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Almac Diagnostics Opens Consultancy for Array, Sequencing Data Analysis

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By Justin Petrone

Almac Diagnostics last week launched a bioinformatics consultancy service to help its pharmaceutical, biotech, and diagnostics clients discover and develop biomarkers.

The Craigavon, UK-based firm's menu of services includes biomarker discovery and development, exploratory analysis, mechanistic and functional analysis, traditional and next-generation sequencing data analysis, biostatistics, and data integration, Almac said.

"Bioinformatics is still a clear bottleneck in research and we’ve launched this consultancy in response to the demand for these services," according to Austin Tanney, the firm's scientific liaison officer.

Almac Diagnostics has honed its bioinformatics expertise in developing a menu of disease-specific arrays that are manufactured by Affymetrix. The company, an Affy certified service provider, also offers array data analysis to its partners.

The new service also offers the service to partners who have generated data elsewhere, according to a company official.

"To date, most of the bioinformatics work we have done has been offered as part of our overall biomarker-discovery studies," said Tanney.

Tanney told BioArray News last week that earlier projects were mostly focused around data generated in-house at Almac. "What we are offering now is not limited to data generated by us," said Tanney.

He added that the individual components of the service are available to support and enhance any internal bioinformatics resource the client may have.
According to Tanney, Almac decided to launch its new service to meet demand for its data-analysis resources. Almac has previously announced collaborations with Pfizer, Merck, and Eli Lilly.

"Bioinformatics expertise has always been a key strength at Almac and has been available as part of our biomarker solutions," Tanney said.

'Next Logical Step'

Almac Diagnostics' new service is the latest expansion for the business, which has introduced a number of new products and services in recent years. In August, Almac Diagnostics, which is part of the drug development-services firm the Almac Group, debuted Biomarkers for Biopharma, which is designed to be a package for biopharmas whose drug-development processes are in the early stages (BAN 8/3/2010) .

As part of that program, Almac, headquartered in Northern Ireland, offers clients access to its own tools such as its Xcel array, launched in June 2010, which contains 92,000 transcripts and is optimized for use with formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue. Other DSAs are available for breast, ovarian, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer studies (BAN 6/8/2010).

In December 2009, Almac opened a bioinformatics facility in Manchester, UK, in response to an increase in the number of clinical trial-related projects it has commenced with biopharmaceutical companies (BAN 12/8/2009). In total, Almac Diagnostics now maintains a bioinformatics staff of around two dozen, Tanney said.

Paul Harkin, president and managing director of Almac Diagnostics, said in a statement that the firm's bioinformatics team has "provided invaluable support for both our internal research and our external work."

The launch of the consultancy, then, is the "next logical step in enabling our customers to access this important resource," Harkin said.

Tanney said the consultancy will be based in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, and in Almac's home office in Manchester.

"We have a large bioinformatics and biostatistics team with a wide range of expertise and disciplines including biology, medicine, mathematics, and biostatistics," he said. The team already has experience in "designing studies and analyzing complex data sets in pharmaceutical-, biotech-, and diagnostics-development settings," he added.

According to Tanney, Almac also has an "excellent infrastructure of hardware and software designed to handle large data sets with speed and security. This includes "all the industry standard software platforms as well as a range of in-house developed tools and analysis programs," he said. Tanney did not elaborate.

In terms of array data analysis, Tanney said that Almac's focus is on generating "statistically robust, meaningful results." While Almac also has developed software in addition to using "all of the industry standard applications," the business' "real focus" is supporting discovery and development of biomarkers as well as enabling an in-depth understanding of biology," he added.

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