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IO Informatics Moves into Personalized Medicine with Launch of Healthcare Arm

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IO Informatics this week launched a new business arm, dubbed IO Healthcare, that will focus on helping customers in the personalized medicine market use clinical information to enhance their research and development activities.

The company has tapped William Hayden to lead its efforts in the healthcare space. Prior to joining the company, Hayden served as the executive vice president of healthcare informatics firm Praxeon. He also previously worked as the director of international business development at IO Informatics.

He told BioInform that the company decided to launch a separate division so that it could “focus on the specific needs and wants of healthcare researchers and clinicians.”

In a statement, Robert Stanley, IO Informatics’ president and CEO, described the move as a “natural extension” for the company and for its Sentient Suite, which has historically been offered to research customers in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Now, “with the growing availability and decreasing cost to integrate and query data from genomics and other molecular biology and clinical applications,” IO Healthcare will be able to “directly address the challenges of taking molecular data into clinical application,” Stanley said.

This isn’t IO’s first foray into the clinical market. According to Hayden, the company has worked with some early adopters in the space in the past. For example, it worked on building its Applied Semantic Knowledgebases with the help of organizations such as the Prevention of Organ Failure Centre of Excellence in Vancouver, Canada as part of a project that aimed to build a web-based application for assessing patient’s disease risk and making treatment recommendations (BI 9/14/2012), as well as with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US.

Now, “we feel the technologies and market have matured sufficiently to support rapid practical adoption and growth,” he said in an email.

Hayden said that IO’s new arm will market the company’s existing Sentient software Suite, but that the clinical product will include “additions and enhancements … in order to better serve the specific requirements of the healthcare sector.”

These enhancements include new user interfaces that are tailored to the clinical environment, the addition of specific medical ontologies and classifiers, and tools that can run on mobile devices, Hayden said. IO has also added clinical, genomics, metabolic, and proteomic information to its platform’s existing repository of public resources.

Additionally, IO is working with existing and new customers to offer automated screening and clinical reporting capabilities, Hayden said.

Currently, IO Healthcare offers data integration and knowledge-mining tools as well as various knowledgebases developed as part of its project with the PROOF Center, Hayden said.

The unit is also customizing mobile and tablet interfaces "for a variety of PROOF clinical practitioners,” and these should be available to the center in 2013, he said.

IO isn’t disclosing pricing details for its healthcare offering.

Hayden said the company is planning to market the new platform to academic and healthcare institutions, as well as customers in pharma and biotech who can use it to discover and develop predictive biomarkers as well as optimize clinical trial design and patient selection.

He said that IO doesn’t expect much competition for its Sentient Suite in the marketplace.

“This is a very new area for applying semantic data integration and knowledge mining,” and, as such, there are “very few with both the semantic and life science/healthcare blend of technology and expertise,” he said.

The few that are present in the space are focused on “different aspects of the challenges than we are,” he said.

For example, “we are able to deal with all the various types of data; both structured and unstructured,” while “some companies are specialized in dealing with text [or] unstructured [data] in greater depth,” he explained.

Rather than seeing these companies as competitors, “we can easily partner with them and pull in their data and combine it with all the other data available, therefore providing the researcher and clinician with a solution that utilizes all the data under the Sentient Suite,” he said.

He said IO is currently partnering with one such company but declined to provide specifics.

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