Finding the needle in the haystack

Thermo Fisher and Genedata form mass spec partnership

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SAN JOSE, Calif.—As mass spectrometry (MS) continues to change the way metabolomics research is conducted, researchers are finding it difficult to manage mass quantities of high-resolution data. Seeking to enable scientists to more efficiently process and analyze hundreds of gigabytes of data, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. and Genedata announced July 18 the integration of Thermo Scientific's MS instrumentation and Genedata Expressionist, a modular computational platform for biomarker discovery that performs high-throughput processing and automated quality analysis of MS-based metabolomics and proteomics data. Thermo Fisher and Genedata will co-market the integrated solution, which the two companies say will help researchers to understand small molecule biomarker detection in a single, comprehensive system. Financial terms of the partnership were not released.

Iain Mylchreest, vice president of Thermo Fisher Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry, says the partnership is in line with Thermo Fisher's strategy of seeking software development companies to complement its MS platform in emerging markets.

"We were looking for a scalable system that would take a researcher all the way from the work station to an enterprise-based station," Mylchreest says. "We wanted to be able to customize how researchers acquire, process and analyze data and give us an open architecture system in which to play in the emerging market."

Genedata Managing Director Jens Hoefkens says the two companies have been talking for a few years about joining forces to allow their customers to produce and process large quantities of high-quality data.

"MS-based research has been reduced to finding a needle in a haystack," Hoefkens says. "Thermo Fisher's mass spec instrumentation allows their customers to produce a lot of good quality data very quickly, but their customers were almost overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data produced. For the last five years, Genedata has been working on extending our Expressionist product into the area of analysis and mining mass spec data. That's where we came into play."

Genedata Expressionist represents a single-point-of-access for all experimental data, including sample information, raw and pre-processed data, analysis results and documentation with reports. This allows researchers to process hundreds of gigabytes of data simultaneously. Expressionist also includes a statistical analysis platform for data comparison.

Thermo Fisher expects the integrated solution to have a marked impact on attrition rates, Mylchreest says.

"In the field of metabolomics research, there is not just a speed issue, but a confidence issue," Mylchreest says. "One of the biggest challenges in drug discovery is trying to get attrition rates down. The goal here is to provide researchers with both the instrumentation that can give them high confidence in their data and the software to very quickly give them a complete picture of what is changing in the biological system."

Hoefkens says the partnership is "really only the beginning," and Genedata would like to see Expressionist support more than just Thermo Fisher's proteomics instrumentation.

"This really is a case where for the first time, the automation of high-throughput biomarker discovery in the field of metabolomics is possible," Hoefkens says. "While this part of our collaboration is focused on proteomics, we'd also like to extend our efforts to other providers." DDN

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