Armed with $10 million of fresh venture capital, workflow analytics firm InforSense plans to rapidly expand over the next year or so, company officials told BioInform this week.
The company this week also said it has penned an OEM deal with Thermo Electron — its first under a new initiative to expand its reach through bundling agreements with instrumentation and content providers.
Meantime, the $10 million financing “is for funding growth,” said CEO Yike Guo. “InforSense has now experienced two years of very fast growth and … many pharma companies now license our system not only on the group or department level, but on the enterprise [level]. So for supporting such large-scale deployments, our investors felt that we needed to grow even faster.”
The company, which currently employs 150 people in four countries, plans to use the new financing to move its US operations to a new office in Boston and to expand its development activities in China and India, Guo said.
David Hadfield, the firm’s newly hired chief operating officer, noted that InforSense will have “an equal mix of people” across its locations. “They won’t be small outposts with a handful of people. We’re going to build each of those [facilities] to be significant, so they’ll be equal contributors,” he said.
Guo said the firm “is taking this opportunity to move to the next stage to become a major player and to become the platform for [the] life science industry.”
To do so, he said, InforSense plans to expand its presence “across the discovery pipeline,” as well as into other areas within pharma, such as supply chain and organization support, and even into the clinical research and healthcare markets.
The first step in that plan is building a stronger customer base in the discovery market, and one way the company could make inroads there is via a new version of its KDE workflow system targeted towards OEM partners.
This week, the company announced its first OEM deal — an agreement with Thermo Electron in which KDE will come bundled with Thermo’s BioWorks proteomics software package, which includes the Sequest protein identification algorithm.
Jonathan Sheldon, CSO of InforSense, said that the bundling agreement will enable Thermo customers to call KDE workflow services directly from the BioWorks interface, so the integration is much more seamless than with some other software packages that are integrated within KDE workflows.
The workflow capability will enable Thermo customers to create ad hoc analyses using BioWorks components, “but importantly, it also gives them the ability then to branch out of that proteomics area and start to integrate the proteomic data with gene expression, or genetics, or detailed clinical data,” Sheldon said. “So it gives them much more of a systems biology perspective on the kinds of analysis they can address.”
Sheldon said that KDE’s flexibility should prove useful in the field of proteomics analysis, where new methods are rapidly evolving and sometimes subject to intense debate. “I think it’s fair to say that [the proteomics field is] a long way away from best practice,” he said. “So what KDE provides is a mechanism by which they can get best practice by being flexible enough to bring in the different kinds of data and the different kinds of applications and algorithms so they can mix and match and get a feel for which actually gives the best results.”
“If you work in an instrumentation company, clearly you’re building in analysis of the data your system is generating,” Hadfield said. “But, for example, who would have known five years ago that you’d want to integrate mass spec data with PCR data?”
Hadfield agreed. “You’ve got a field here that is still evolving quickly. The work processes and the workflows are clearly less industrialized, shall we say, than high-throughput screening, or even gene expression,” he said, noting that KDE gives researchers the option of revamping their analysis pipelines on the fly.
But the company doesn’t intend to limit its OEM agreements to proteomics vendors. Hadfield said that InforSense is in discussions with a number of potential partners, including instrument and content providers, in a range of areas, from expression analysis to pathways to cell-based assays and high-throughput screening.
Guo said that the company has expanded its Open Workflow Partner Network to encompass three tiers: basic, advanced, and OEM. Under OWPN basic, “we make our partners’ software workable within our workflow environment,” Guo said. OWPN advanced “means we can jointly develop based on customer needs and tightly integrate certain functions that link our partner’s product into our system.”
OWPN OEM is the tightest integration option, GUO said, in which “we put our system inside our partners’ software environment.”
Hadfield said the OEM program should appeal to instrumentation vendors looking to future-proof their analytical toolkits. “If you work in an instrumentation company, clearly you’re building in analysis of the data your system is generating,” he said. “But, for example, who would have known five years ago that you’d want to integrate mass spec data with PCR data?”
From InforSense’s perspective, the Thermo agreement is validation that the company has achieved its goal of becoming a true “workflow engine” provider. “This is really InforSense’s technical purpose — to provide a very powerful, very open, and very scalable high-quality workflow engine for the industry,” Guo said.
“It’s a good illustration of the maturity of the product,” Sheldon added.