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Building on Success in Proteomics LIMS Market, GenoLogics Sets its Sights on Genomics, Other Apps


GenoLogics, which was founded in 2002 to develop proteomics data-management tools, said last week that it is extending its technology platform to encompass genomics and other applications in an effort to meet the informatics requirements of multi-disciplinary research groups.

Since launching its flagship Proteus laboratory information system in 2004 [PM 11-12-04], GenoLogics has secured more than 24 customers, raised $5 million in venture capital funding, and grown to 55 employees — all on the strength of a system targeted to the niche market of high-throughput proteomics research labs.

Now the company intends to build upon its success in the proteomics market as it readies the launch of its next product, called Geneus, a data-management system for gene-expression and genotyping experiments that is slated for commercial launch in early 2007.

Michael Ball, CEO of GenoLogics, told ProteoMonitor that the company sees an opportunity for a flexible data-management system geared toward cross-disciplinary systems biology research groups. Customers in academia as well as biopharmaceutical firms are integrating data from multiple disciplines in an effort to move away from "siloed research" and toward an environment that enables them to "manage and analyze data in the context of biology," he said.

The company's goal, therefore, is to create a data-management platform that "crosses all the omic disciplines," he said.

"Proteomics is not like genomics …. Proteomics develops volumes of data from single samples, and genomics utilizes numerous samples."

With proteomics already covered, the company is now focusing its efforts on genomics. Ball said that the company plans to branch out into additional disciplines over the next few years, but declined to provide further details.

GenoLogics is in the process of implementing Geneus for three early access customers who currently use Proteus, and plans to gather feedback from these labs over the next few months before launching the system next year. Geneus will initially support workflows for gene expression and SNP-genotyping experiments on the Affymetrix GeneChip and Applied Biosystems TaqMan platforms; SNP-genotyping experiments on the Illumina platform; and DNA analysis on the Agilent BioAnalyzer 2100.

The system supports sample tracking, data management, and analysis. It is currently integrated with Affy's GCOS software and ABI's 7900HT sequence-detection software. Jason Wilson, genomics software analyst for GenoLogics, said that the company is still "evaluating" gene-expression and genotyping analysis packages and has not yet signed any integration agreements with third-party providers in that area. The company is also "pursuing" GeneChip-compatible status with Affymetrix, Wilson said.

Ball said that GenoLogics expects to have integration agreements in place with several third-party analysis software partners before the product is commercially launched.

More Mature Market

As GenoLogics prepares to enter the genomics market, it faces a new set of competitors and a different market dynamic. As an early mover in the proteomics LIMS sector, the company benefited from a clear first-mover advantage, but this is not the case in genomics data management, where pure-play LIMS vendors like LabVantage, and even instrumentation vendors like Applied Biosystems, have been hocking their wares for almost a decade.

But Ball characterized other LIMS products as either too general-purpose or too narrowly focused on specific experimental workflows for most genomics labs, which would prefer something in between.

Paul Wood, director of the genomics and proteomics core laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh, agreed with this assessment of the LIMS market. Wood said that he "spent years looking for a LIMS" before agreeing to use Proteus. "What I found were extremely process-specific systems that were designed with very little flexibility for their very specific functions," he said. The other option was "slightly more global systems that, again, were very inflexible in terms of user modification," he said.

"What you need is a marriage of the two, and that's what [GenoLogics] was able to do for proteomics," he said.

Wood's lab has agreed to an early-access implementation of Geneus, and he described its role as "their working partner in developing the correct toolbox for the genomics LIMS."

He stressed that the strengths of Proteus may not necessarily translate directly into Geneus because "proteomics is not like genomics." The main difference from a data-management perspective is that "proteomics develops volumes of data from single samples, and genomics utilizes numerous samples," he said. "So the samples going into the processes are very, very large and get reconfigured in all sorts of ways — from tubes to plates, from plates to new plates, back to data, and eventually needing to be re-associated with their sample tubes."

Nevertheless, Wood cited GenoLogics' "responsiveness" in designing Proteus as a good foundation for tackling genomics as well.

Aside from the technical challenges of moving into the new application area, Ball acknowledged that the company faces a bit of a sales challenge as well as it moves up the chain of command within academic and industry labs. "At the lab level, they're not thinking about genomics in the proteomics group," he said. However, he said, GenoLogics has identified "a commitment to systems biology" at the executive level in a number of perspective customer sites, and interprets this as a sign that the market for cross-disciplinary data-management tools is about to open up.

"We initially thought that this trend was two or three years away," he said, "but we're surprised at the uptake we're seeing. It's happening sooner than many people thought."

— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])

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