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New Suite of Image-Analysis Tools Enables Acclerys to Play in Expanding HCA Market

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Accelrys moved into a new market this week with the launch of the Imaging Collection, a suite of image-analysis applications for its SciTegic Pipeline Pilot workflow platform.
 
The Imaging Collection is expected to be useful for a broad spectrum of image-analysis applications, but the company is first targeting the high-content analysis market, an area that is quickly growing evermore competitive as software firms strive to address the considerable informatics demands of the field.
 
Accelrys launched the Imaging Collection at the High-Content Analysis conference in San Francisco this week, but it wasn’t the only software firm using that meeting as a springboard to showcase its new tools.
 
Definiens, an image-analysis software firm based in Munich, Germany, unveiled plans at the show to upgrade its Cellenger high-content image-analysis software, while BioImagene, an image informatics company based in Cupertino, Calif., announced a new software-bundling partnership with HP for its image data-management and storage tools.
 
These firms are only a selection of a growing pool of companies and academic labs that have released software over the last few years for analyzing, storing, and managing cell image data (see table, below, for a list of players in the field). 
 
Tim Moran, director for the Imaging Collection at Accelrys, told BioInform that the company’s research shows that the market for high-content screening software and related services is growing 30 percent annually.
 
“I think that, coupled with the fact that data collection by imaging is so widespread and growing, and there are still so many inefficiencies in inspection and interpretation, … [indicates] that we can show some success with this tool.”
 
Moran said that Accelrys eventually plans to target the Imaging Collection toward other vertical markets, such as industrial inspection, agricultural research, and in vivo imaging, but said that SciTegic’s current market penetration in the pharmaceutical market made the HCA market an obvious first choice. The company said 14 of the top 20 pharmas are current customers.
 
“What we’re seeing happen in a lot of the larger organizations is integration of different divisions,” Morean said. “And there’s a definitive workflow in high-content screening that enables us to integrate these types of data.”
 
Accelrys CEO Mark Emkjer last May first hinted that the company was developing an image-analysis suite, noting that it was one of several “broader horizontal” capabilities it planned to develop for Pipeline Pilot. These capabilities also include report generation, text analytics, and clinical informatics [BioInform 05-26-06].
 
In August, Emkjer provided a bit more detail about the company’s plans in image analysis, noting that the collection was being developed in response to the demands of customers who “have said that nearly 80 percent of their stored information is in image files.” [BioInform 08-04-06].
 
Other firms have also said that demand for their products has been growing due to the large growth in image data in pharmaceutical firms. BioImagene, for example, claimed in a press release this week that two-thirds of all data generated in the life science market is in the form of images.
 
Definiens, meanwhile, noted in a statement that new HCS technologies that enable 3D tracking of cells over time are certain to present “major challenges for automated image analysis systems,” with the data volume for a single image approaching gigabyte levels.
 
Nick Arini, product marketing manager for Definiens, said in a statement that most current HCS analysis software is based on 2D images, which provides around 250,000 data points. A 4D view of the same cells can provide 500 million data points, he added.
 
The company claims that the current version of Cellenger can handle 3D and 4D image analysis, and that it is working to improve these capabilities. “People are really pushing the boundaries of what can be done,” Arini told BioInform’s sister publication Cell-Based Assay News this week.
 
Despite the presence of these other players, Accelrys still felt there was “a soft spot in the workflow process that has not been addressed in high-content screening,” Moran said.
 
The company is targeting two primary user bases for the Imaging Collection: IT staffers who need to quickly develop new applications for their colleagues, and end users who want to integrate HCS data with other types of data sources and applications that Pipeline Pilot supports in bioinformatics, cheminformatics, and statistical analysis.
 
For power users, the Imaging Collection offers a set of “base components” built upon Intel’s IPP image-processing library. These components enable users to create their own image-analysis routines for tasks like segmentation. “The basic components allow sophisticated users to process their own images, to define new types of data coming out of the images,” Moran said.
 
One IT director from a small biotech company in San Diego said that he has used the Imaging Collection to build a number of HCS applications, including a confocal image co-labeling analysis application and an application for identifying “canonical images” for different dosages in a screening study.
 

“We’re not trying to displace any of the image analysis companies that are out there.”

“I don’t think there are standalone software packages that would do these things,” said the director, who spoke to BioInform on the condition of anonymity because he did not have clearance from his employer. He also noted that his company already uses Pipeline Pilot for other research areas, so it was easy to deploy the new HCS applications through the existing web interface.
 
For end users, the collection includes data-integration tools such as platform-independent image readers, image-sharing tools, and other components that enable Pipeline Pilot to “talk to third-party types of software,” Moran said.
 
Accelrys is currently talking to “all the major players” regarding integration partnerships, Moran said, but declined to provide details.
 
He stressed that the company does not view itself as competing against other software firms in the image-analysis market. “We’re not trying to displace any of the image-analysis companies that are out there,” he said. “Our hope was more in the image management and workflow market, and [to] allow there to be tools to fill in the gaps where the analysis platforms have missed something.”   
 
Moran said that the company released the Image Collection on Dec. 29 and has already “had some sales success” for the product, though he was unable to provide specific customer names.

 
The Cellular Image Analysis Software Landscape at a Glance
Software Developer/Vendor Capabilities
Attovision BD Biosciences HCS image analysis
CellMine BioImagene HCS data storage and management
BioApplications Cellomics Suite of algorithms for HCS image acquisition and analysis tailored for specific assays
Cellomics Store Cellomics HCS data storage and management
DCILabs' imaging software Digital Cell Imaging Labs Suite of packages for HCS image acquisition and analysis tailored for specific assays
Acapella Evotec Technologies (now Perkin Elmer) HCS data mining
In Cell Developer Toolbox GE Healthcare Enables users to construct their own HCS image analysis routines
In Cell Investigator GE Healthcare HCS image analysis
Screener Genedata HCS and HTS data mining
Dynamic Cell IQ Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration and Repair HCS image analysis for dynamic behavior of cells (under development)
ActivityBase IDBS HCS and HTS data storage and management
AcuityXpress 2.0 Molecular Devices HCS data mining
MetaXpress 2.0 Molecular Devices HCS image acquisition
Open Microscopy Environment Multi-site open source collaboration Image analysis of cellular dynamics and cellular localization
SVCell SVision Cell image analysis
CellProfiler The Broad Institute HCS image analysis
CellVisualizer The Broad Institute HCS data mining
CellTracker University of Manchester HCS image analysis, with ability to track living and moving cells
Cell-Image Analysis Vala Sciences Cell image analysis

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