GenoLogics has raised $8 million that it will use to add support for clinical applications of sequencing data to its laboratory information management systems software.
Illumina was the lead investor in the funding round with additional funds from GenoLogics' current investors — OVP Venture Partners, Yaletown Venture Partners, and GrowthWorks — and a fifth unnamed investor.
Illumina's investment earns the company representation on GenoLogics' board of directors, a role that Tristan Orpin, Illumina's senior vice president and chief commercial officer, will take on.
In a statement, Orpin said Illumina expects its investment in Victoria, Canada-based GenoLogics to "benefit our mutual sequencing customers."
Illumina has been taking steps recently to nurture the bioinformatics environment for its growing line of sequencing instruments. The investment in GenoLogics follows its launch last week of a cloud infrastructure for its MiSeq sequencers (BI 10/14/2011) and the company earlier this year sponsored a contest to encourage development of new software tools for next-gen sequence analysis (BI 7/1/2011).
Illumina officials declined BioInform's request for further comment.
The funding round follows an agreement that GenoLogics and Illumina inked earlier this year that gave Illumina the rights to market a version of the GenoLogics LIMS software that was preconfigured to handle data from Illumina's HiSeq and Genome Analyzer sequencing platforms and TruSeq sample preparation kits (BI 2/4/2011).
However, Illumina's investment in GenoLogics and its presence on the company's board doesn't mean that it will "steer the strategic direction of the company," GenoLogics CEO Michael Ball assured BioInform.
He added that the current GenoLogics LIMS software and its planned additions will remain platform agnostic.
Although he declined to provide further details about Illumina's stake in the company, Ball did say that the arrangement gives GenoLogics LIMS greater visibility in the market, where it faces competition from LIMS vendors like Perkin Elmer's Geospiza and Core Informatics.
Furthermore, "it’s a statement that Illumina ... believes that data management in LIMS is a critical enabler to our joint customers to get good results in discoveries," Ball said.
He added that GenoLogics intends to maintain its relationship with Life Technologies, Roche, and other sequencing vendors to ensure that it is serving its customers' needs.
A New Type of LIMS
GenoLogics intends to use its new funds to extend its existing LIMS package to support clinical applications of next-generation sequence data, Ball explained to BioInform.
Support for clinical sequencing aligns with the company's development roadmap, released in May, in which it outlined several proposed enhancements to its LIMS that are planned for release over the next year.
Among these was the addition of CLIA and CAP/ISO capabilities for clinical genomic lab applications, as well as the inclusion of role-based user interfaces that are intended to meet the specific needs of different types of users (BI 5/13/2011).
The GenoLogics LIMS platform is used to manage genomics laboratory samples, tests, and results. It includes tools that let users connect the software to genomic instruments; upstream applications and instrumentation; and downstream applications and analysis tools through a rapid-scripting application programming interface.
Ball noted that although there are LIMS that are used in the clinical setting, he isn't aware of software that supports both research and clinical applications of next-generation sequence data, since this type of data "is relatively new to the clinic."
GenoLogics doesn’t plan to launch a separate product for clinical use. Rather, "we want to provide people the ability to work in a research environment but then allow that product to take them to the clinic without having to make a complete change of software."
In addition to ensuring that its LIMS complies with US and European regulatory requirements, GenoLogics plans to add capabilities that will allow users to do things like maintain audit trails and include electronic signatures, Ball said.
A similar tailoring is planned to enable GenoLogics LIMS to support desktop sequencers like Illumina's MiSeq and Life Technologies' Ion Torrent PGM, Ball said.
Additions to the software will promote "deeper integration to those instruments," he explained, so that it is "more usable by the customer" and provides "a higher level of automation in the lab."
To that end, the completed LIMS package will, among other things, be able to "provide sample information into [sequencers] and extract metrics out of those instruments in terms of the performance of the instruments and quality scores," he explained.
In addition to its product development plans, GenoLogics intends to expand its sales and marketing force to support its efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, Ball told BioInform, adding that at present the company doesn’t intend to open an office in the region.
The new hires will add to the company's current headcount of 50 employees.
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