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BioWisdom Refines SRS Strategy With New Release, KDE Integration, Free 3D Version

Aiming to build on its strategy of transforming from a services company into a software shop, BioWisdom this week signed an agreement with InforSense to integrate its SRS platform with InforSense's KDE workflow software.
That announcement followed BioWisdom's launch last week of a new version of SRS, which it acquired with Lion Bioscience nearly two years ago, with improved annotation and alerting features, and its release of the 3D version of the software under the open source GPLv2 license.
Chris Hodkinson, chief operating officer for BioWisdom, told BioInform that “SRS continues to bring in revenue” since the Lion buy. “We’ve seen no degradation in that business at all, and in fact it’s growing,” he said.
Hodkinson said revenue at the privately held firm doubled between 2006 and 2007, and that it expects that level of growth to continue through 2008. The firm currently employs around 35 people and Hodkinson said it expects to recruit around six or seven more this year for its two locations in Cambridge, UK, and Maynard, Mass.
Before it bought Lion’s bioinformatics group in April 2006, BioWisdom’s business was built around its Sofia product, a biomedical ontology platform that it used to develop so-called “intelligence networks” for pharmaceutical firms. Last year, the company merged with OmniViz, a data visualization software provider, in a move that enabled it to transform from a services firm to a software firm [BioInform 02-02-07].
“Over the last year, we’ve made kind of a big shift in terms of our strategy from a service-based business … to become far more of a pure software business,” Hodkinson said. “The vast majority of our business now comes from software deals.”
As a result, the firm has refined some aspects of its software business over the last few months. In November, the company kicked off a program to provide its OmniViz software to academic users for the “heavily discounted” price of $999.

“Over the last year, we’ve made kind of a big shift in terms of our strategy from a service-based business … to become far more of a pure software business.”

It followed that move last week with the free GPL release of SRS 3D, a module for the SRS platform that enables researchers to integrate and display sequences and annotations with 3D structures.
Hodkinson said that SRS 3D “wasn’t a big selling tool” among BioWisdom’s industry customers and it soon became a commercial liability to continue supporting it. However, he said, “the academic users used this product an awful lot,” and the company didn’t want to discontinue it.
As a compromise, BioWisdom convinced the European Molecular Biology Laboratory to maintain the software and host it on a dedicated server (available here) as long as BioWisdom agreed to release it under an open-source license.
Hodkinson noted that both Lion and OmniViz spun out of academic research groups — Lion from EMBL and OmniViz from the Battelle Institute — “and we’re keen to maintain those links.”
The company also gives academic users access to a free version of SRS that is typically two versions behind the current release. With this week’s launch of SRS 8.3, therefore, academic users now have free access to SRS 8.1. Academics can also purchase a “fully supported” version of SRS 8.2 “for a fraction of the price of the commercial version,” Hodkinson said.
SRS 8.3 includes a new feature that allows users to add their own annotation to any entry discovered using SRS and make these annotations searchable by anyone else within their organization. The new release also includes an alerting module that permits users to enter specific queries and automatically receive notifications via e-mail when there is new information available.
In addition, SRS users will now be able to use InforSense’s KDE as their interface for the software — an arrangement that Hodkinson said grew out of customer demand. “There are quite a few SRS customers who also have KDE and were really keen to see it integrated,” he said.
“The more ways we can make SRS available to customers, the better it is for both them and us,” he added.

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