STATE COLLEGE, Pa.—The Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania (LSGPA) announced in September its investment of $250,000 in SoftGenetics LLC, a developer of analytical software for genetics researchers and diagnosticians.
SoftGenetics will use the money to increase staffing and speed development of its MicroArray Copy Number and SNP Chip software and move it into the marketplace, says SoftGenetics VP John Fosnacht. Most analytical software on the market, he says, is made by instrumentation manufacturers and only about 85 to 90 percent accurate, which isn't adequate for clinical microarray use. "What we've done is developed new technology that starts at the beginning, meaning we look at the basic output of the microarrays, the spots, and have developed some new algorithms and technologies to create a software platform that is approximately 99 percent accurate."
The SoftGenetics approach, which is transferable to other applications, says Fosnacht, involves analyzing TIFF image files and presenting data to researchers in a manner that is more accurate than basing analysis on mathematical or statistical manipulation, as most software does. SoftGenetics's software works with any microarray chip, making for "a commonality of analysis which is good for scientists because they want to have compatibility of data," says Fosnacht.
Validation of SoftGenetics software is important to Dr. Mel Billingsley, president and CEO of LSGPA. "Their base is really code and development of specific algorithms that are unique to them," he says. "That's kind of neat. And that's been validated as well." Billingsley says LSGPA looks at companies' market opportunities, unique technologies, management teams, and financial plans before investing.
Fosnacht believes many existing clients who use SoftGenetics products at clinical diagnostics, biotech, and big pharma companies should be interested in the new microarray software. Large customers include the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, and Applied Biosystems has added SoftGenetics to its Software Community Program. (see October 2006 story).
LSGPA makes pre-seed and seed investments in life sciences companies that work in medical devices, instrumentation and tools for drug discovery, and nanotechnology.
LSGPA operates under a return model, and Billingsley says LSGPA gets to know investees well, drawing them into an extended family of contacts to provide various types of help, such as management advice, finding beta testing in the research community, or securing new funds.