Genomatix, a bioinformatics firm based in Munich, Germany, plans to open its first US office by June with the goal of expanding its North American customer base, a company executive told BioInform this week.
“The decision is made. We are going to locate in Michigan,” CEO Thomas Werner said. “The US market has become so strong for us that we just can’t avoid locating here in order to serve our customers as they deserve it. We need to be local.”
Genomatix said that around 40 percent of its 30,000 customers are located in the US, and that it hopes the Michigan facility will help expand that base.
The company has not yet decided on an “exact location” for its US facility, which will serve as headquarters for a US sales representative as well as a customer training center. Genomatix has determined, however, that the facility will be “very close to Detroit — either Ann Arbor or somewhere in the area,” Werner said.
The company hopes to be “up and operational” in the US by June 1, he said. “It’s a tight schedule, but we are in the process of incorporating in the United States — we’re just clearing up the bureaucratic details — and we’re very close to [hiring] a sales representative.”
Werner said that Genomatix has been mulling various US locales for more than a year, and chose Michigan for its North American base for several reasons. For one thing, the company has large customer accounts at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Wayne State University, making the region the second-largest cluster of Genomatix users behind the National Institutes of Health.
In addition, because the facility’s primary role will be as a training center, the company wanted to locate in an area that was centrally located for customers on the East and West coasts as well as Canada, and near a major airline hub.
Moreover, Werner said, Genomatix wanted to establish its roots in a city that is no more than a six-hour time difference from its Munich headquarters.
Werner said that financial incentives did not play a role in the company’s decision to locate in Michigan. While the state has a number of organizations dedicated to attracting and retaining life science businesses, Werner said that the “the incentives in the state are more tax incentives than any kind of money for setting up,” though he did note that organizations like MichBio “have been quite helpful in helping us set up.”
Genomatix currently employs around 25 people in Munich, and Werner said the company’s global staff should grow to around 30 once the US facility is operational.
“The US market has become so strong for us that we just can’t avoid locating here in order to serve our customers as they deserve it. We need to be local.”
The company also plans to expand its product line in the next few months. Werner said that Genomatix expects to launch a new version of its flagship ChipInspector software in a month or so, which will include improved capabilities for chromatin immunoprecipitation-on-chip analysis.
The company is also developing a new product for analyzing short reads from next-generation sequencing instruments that should be commercially available “within the next few months,” Werner said.
The Michigan training center will follow a model that the company has already had quite a bit of success with in Europe, Werner said. Genomatix currently offers two-day or three-day seminars on microarray analysis or promoter analysis. The two-day courses are €800 ($1,074) for academic participants and €1,600 for commercial clients, and the three-day courses are €1,200 for academics and €2,400 for industry.
Werner said that while the courses are “oriented toward solving tasks with our software,” their broader goal is to educate customers about developing analytical strategies for solving particular scientific problems.
“You can learn how to set up strategies whether you use our tools or not,” he said. “You will not be able to successfully carry them out as we propose with our tools, but the science is the same for everybody. The scientific principles are valid for all scientists all over the globe, regardless of what kind of tools they finally decide to use.”
Werner said that the courses are consistently “well booked” in Europe, but that it’s been difficult for the company’s US customers to benefit from the program. “It is too much of an ordeal to ask Americans to come to Europe for a two-day training course. This is just not cost-effective,” he said.