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Spotfire Releases Spotfire Pro 4.0, New Version Of Technical Decision Support Software


CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Spotfire, a provider of software for research and development decision support, has unveiled the new version of its data visualization and analysis software, Spotfire Pro 4.0. Spotfire Pro supplies users with tools to mine, visualize, and analyze large sets of technical, multidimensional data to recognize trends and understand relationships within them.

The product's new capabilities include 3D visualization and full-text searching, which simplify efforts by users to access information stored in disparate corporate databases, according to Christopher Ahlberg, founder and CEO of Spotfire. The new version of Spotfire Pro will help users and corporations keep up with trends in database, networking, and scientific technologies that are generating massive amounts of technical information, he asserted.

Bioinform spoke with Peder Svensson, a computational chemist at Astra Hässle, about Spotfire Pro 4.0's abilities. Astra Hässle, which used the previous version of Spotfire Pro, uses the new software to display gene expression and other data, and to provide "interactivity" in the combinatorial library design process, said Svensson.

"One very useful, nicely implemented function is the 3D scatter plot option," commented Svensson. He pushed to have 3D scatter plots included in the new version, because the ability to visualize more than two chemical properties of molecules simultaneously is helpful when making reagent selections in combinatorial chemistry, for example. The 3D scatter plot feature is a good complement to existing Spotfire Pro functions such as color coding and labeling, he added.

Astra Hässle has been able to deploy Spotfire Pro 4.0 as a way to extend its current analytic processes. Svensson explained that the pharmaceutical company uses in-house software to perform property analysis of reagents. From that analysis, users can request the in-house program to select a subset of reagents that covers the so-called property space in a balanced manner.

Results of this procedure are then viewed in Spotfire together with structural information of the reagents--using the Spotfire Structure Visualizer plug-in software. "This allows for a very efficient way of making changes to the selections based on any relevant criteria not included in the property analysis, such as synthetic feasibility," Svensson said.

3D capabilities allow Svensson to explore the three most important dimensions in this property space at the same time. When needed, the software also supplies an easy way of zooming in on the neighborhood of one of the selected reagents using a novel "3D neighborhood zooming facility," he stated. This is useful when Svensson needs to find good alternative reagents with approximately the same chemical properties as the ones automatically selected. This zooming ability is particularly helpful when working with large data sets, he added.

In the new version of Spotfire Pro, the limit on the number of objects that can be analyzed has been greatly increased, which enables quick analysis to be done on even large data sets, he added. Svensson also liked the new full-text search query device and, in general, the flexibility and simplicity of the software.

As pharmaceutical companies are investing in research, their efforts are generating more data than they can handle, claimed Ahlberg. Spotfire Pro has been developed to provide decision support for individuals and groups by allowing users to visualize, explore, and link information, enabling faster drug discovery, he added.

The product allows scientists, managers, and technical personnel to manipulate and view datasets that can contain as many as 1 million records and dozens of variables, without requiring the users to be aware of possible relationships within the information, according to Ahlberg.

Data from a spreadsheet, a relational database, or a laboratory system can be imported into Spotfire Pro to display relationships and trends. The software analyzes variables and recommends ways to reveal relevant information that might be overlooked. Spotfire Pro 4.0 automatically configures a user interface with check-boxes, slider bars, and radio buttons based on the content of the data, enabling the system to be up and running in a short time, said Spotfire officials.

The software supports the Microsoft OLE DB set of interfaces that let users search and import data from multiple databases or lab instruments using a single query. Users can conduct full-text searches and can narrow the scope of the analyses by examining only the data points that contain a selected word or phrase.

The new version also has improved report-writing functions and is compatible with Microsoft's ActiveX Document Server capability, enabling users to embed, open and explore Spotfire Pro documents in Microsoft Internet Explorer to simplify knowledge-sharing.

Spotfire Pro can be used as a standalone Windows 95, 98 or NT desktop program or with the web-based Spotfire Discovery Server, which helps multiple users share knowledge across or between companies. Additional Spotfire products integrated with Spotfire Pro include: Decision Explorer for visual mining of complex data; Array Explorer, which enables researchers to visually analyze genetic data; the Leads Discoverer web-based system for analyzing high-throughput screening data; and Structure Visualizer.

Spotfire Pro is used as a bioinformatics application at 20 of the top 22 European and US pharmaceutical firms in implementations across multiple departments, Spotfire claimed. Spotfire's European headquarters are in Göteborg, Sweden.

--Matthew Dougherty

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