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Translational Software Emerges from Stealth to Pursue Clients in PGx Data Interpretation Market

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Translational Software, a bioinformatics startup based in Mercer Island, Wash., is trying to build a business around selling data interpretation tools under a software-as-a-service model to clinical labs running pharmacogenomic tests.

Founded about three years ago, Translational has developed a clinical decision-support platform that uses a set of algorithms and a knowledgebase of pharmacogenetic literature to interpret genetic test results and generate a report that includes treatment guidelines based on curated data gathered from journals, symposia, academic research centers, hospitals like the Mayo Clinic, and other sources.

Don Rule, Translational’s founder and CEO, explained to BioInform that Translational's system uses variants identified using genetic tests to call haplotypes — combinations of variants rather than single SNPs that are associated with response to drugs.

The software system then pulls treatment information from its knowledgebase based on the calls and provides these results in a report to physicians to help guide patients' treatment, he said.

Rule said that Translational has gathered information about drugs for cardiology, psychotropic conditions, gastric diseases, immunosuppression, and pain medications.

In addition to culling information from the literature, the company also works with expert panels to determine what sort of information should go into the reports, Rule said. It also double-checks its data sources to ensure that its system captures all the different terminologies that might be used to describe different drugs and disease conditions.

In addition to its interpretation engine, Translational has also developed a portal through which physicians can order a range of pharmacogenetic tests from labs.

The bulk of its business so far comes from sales of its interpretation capabilities, Sean Sigmon, Translational's vice president of business development, told BioInform this week. He explained that most labs already have laboratory information management systems that provide tools for ordering tests.

Also, most labs still use paper requisition forms and are unwilling to require that referring physicians switch from paper to electronic portals to order their tests, he said.

So, rather than stepping on LIMS vendors' toes, Translational works with its customers to integrate its interpretation platform with the LIMS systems that are already in place, Sigmon said. This way, "our interpretive report [is] stored in the LIMS long term and the LIMS actually distribute[s] the report to the referring physician," he said. It also uses feedback from its customers to improve the appearance of its system and the information it provides back to physicians, he said.

That’s the sort of arrangement that Translational has with its first customer, Genotox Laboratories, whose researchers are using its interpretation tools to make sense of test results from patients with chronic pain, Sigmon said.

In return, Genotox provided feedback that was used to improve the "look and feel" of Translational's end reports so that it better fits labs' needs, Sigmon said.

He added that the company intends to benefit in a similar fashion from relationships with other customers. So far, Translational has inked five partnerships that are similar to the one it has with Genotox with undisclosed laboratories under this model, he said.

The company also plans to incorporate proprietary data from companies such as Thomson Reuters into its knowledgebase, Sigmon said.

Translational charges a monthly fee for the use of its software that is based on the number of tests customers run per month plus an integration fee if they want to sync the platform with their LIMS software and customize their reports, Sigmon said. He declined to provide specifics about his company's pricing scheme.

In the marketplace, Translational will likely compete for customers with companies such as PanGenX, which uses a semantics-based approach to link pharmacogenetic data with results from peer-reviewed literature and other types of data (BI 3/16/2012).

However, Sigmon believes his firm will be able to stay ahead of the competition by providing reports that "leverage the best current literature" and are "highly actionable."

He also believes that Translational's ability to quickly integrate its platform with labs' internal LIMS and get the system up and running are also factors in its favor.

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