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Newbie Watch InforSense Sees Computing Roots as Key to Life Sciences Success

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“It looks like we may be a best-kept secret,” admitted Yike Guo, CEO of London-based InforSense. Indeed, the company has kept a low profile since spinning off from the data mining research group at Imperial College last April.

Yet, despite a tiny marketing budget and a word-of-mouth approach to drumming up business, Infor-Sense has secured a number of high-profile customers and partners. The Sanger Center, GeneLogic, Japan Tobacco, and an undisclosed “major European pharmaceutical company” are among the users of the company’s Kensington data mining and visualization platform.

In addition, InforSense just signed a marketing and distribution agreement with Viaken Systems that Guo deemed significant for a number of reasons. “Number one, they will provide us with more users in the US. Even though we have a plan to move to the US eventually, we need local support,” said Guo.

“Number two,” he continued, “We are very much a computing company. We can do a professional job developing advanced data management systems, but we need also professional bioinformaticans to use it and do special services. As a full service provider Viaken can provide support, maintenance, and resell.”

Guo said the distribution deal, in which Viaken will offer the Kensington suite as part of its hosted solutions, is only the first step in a larger deal between the two companies that is still in discussion.

Guo said that Kensington differs from other data mining systems and enterprise platforms in its emphasis on network information. “It’s not only linked to a central database but can be linked with heterogeneous data sources and distributed across a global organization.”

In addition, Guo said the company’s computer science angle gives it an advantage over other bioinformatics companies that have emerged from the realm of biology.

While the Kensington platform may appear similar to Spotfire’s products at first glance, Guo said he doesn’t consider Spotfire a direct competitor. “Spotfire puts a lot of emphasis on browsing and visualization. I think our major emphasis is very much on platform design. We do have visualization, but every visualization algorithm is in fact connected to our discovery algorithms.”

The company’s competitors actually fall into two camps, Guo said: special solution providers such as Silicon Genetics for gene expression analysis, and platform providers such as Lion Bioscience. But the generic nature of the InforSense approach improves on both of these systems, Guo said. For example, Kensington offers a larger number of analytical applications than specialty solution providers like Silicon Genetics do, Guo said. And unlike Lion, “they have a fixed database called SRS, which we don’t have. We can link to any databases.”

But InforSense does intend to learn from the successes of its predecessors in the bioinformatics market. “Our philosophy is very much like Lion’s, but without too much focus on one particular type of data retrieval,” Guo said, adding that the company’s plan to eventually move beyond the life sciences into other industries is also similar to Spotfire’s.

“If we can be an even better Spotfire I’ll be pretty happy,” said Guo.

— BT

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