Taking a shine to Golden Helix

Agilent partners up with genetic analysis expert to create tool for wider-scale adoption of large CNV association studies

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BOZEMAN, Mont.—Golden Helix Inc., a global genetic analysis software and services company, will be helping to put Agilent Technologies firmly on the map in the CNV association study market. It will be doing so through a relationship under which Golden Helix will provide researchers with software tools and services for Agilent's copy number variation (CNV) microarrays. The goal, the companies indicate, is "to empower Agilent CNV-based research with cutting-edge tools that accelerate and enhance large scale CNV association studies."

"We are supporting Agilent's well-publicized entrance into the CNV association study market by providing researchers the power and capability previously available only to users of other genotyping platforms," says Josh Forsythe, director of marketing for Golden Helix. "Our copy number segmentation and analysis technologies, coupled with Agilent's high-quality CNV data, will enable research that many thought impossible with current technology."

As part of this relationship, Golden Helix announced that its analysis software, the SNP & Variation Suite, has been modified to directly import, analyze and visualize Agilent's genome-wide copy number data—including association studies, data prep, quality assurance, interaction analyses, study review and predictive modeling—for research purposes. In addition, Golden Helix has expanded its analytic service offering to incorporate studies based on Agilent's microarray data for CNV and for comparative genomic hybridization (CGH).

"We've been in the genetic analysis business for a while, and we're always looking for ways to expand our market and bring our technology to people who heretofore didn't have the tools that others had been able to take advantage of," says Andy Ferrin, vice president of sales and marketing for Golden Helix.

With the rise in importance of copy number analysis, Ferrin notes, he and other leaders at the company noticed that there was a market need, and they talked to various other companies about collaborations, primarily Agilent and Nimblegen.

"With Agilent there seemed to be a really good fit between what they're trying to do and our own goals," Ferrin says. "We talk sometimes about being a little ahead of the curve and that's because there aren't huge numbers of researchers out there doing large CGH-based studies. The tools just haven't been there for them to handle to data."

Without tools, people can't do the work, and without the work, there is no demand for the tools, he points out: "I hate to call it a 'build it and they will come' philosophy, but that was a lot of what has gone behind this," Ferrin says." It's not like we've been looking to forge a partnership like this for the past year or something, but in talks with Agilent, it all fell into place. And, frankly, it was the biggest challenge was building the ability into our software to bring in Agilent data. Once that was done, the rest was simple."

"Our current tools lacked the capability for larger scale association testing, so this was a gap in our solution offerings," notes Dione Bailey, Agilent product manager, CNV/CGH microarrays. "We were looking for a partner who could fill that need for that particular customer base. One of Golden Helix's strengths is that they are really hands-on in helping customers to set up experimental designs and analyze the data, and that struck us because we wanted a really complete solution to offer customers."

Now, the next step is to find research organizations that want to do large CNV studies and help them accomplish their research goals, Ferrin notes, "because the best advertisement is the success of a customer."

Bailey agrees, and says that identifying a customer or customers to be used as a sample base is the primary concern moving forward.

"We want to develop our own materials to demonstrate the power of the arrays, so we need some researchers who can provide us with that, but that's all we can publicly discuss right now with respect to further work with Golden Helix," she says. "I would say it's been a positive experience and came together quite quickly and efficiently, which is certainly a plus for us to consider them for other opportunities moving forward."

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