F. Scott Fitzgerald may have been correct when he said there are no second acts in American lives, but it appears that the opposite may hold true for bioinformatics software. Biosift’s recent acquisition of Entigen’s technology follows several other examples within the last year of new players snatching up tools from defunct bioinformatics firms: DoubleTwist’s Clustering and Analysis Tools went to Biotique in July [BioInform 07-29-02]; and in May, Genomica’s Discovery Manager software went to Visualize, a data visualization software firm that primarily targets the financial services industry.
Biotique now claims Bristol-Myers Squibb, Berlex Pharmaceuticals, and Affymetrix among its customers, but how is Visualize doing? Great, according to Janice Kurth, VP of life sciences for the company. Nearly a year after acquiring Genomica’s software, Visualize has made a number of improvements to the software, renamed it Visual Genetics, and signed its first distribution agreement with an as-yet-undisclosed genotyping instrumentation vendor.
“It has been very successful so far, and we’re enjoying moving forward with it,” said Kurth.
Visualize has signed on a few academic and biotech customers through direct marketing efforts, Kurth said, but noted that the company’s “most successful go-to-market strategy” will be distribution relationships with instrument providers “because that is a direct line to the most appropriate customers.” Visualize has also just hired a sales manager who will be responsible solely for the life science market.
The revamped software is now built on an Oracle database and has been rewritten in Java. In addition, the pedigree viewer in the software, which used to be sublicensed from Progeny, has been rewritten using Visualize’s proprietary visualization technology. Kurth said that six developers from Genomica have joined Visualize’s staff of 17 to assist with the software upgrade.
One key improvement, Kurth noted, is the addition of population genetics capabilities to the statistical genetics and family studies features of Genomica’s software. The software can now manage data from unrelated individuals, perform some basic population statistics, calculate allele and genotype frequencies, check the genotype distribution for Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, and perform chi-squared analysis between frequencies in different populations, Kurth said. There are few software packages with these capabilities on the market, she said, noting that the only competition Visualize has seen so far is from large pharmaceutical companies “who have the build-your-own philosophy.”
Kurth said she is confident that “population genetics is really the thrust of the future for complex diseases and pharmacogenomics,” which will increase demand for the software, even from the tough-sell types at pharma. “Our product is ready to go out of the box, and it certainly is less expense to license the product than it is to build one’s own system,” she said.
While admitting that sales slowed down a bit toward the end of 2002, Kurth said that the company is seeing “a real pickup in momentum right now” and is “very optimistic about this year and how well we’ll do.”
Visualize is planning another software upgrade for later this year, and is also considering an additional product that would combine its visualization capabilities with laboratory workflow processes.