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Golden Helix Hires New CEO, Sets its Sights on Applications for Clinical Markets

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Golden Helix, a bioinformatics software and services vendor, is expanding its life science research-centric business to include focused solutions for customers in the clinical genomics, pharmacogenomics, and diagnostics markets.

The Bozeman, Mont.-based firm is seeking to tap into the market for software applications that enable customers to apply genomic data in patient diagnosis and care. To that end, the company said that it is developing new products and new capabilities for its flagship SNP & Variation suite that will target a much broader customer base than it has traditionally served.

It's also making some changes internally. For example, Andreas Scherer has been tapped to serve as president and CEO replacing Christophe Lambert, who founded the company and has been CEO for the last 14 years. Lambert will now serve as Golden Helix's chairman and will provide strategic oversight and leadership, the company said.

Prior to joining Golden Helix, Scherer took on management roles at AOL/Netscape, as well as at a number of private software companies. He's also worked on improving research and development activities within pharmaceutical companies, life science organizations, and medical research companies.

Speaking with BioInform this week, Scherer said that the company's software development plans for 2013 cover new features for its existing software suite that make it easier and more intuitive to use, as well as new products that specifically target the clinical demographic. These new features, he said, should appeal to new clients such as medical geneticists and laboratory technicians, as well as some of Golden Helix's current customers who are dipping their toes into clinical research.

The clinical side of the genomics market is a new arena for Golden Helix, which has historically developed and sold bioinformatics products primarily to analyze research-based genomic data to customers in places like the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Ohio State University, the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, and the University Medical Center, Utrecht. It's also formed partnerships in the past with institutions such as Baylor College of Medicine to develop and incorporate new capabilities into its software suite (BI 5/20/2011).

Golden Helix's portfolio includes the SNP & Variation suite, which provides tools for analyzing DNA- and RNA-sequencing data, as well as packages for analyzing single nucleotide polymorphisms, copy number variants, and more.

Its second product is a free data visualization and annotation tool called GenomeBrowse that gives users access to a cloud-based repository of public annotations culled from resources such as dbSNP, 1000 Genomes, Ensembl, the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man database, and more. Its annotation tracks have optimized, on-demand streaming so that researchers don’t have to download them to start viewing data. Furthermore, GenomeBrowse is linked to Illumina's BaseSpace cloud allowing users to stream information from the cloud into the tool (BI 8/24/2012).

Golden Helix sees extending this portfolio to include clinically-oriented applications as the natural next step for its business, one that is consistent with its overall vision of providing tools that help scientists working in all facets of the translational genomics space extract meaning from microarray and NGS data. "It's largely a continuation of the work that we have done in the past with our existing product line" on the research side, Scherer said.

In the past, he said, "we catered very heavily to researchers in this field but … we see that the technology is being increasingly used by people in related fields [such as] medical geneticists [and] what we are doing is [making] the software increasingly easy to use [and] more intuitive."

Scherer declined to go into specifics about the capabilities that Golden Helix is developing, or discuss the company's strategy for breaking into the clinical side of the translational genomics market. He said the company will divulge more information when it begins launching these products later in the year.

Scherer also noted that the decision to expand the business will not affect Golden Helix's commitment to providing software for academic research. The company intends to keep improving its offering for the sector and plans to release an updated version of SVS this summer, he said.

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