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MediSapiens Ramping Up US Operations, Developing Clinical Solution, Looking Beyond Oncology

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Finland-based bioinformatics firm MediSapiens said this week that it is ramping up its US operations, including moving its East Cost subsidiary to a bigger office space in Cambridge, Mass., preparing to launch a new website, and planning to hire new staff, most likely in business development and sales, by next year.

MediSapiens said it is ramping up its US operations because of a sharp increase in business from US customers, although it did not quantify this increase. Rami Kakonen, MediSapiens' president of US operations, said that the company's US operation was previously mostly virtual, but added that as its US business continues to grow the logical next step was to establish a physical address that would house current US-based staff as well as next year's planned hires, he told BioInform.

In addition, Kakonen said that his firm plans to develop what will be its first application for direct clinical use in collaboration with an unnamed partner. He could not go into specific details about the company's plans for the product — it is still in its early stages — but he did say that it would be a resource that cancer patients would be able to use themselves and that it would lead to more personalized cancer treatments and therapies. He also said that the firm should be able to discuss the project in more detail in about six months.

Meanwhile, MediSapiens is seeking new opportunities to use tools it has developed to support research efforts in areas outside of oncology, Kakonen said. It has already begun to do projects outside of the cancer domain; for example, it developed the software infrastructure used by GeneScoper, an animal diagnostics firm in Finland that offers parental testing, genetic diversity assessment, and disease diagnosis — the canine and feline equivalent of 23andMe.

Also up for consideration is whether or not MediSapiens will continue to devote resources toward developing new products or concentrate on building customized solutions for clients, Kakonen said. It currently does both and provides solutions to researchers in the pharmaceutical industry, primarily, but also academia, that are used to visualize, analyze, and manage large multi-dimensional datasets related to oncology.

In fact, its product portfolio is made up, at least in part, of some of the tailored tools that it developed for clients, which are now sold as stand-alone solutions. This includes OncoGenomics Explorer, a solution that provides tools for visualizing, analyzing, and storing large-scale biological data in cancer-based projects. It lets users integrate and compare different data types, including mutations, copy number variation, expression, and methylation data, as well as clinical covariates from both public and private sources. In addition, it has advanced filter options for exploring data in detail.

This particular system was developed in collaboration with several institutions and firms including Bayer Healthcare, which is one of the company's largest clients. In 2011, MediSapiens announced that it had been selected to develop a customized platform that would support cancer genomics data management and analysis for Bayer. Then in 2012, MediSapiens said that Bayer had begun using the OncoGenomics Explorer software for target discovery and drug repositioning projects in oncology.

The company is currently developing a second solution with Bayer Healthcare called the Integrated Genomics Platform, which is designed to give Bayer's researchers centralized access to clinical genomics data as well as tools to analyze, visualize, and store internal and publicly available data from cancer and other diseases.

MediSapiens is considering commercializing this solution when it completes the development process with Bayer, Kakonen said. If it does so, it will likely package and sell the constituent parts as separate components instead of marketing the system as a whole, he said. It is also considering doing the same thing with the OncoGenomics Explorer solution. Part of the reason for this is that many potential customers already have in-house tools that work for their projects and are looking for solutions that fill specific gaps, he explained.

In addition to OncoGenomics Explorer, MediSapiens also markets OxFusion, a tool that helps users identify gene fusion events in RNA sequencing datasets faster and more accurately than other available tools such as DeFuse and Chimerascan, according to internal benchmarks. A third product up for sale is the Research Integrator, which the company describes as a centralized tool for managing research resources and data. This particular product also grew out of a MediSapiens collaboration with Bayer that aimed at helping the company build a centralized repository of cell line data.

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