparate pieces” of lab infrastructure, particularly as it relates to genomic sequencing.

Vendors like Life Technologies and Illumina are currently “putting out an appliance [for their sequencers] and maybe software to support just that appliance,” he said. The reality, however, is that labs often use tools and instruments from multiple vendors and then try to “hand crunch them all together.”

“We’ve built platforms that … bring it all together” so that rather than have a compute cluster that is pre-configured for the Pacific Biosciences sequencer, “we built a system that allows for hybrid analysis,” he said. That allows labs to run, collect, and analyze data from an Illumina HiSeq instrument as well as the PacBio RS system, or another type of sequencer, on the same infrastructure.

He also explained BioSoft’s decision to dip its toes into the LIMS market, noting that most vendors sell off-the-shelf systems and then require customers to pay extra to customize the software for their purposes, resulting in higher upfront costs and overall cost of ownership.

“[Our] thought was, 'Why not have something that doesn’t have a lot of out-of-the-box functionality … offer it for much less, [and] don’t attach the super expensive concurrent license costs?'" he said. This way, a lab's IT staff “can do their custom configuration … and are not dependent on [the] vendor for everything.”

On the other hand, clients that don’t have an in-house IT department can take advantage of BioSoft’s custom LIMS design and development services as well as its hardware expertise, he said.

Although it’s a newcomer to the market, BioSoft has bagged some customers for its LIMS product, Shannon said, though contract terms prevented him from disclosing who these clients are.

BioSoft currently has two full-time employees and seven consultants, the bulk of whom are based in its San Diego headquarters. It intends to hire additional sales and support staff for its Malaysian office as well as bioinformaticians and Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition developers.

In addition to opening its new office in Malaysia, BioSoft will open a new development center in Kuala Lumpur that will work with customers to create new analysis tools or modify existing ones to suit their needs.

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