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VisX Enters Microarray Software Fray with Web-based System

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Pitching its product GeneSifter.net as more than just another pretty interface, Seattle-based VizX entered the crowded microarray data analysis software field last week.

The key difference that distinguishes GeneSifter.net from the other attractive packages on the market, said vice president of marketing Elon Gasper, is that it lives on a web-based thin client architecture. This not only allows researchers from around the world to work together on a project simply by logging in to the GeneSifter website, he said, it also means that there’s no need for a release 2.0.

GeneSifter.net “stays current because it’s on the web and is instantly updated with new features and new databases,” said Gasper.

The company plans to continuously update the software so that it remains compliant with the state of the art in data submission standards. Additionally, the thin client architecture was designed to run on Linux, Mac, and Windows platforms

The program was initially created by Eric Olson, a University of Washington biologist and the founder of a tiny bioinformatics company called NeoBase. VizX, co-founded by Tom Ranken, former president of the Washington Biotechnology and BioMedical Association, and bioinformatics veteran Bob Cottingham bought NeoBase and hired Olson as director of science.

To head up business development and marketing, they brought on Gasper, who has been in the consumer software market for 20 years and sold his gaming software company to Sierra On-Line.

After recently raising about $1 million in seed financing, the company has ramped up to 10 people in its office overlooking Seattle’s Lake Union.

The task before the company now is to preach its user-friendly gospel to the microarray community, and start raking in the converts. The software is priced in the four-figure range, although the price differs for academic labs, and depending on the number of users in a group.

So far, VizX has gotten a number of beta-testers to deliver positive testimonials, including Gary Vanasse, Stephen Schmechel, and Eileen Mulvihill from the University of Washington, as well as Mark Schena, the visiting scholar at TeleChem/ Arrayit.com and author of three books on microarrays. “Instead of drowning users in a sea of information, GeneSifter.net provides users with targeted abilities, making the data manageable,” Schena said in his testimonial.

Additionally, the company has snagged a three-year exclusive distribution agreement with Japanese trading giant Marubun to market GeneSifter.net in Japan.

While this debut marks an auspicious beginning for a product, the fact that GeneSifter.net does not boast as many algorithms as other software programs, coupled with its market entry at a time when many labs and companies are already committed to various competitors’ packages, could present significant obstacles to the Seattle startup.

The key to surmounting these obstacles, of course, is whether users are as convinced of its user-friendliness as are its creators.

Information about GeneSifter.net is available online at: public.vizxanalyzer.com/genesifter/product-info_features.php.

The company is also offering free product demos.

— MMJ

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