BOSTON — Ingenuity Systems was demonstrating the next version of its flagship pathway informatics platform at IBC's Drug Discovery Technology conference here last week, as the company moves forward with a strategy to increase the number of enterprise-wide deployments of the system over the next year.
Ingenuity clearly made an effort to raise its profile among the meeting's traditional attendee base of pharmaceutical researchers: The company claimed a front-and-center location for its booth, sponsored the conference badges, and hosted a technology workshop to preview Ingenuity Pathways Analysis 3.0, which is expected to begin shipping in September.
Peter DiLaura, vice president of sales at Ingenuity, told BioInform that as the pathway informatics marketplace grows more competitive, the company is targeting enterprise-wide deployments within pharmaceutical firms as the key to future growth. With that goal in mind, IPA 3.0 includes a number of new features the company expects will appeal to large pharma organizations, such as the ability to add proprietary data to the system, and better ways for researchers to share pathways.
"A few years ago, these were departmental decisions," DiLaura said. "Now, in many cases, it's going to be global organizational decisions. Companies who want to compete will have to be able to provide global infrastructure support for large pharmas."
Ingenuity has announced global agreements with Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb so far this year, but DiLaura said the company currently has three pharma customers that it considers "full-blown enterprise" agreements, and another five that include "some elements" of an enterprise deployment. In 2006, however, DiLaura said that most of the global pharmaceutical firms that are still experimenting with various pathway informatics tools "will make an enterprise deployment decision."
DiLaura said that pathway tools have "moved from concept to science" since Ingenuity first launched IPA in 2003. As an example, he noted that there were only two citations of the company's technology in the peer-reviewed literature that year, as opposed to 38 citations so far in 2005.
In addition, he said, use of the system is "moving beyond the early adopters to broad utilization within pharmaceutical R&D." The first IPA licenses that Ingenuity sold were primarily within pharmaceutical informatics departments. That user base expanded to functional genomics and proteomics research groups in 2004, and then to therapeutic areas and clinical research in 2005, DiLaura said. As a result, Ingenuity sees an opportunity for its system to become an integral part of the pharmaceutical IT infrastructure rather than as a standalone tool. "A few years ago, these were departmental decisions," DiLaura said. "Now, in many cases, it's going to be global organizational decisions. Companies who want to compete will have to be able to provide global infrastructure support for large pharmas."
DiLaura acknowledged that the competitive environment for pathway informatics vendors is fierce. "We've seen the emergence of a lot of players in the market," he said, adding that many pharmaceutical customers are still licensing multiple pathway tools. However, he said, the company views its recent enterprise agreements as a sign of a global trend. The company is touting its experience with these early enterprise deployments as a key competitive advantage over its rivals in the pathway informatics market. "We haven't seen a competitor that is able to provide the breadth of capabilities that we can," DiLaura said.
DiLaura said that he expects to see "some level of consolidation" in the pathway market over the next few years. While it may still be too early for a major shakeout in the field, "We're seeing a considerable push for [customers] to make their 2006 budget decisions," he said, noting that many of these customers "are looking to make longer-term investments" than they have in the past.
Keith Joho, who recently joined the company as senior vice president of research and product management, said that if there is consolidation in the pathway space, "the enterprise side is where it's going to shake out."
The company's rivals disagree, of course. GeneGo also had a booth at DDT, where it was demonstrating its recently released MetaCore pathway database and MetaDrug ADME/tox system, which includes small-molecule data in the context of biological pathways. Julie Bryant, vice president of business development and sales at GeneGo, told BioInform that the company views this data as its competitive edge in the marketplace because small molecules are ultimately what pharmaceutical companies are interested in.
DiLaura said that Ingenuity includes some small-molecule data in its knowledgebase, which is presented in the context of the compounds' ability to perturb biological pathways. Megan Laurance, a product research scientist at Ingenuity, said that the company has plans to include more small-molecule information in its database in the future (see Expression Profile, this issue, for Laurance's comments).
There may also be plans in the works for Ingenuity to align with workflow software vendors as it pursues its goal to make IPA part of the pharmaceutical informatics infrastructure. DiLaura said that the subject of integrating its software with SciTegic's Pipeline Pilot or InforSense's KDE has come up in some customer discussions, "but we're not at the point yet for any direct alignment."
Joho said that Ingenuity is currently talking to the "major third-party vendors" in the workflow sector about developing APIs, but that he doesn't expect any concrete plans to emerge for another six to nine months. "We do see IPA as an important part of that ecosystem," he said.
— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])