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Integromics Hires New CEO, Eyes Next-Generation Sequence Analysis Market

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This article has been updated to provide clarity and include additional comments from Integromics CEO about marketing strategies and pricing information.

By Uduak Grace Thomas

Spanish bioinformatics firm Integromics has tapped a new CEO to expand its presence in the US and Asian markets and to direct the company's move into the next-generation sequence analysis market.

Industry veteran Michael McManus will take the reins of the Granada, Spain-based firm, which also has offices in Madrid and Philadelphia. Prior to joining Integromics, McManus led GenomeQuest's marketing and product development efforts. Before that, he led the BioSciences Group of Fujitsu Computer Systems, and held management positions at AnVil Informatics and CambridgeSoft.

Integromics plans to roll out a new next-generation sequence analysis software package this quarter, which will mark its first product for the NGS sector, McManus told BioInform in an interview this week.

He described the new product, which the company developed in partnership with Helicos Biosciences and Tibco subsidiary Spotfire, as a "tertiary" sequence analysis tool. The partners recently used the software to analyze single-molecule sequencing data generated on Helicos' single-molecule sequencer and discovered a new class of small RNAs that they said hadn't been previously identified. The results of the study were published in Nature.

Next-generation sequence analysis is a new market for the company, which has focused on developing tools for microarray and qPCR analysis since it was formed in 2003. Two years ago, Integromics forged a long-term partnership with Tibco's Spotfire group to build both its Integromics Biomarker Discovery, for biomarker analysis, and its RealTime StatMiner, for real-time PCR data analysis, on the Tibco Spotfire platform. (BI 09/19/2008)

The company also markets OmicsHub Proteomics, a laboratory information management system that lets users collect and annotate mass spectrometry data. However, unlike the firm's other offerings, OmicsHub was not developed on the Spotfire platform.

Like its predecessors IBD and StatMiner, the new NGS software is built on Spotfire's platform. Integromics also plans to release an independent version of the tool at a later date for its non-Spotfire customers.

Although he could not give additional details about the software, McManus said that once it is released, he expects it to be adopted by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as well as researchers in academic institutions.

He added that while the market for NGS analysis tools has been largely populated by academic groups, there has been an increase in commercial customers in the last few years.

Marketing to academic groups has historically been a problem for bioinformatics software companies who constantly do battle with open source software providers that have offerings similar to their own. McManus said that for Integromics a key aspect of wooing the academic market lies in how the company "show[s] value" to its customers and also by offering tools that are priced affordably for academics.

He explained that while pricing options vary, what makes Integromics offerings affordable is the company's flexible licensing system that's based on the specific needs and budgetary restrictions of prospective customers.

Integromics genomics software offerings run from about $3,000 per year for a single-seat academic license to about $6,000 per year for a single-seat commercial license with other price points available for concurrent licenses.

The company's OmicsHub Proteomics software ranges in price from $15,000 to $25,000 per year for academic and commercial licenses respectively and includes a five user license.

Bringing in the New, Sticking with the Old

Going forward, McManus said that Integromics will continue to offer its four products — IBD, RealTime StatMiner, OmicsHub, and the new NGS tool — as standalone tools in the US, European, and Asian markets with plans to integrate them eventually.

"We have seen a definite interest in users of NGS instruments to confirm their findings with qPCR and to compare their NGS results to microarray results," he said. "Thus, it makes sense to offer the capability to deal with all three types of data … we have also seen that this combination of the three genomics offerings has a lot of appeal for use in a clinical setting."

He noted that while his company's alliance with companies like Spotfire and Life Technologies has "improved our market reach and penetration" in the US market the company is adopting a different approach for the Asian market and plans to use several distributors to market its software.

However, a plethora of companies like GenomeQuest and CLC Bio have already established a presence in the NGS analysis market, while others are launching new products in this area at a steady pace, such as Strand Life Sciences (see story, this issue) and Genedata (BI 10/1/2010). As a result, entering the NGS market can be a daunting task for companies hoping to make inroads into the space.

But Integromics seems to be taking a road less traveled. Rather than focusing primarily on developing data-alignment and -annotation tools, or tools for "secondary analysis" which many NGS software companies do, McManus said that Integromics' tool is the next link in the chain and will focus on the functional analysis of datasets that have already been aligned and annotated or "tertiary analysis."

So far, he said, he hasn’t encountered any companies in the NGS space that with a similar focus on tertiary analysis that "we consider to be a direct competitor."

Although Integromics will have a clear NGS focus, the company won't turn its back on its microarray roots, McManus said, but will continue to develop additional capabilities for its microarray analysis platform as customers request them. He added that while the demand for microarrays will dwindle over time as next-generation sequencing technologies continue to grow, it's not "dead" yet.

He noted that microarrays are still the tool of choice for many pharmaceutical companies because they have been used for several years as part of the drug discovery process and as a result, "there is a wealth of data that is used as a reference against which new microarray experiments are measured."

"In my discussions with various users of microarrays, they have asserted that they cannot simply drop microarrays and move to an NGS platform because they would lose the basis for comparison," he explained adding that these users "foresee a period of overlap where NGS and microarrays are run side-by-side before the microarrays are eventually phased out." He further said that he expects that microarrays will continue to remain in use for at least another decade.

Integromics also has several competitors in the microarray analysis market, but McManus said the company has a "real advantage" over other groups because its partnership with Spotfire has produced tools that have "been used quite heavily" and that are "well regarded."

Integromics will also continue producing applications for the proteomics market, focusing on tools that help researchers manage "huge amount[s]" of proteomics data generated by mass spectrometry instruments and converting it to standard formats required by proteomics journals.

McManus noted that the need for tools to manage proteomics data has been "somewhat lost" due to the recent buzz around next-generation sequencing, but "it's just as severe a problem and we do have a lot of people who have come to us looking for solutions relating to proteomics," he said.

To meet the need, Integromics is developing additional modules for its OmicsHub software aimed at making proteomics data management easier for researchers, McManus said. He added that the new modules will also include functionalities that will extend the software's abilities beyond proteomics.

He did not provide specific details about those capabilities, but said they would be released in the near future and that the product has already been adopted by "significant institutions."

He also said that staying ahead of the curve in the proteomics market means focusing on "smaller and mid-size companies" that are looking for solutions and can't afford the offerings from larger vendors.

McManus will be based in Boston, but plans to split his time between the company's offices in Philadelphia, Madrid, and Granada.

Integromics currently has 25 employees but also works with some off-shore development teams that "add a considerable amount" to the firm's development efforts, even though they aren’t considered employees. McManus said that his company plans to "increase our headcount" particularly in its US offices in 2011.

Integromics also plans to expand its footprint in other life science areas, as well, McManus said, but declined to provide specific details about which fields the company plans to move into. He did note, however, that the company has partnerships with companies like Ingenuity and Life Technologies and is "well positioned" to grow and take on new areas.

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