Embedded enterprise provider InforSense has found some early success in the academic market for the GenSense SNP-analysis software it launched earlier this year.
In the past two weeks, the company has disclosed licensing agreements for GenSense with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy, or IPIT, and the University of British Columbia’s Hogg iCAPTURE Center for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research at St. Paul’s Hospital.
In addition, Inforsense officials said that the company will announce a third academic alliance for GenSense soon.
The announcements are a sign that the company has expanded its customer base beyond its traditional market in pharmaceutical R&D. According to InforSense officials, academia is now taking as much of its time in strategic planning as big pharma.
According to Dave Menninger, vice president of marketing and product management for the company, the interest from academia in GenSense, which was designed for high-throughput genotyping and genome-wide association studies, is not surprising. “If you look at the potential market for genetic analysis, it’s going to be [in] the leading academic research institutions,” he told BioInform, “and the commercial organizations — pharmaceuticals and so on — will be the ones applying the results of that [research].”
Menninger added that GenSense, which plugs into the company’s InforSense workflow platform, is appealing to academia because “a workflow captures information that may not otherwise be captured.”
In addition, he said, rather than repeating a long series of laborious manual steps for multiple experiments, “a workflow takes a process and makes it repeatable and consistent.”
Kevin Long, who came on fairly recently as bioinformatics director at IPIT after eight years at GlaxoSmithKline, said that the institute is working with records from thousands of patient samples — and that’s only the starting point.
“Then there’s the data you generate yourselves … Once you get the patient data, then you do expression, or genotyping, SNPs and so forth … You go beyond the sample sets. All that data is very large. Once you start getting into genome scans, you are talking terabytes at this point,” he said.
Because of this massive need, he said the institute required a software platform that could integrate data from myriad sources.
“The challenge is to bring all the data together. It’s quite a daunting task. By having this platform it allows us to point to any data set and bring it together in multiple ways.”
Long said that all this data is located in different collections and “the challenge is to bring all the data together. It’s quite a daunting task. By having this platform it allows us to point to any data set and bring it together in multiple ways.”
Asked why the institute didn’t develop a genotyping workflow solution in house, Long said that it would have been cost-prohibitive and taken many years and multiple developers to pull off.
He said the institute didn’t consider another workflow platform such as Pipeline Pilot or Taverna because of his experience in working with Inforsense while at GSK. “I was already familiar with the people and the product,” said Long.
The University of British Columbia also chose GenSense rather than developing something in house; and like IPIT, it, too is dealing with massive amounts of data from its genetic research programs for heart, lung, and vascular systems.
In a statement, principal investigator on the project, Scott Tebbutt, said, “The volume of data being generated by the latest genotyping technologies is very large and growing exponentially, and we require a tool that scales to automatically check and analyze these large data sets.”
He added that GenSense provides the center with workflows and an “easy-to-use” portal that rapidly conducts quality control, annotating the data and enabling researchers to quickly gain maximum value from their genomic studies.
Tebbutt was unavailable for further comment.