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Teranode Launches LIMS, HTS Modules, Joins W3C to Expand Model-Based Platform

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Teranode this week will launch two new additions to its XDA (experiment design automation) informatics platform: a LIMS application and a high-throughput screening module. The new tools will extend the XDA platform beyond its current roles in pathway analysis, sample management, and reagent production, according to company officials.

In addition, last week the company announced that it had joined the World Wide Web Consortium's Semantic Web for Life Science working group to "accelerate implementation of standards" in XDA.

With the release of XDA 2.7, Teranode has added a number of LIMS "extensions" to help researchers collect and manage experimental data and create and share research protocols. The LIMS capability is a natural extension of the company's model-based platform, said Matt Shanahan, chief marketing officer at Teranode.

"We're focused on the entire life cycle of the experimentation — from the design of the experiment, through to producing the data, analyzing the data, and then reporting on it," Shanahan said. "And the way we do that is to attack it with models. When you design your experiment, we capture that as a model, and that model then translates into automation. So the model automatically collects information that's produced by the experiment, it automatically generates analysis, and it allows you to easily share that for reporting purposes."

One weakness in the previous version of the company's software was in data capture, however. "We were heavily focused on the [experimental] design side, and on the analysis side of the equation," Shanahan said, "but when it came to producing the data, I would say we got a C or C-minus in terms of our support for that. You could use us for it, but it wasn't that clean. So that was really the focus for us in this release — how do we close that loop and add the real production capabilities?"

XDA 2.7 includes a new feature called Protocol Player that transforms protocol designs into automated LIMS applications. The feature generates "wizards" that guide lab technicians through the steps of an entire experimental pipeline.

The company also launched Teranode Screening Automation, an application that runs on the XDA platform and includes template designs for screening, such as combinatorial reformatting examples, inventory interfaces, library definitions, curve-fitting, and reporting.

The company had five beta testers for the new version of the platform, Shanahan said. Some existing customers, such as Pfizer, have already upgraded to XDA 2.7, he added.

Shanahan said that XDA's LIMS capabilities are not intended to replace enterprise-wide systems that companies may already have installed, but rather to serve as a "buffer" to provide a bit of flexibility between rapidly changing instrumentation and rigid legacy LIMS. In Pfizer's case, he said, the company "wanted a little bit more flexibility in the lab, but they still have to register their compounds at the enterprise level."

Shanahan was unable to disclose other recent customer agreements, but said that Teranode is "hoping to announce a couple of wins over the next couple of months."

He added that the company is also "ahead of [its] operating plan for the year," although he did not provide further details about the privately held firm's financial performance.

One positive sign, he added, is that Teranode has already proven that it can compete against well-established screening informatics players like IDBS. "We're competing with them head-to-head and winning," he said. "We find that to be a good validation of our technology in the marketplace. Winning an account where you have no competition isn't that hard, but winning an account when you have pretty fierce competition is great."

Shanahan said that Teranode did beat out IDBS in a sale, but did not disclose the identity of the customer.

In future developments, Teranode views its involvement with the W3C as another way to expand its reach in the marketplace. The company's platform is written in a proprietary XML-based modeling language called VLX (Visual Language of Experimentation), which Shanahan expects to convert easily to the W3C's RDF semantic web format.

"All of our information right now is stored in well-formed XML, so we want to take it to that next level, to RDF, so that the [semantic web] search engines and ontologies that exist out there — our data will snap right into those frameworks."

Semantic web standards are expected to "really open our data to the next level of enterprise integration," Shanahan said. "At this point, we're the only company that has a technology like VLX that allows our data to be captured in a W3C-standard technology," he added.

The company's first W3C-compliant products are expected to be commercially available before the end of the year, Shanahan said.

— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])

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