Spotfire last week announced that it had signed an agreement with GE Healthcare to bundle its DecisionSite analytical software with GE's soon-to-be-released high-content screening software, IN Cell Investigator 1.0.
The deal is the first OEM agreement for Spotfire's software and the first fruits of a relatively new partnership strategy that offers the company an opportunity to expand its reach within pharmaceutical and biotech firms where its software is already in use. It also gives the company an entrée into new markets, including sales and marketing and clinical development.
Spotfire has signed numerous integration agreements with instrument vendors and software firms since it was founded 10 years ago, and lists more than 20 such partners on its website. "The difference here is that GE has arranged with us that they'll deliver a version of our software with their software," Christian Marcazzo, senior director of life sciences marketing at Spotfire, told BioInform.
"I think it's important for us to find ways to work with instrument vendors, and that's a major initiative for us," he added. "This is a relatively new kind of business model for us, to have somebody else bundling and selling a copy of our software, but it's something we will look to replicate with instrument vendors in many different areas — proteomics, gene-expression analysis … across the board."
"This is a relatively new kind of business model for us, to have somebody else bundling and selling a copy of our software, but it's something we will look to replicate with instrument vendors in many different areas — proteomics, gene-expression analysis … across the board."
Marcazzo said that the company has also signed a similar agreement with Verispan, a content provider for pharmaceutical sales and marketing customers, and is looking to forge further alliances with CROs as it sets its sights on the clinical market.
Under an OEM arrangement such as the one with GE Healthcare, customers who already have a Spotfire license will have immediate access to new analytical capabilities embedded in the third-party software product, Marcazzo said. Users who are not currently Spotfire customers will get a "run-time Spotfire license that allows them to use Spotfire to do that data analysis," he said.
Both scenarios present an upsell opportunity. In the case of existing customers — who are primarily in pharma R&D — "they may have Spotfire on their desk, but aren't really using it every day. So areas like SNP analysis or proteomics analysis are areas where we'll look to establish relationships like this, and it's just about helping people make better use of a license they probably already have, in most cases."
While Spotfire's software is already interoperable with many other instruments and software packages on the market, the level of integration under an OEM deal is much more seamless, Marcazzo said. "With a lot of our integration partners, there's a piece of code that needs to be downloaded and installed, and somebody needs to do a little bit of work. It's not a lot of work, but some work needs to be done to maintain it. And here, because of the nature of the relationship, the integration is just a lot tighter, a lot easier to maintain."
Potential new markets for Spotfire, including sales and marketing and clinical development, present another type of opportunity, he said. "Many sales and marketing managers are customers of Verispan data or other kinds of pharmaceutical sales data, but there's a gap between the data they receive in an Excel file or in a PowerPoint presentation — or however it's delivered to them by their content provider — and the analyses, the exploration they need to do to make their business decisions, how to allocate their sales resources or their marketing budgets."
The same holds true in clinical development, Marcazzo said, where Spotfire hopes to help CROs "not just deliver a SAS file to their customer, but maybe to deliver the data, analyzed and ready for further analysis in Spotfire."
GE Healthcare's New Software Combines
When GE Healthcare releases IN Cell Investigator 1.0, its new high-content analysis software, it will include Spotfire's DecisionSite as well as new capabilities that will provide more flexibility for end users.
The software, designed for use with GE's IN Cell Analyzer platform and currently in beta testing, builds upon the instrument's original Developer Toolbox image-analysis package, which included "pre-canned" algorithms for specific applications, as well as the ability for users to develop their own algorithms.
IN Cell Investigator now includes a feature called "context modules" that fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, Ger Brophy, general manager of discovery sciences for GE Healthcare, told BioInform's sister publication Cell-Based Assay News this week. He said the launch is imminent.
These modules are "loosely based around a particular application, but allow customers to control the variables," Brophy said. "That's the kind of flexibility our customers told us that they wanted, so that's been pulled in."
With this feature, "biologists can generate image-analysis algorithms on Investigator and IN Cell without having to be an image-analysis expert or a code writer," Brophy added.
In addition, the tight integration with DecisionSite enables customers "to move back and forth, to take data from IN Cell to Spotfire, and take out cells that they want," Brophy said. "Once customers see a combination of variables that define a compound of interest [in DecisionSite], they can track that right back in, and re-examine that image on IN Cell to ensure that, for example, a cell looks OK, or that the combination of variables that's giving that profile on Spotfire is actually related to a real recognizable image."
Marcazzo characterized the new strategy as a sign of "the level of maturity of our business and how these relationships can fit with and complement our existing channel to our customers."
New companies "want to maintain very closely the customer interaction so that you are aware of new market opportunities that present themselves," Marcazzo said. But now that Spotfire has reached its 10th anniversary, "we're now [at] a point where our technology is really so widely used in the pharmaceutical industry that we actually don't know a lot of what our customers are doing with it. We don't know as well as maybe a GE, in the case of high-content screening, what is the best way to do analysis of that sort of data — cell-based assay data — and so now we have the people who are generating the technology … building those guides and building those workflows and making them available to their customers."
The market has also evolved over the last decade, particularly in the area of clinical development, Marcazzo said. "When we show what we have to clinicians, they're really excited by the interactivity … and when we talked to those guys eight years ago, that wasn't what they needed."
New technologies and procedures such as electronic data capture have added a new "exploratory" component to the statistical methods that have traditionally served as the workhorses of clinical development, he noted.
"Our customers are doing more analysis while the trial is running than they've ever been able to do before," he said. "While the phase 1 trial is running, they're [asking], 'What does the data look like? Are we having patients drop out? Why are they dropping out? Are we seeing trends in the patients in our lab tests that make us concerned?' So they've being much more proactive. And this isn't in any way designed to bias or change what they're doing with the statistical tests — it's just helping them be more diligent in looking at safely and understanding the safety risk of drugs."
Marcazzo said that a number of instrumentation and content providers have approached Spotfire with the goal of bundling the firm's software with their products. While the company wasn't interested in that type of model in the past, he said, "we now really see how it fits and are doing a lot more to use that to enhance our business."
— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])