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By Malorye A. Branca

May 15, 2004 | With an eye on new markets and opportunities, GE wrapped up its $9.5-billion acquisition of Amersham plc last month. Amersham and GE Medical Systems have been combined and renamed GE Healthcare -- a $14-billion business headed by Amersham’s former CEO, Sir William Castell. 

According to Nick Giannasi, head of strategic marketing for informatics at GE Healthcare, informatics will be a priority. Bio-IT World recently caught up with Giannasi.

BITW: Why are you emphasizing informatics now?

Giannasi:  We have seen drug discovery and development progress enormously with major advances in fields such as miniaturization and high-throughput strategies. But we don’t believe all the data being generated are being fully used. The problem is the data are not fully accessible to the scientists. So we’ve put a large emphasis on data integration. If you do a root-cause analysis, that’s where you find the biggest problem.

BITW: So how are you addressing this problem?

Giannasi: GE Healthcare has an exclusive relationship with geneticXchange, based around their discoveryHub middleware product. We’ve been working with them for more than 18 months. We think this product has many advantages and will satisfy the scientist, the more technical informatician, and even businesspeople. It easily connects data and applications from multiple sources, and allows rapid searching and consolidation. We can provide enterprise-level access, but we don’t just drop a massive solution across hundreds of sites. We can implement at one time, or do it in phases, each one delivering greater incremental value. It is also possible to just embed the software under existing programs, such as we’ve done with our LIMS.

BITW: What about other vendors’ programs?

Giannasi: Unfortunately, not everyone uses only Amersham tools! So we have open APIs and standard interfaces. We aren’t asking anyone to rip out the systems they have. We can connect to other tools easily with 70 curated wrappers, and it’s easy to create new ones. Data integrated in the discoveryHub engine can be served up to various commercial applications. 

BITW: Will sales of this software also help you sell more instruments or reagents?

Giannasi: This is not about adding value to our other products. From our perspective, it’s critical now to help customers add value to their process. We are in a unique position to do this, and instrument makers have overlooked this area for too long. Success will come on a number of levels, and we have already seen sales of discoveryHub start to pick up at the end of last year. But having these tools is a powerful differentiator, too.

BITW: So what’s next?

Giannasi: More visualization and data-mining capabilities. We have a lot of domain expertise, and we will stick to our core competencies.

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