Qlucore is a leading provider of new generation bioinformatics software for research, and precision and companion diagnostics. Founded in 2007 by scientists inspired to simplify the process of data analysis for researchers, the company has worked with a number of Universities and European bodies and contributed to numerous projects globally to advance the diagnosis of cancers and diseases.
As the company celebrates its journey to obtaining CE certification for its cancer diagnostic software, with support from the British Standards Institution, members of Qlucore’s leadership team reflect on the developments within data visualisation over the past 20 years, and how Qlucore’s innovation continues to support advancement in the field.
Responses from Professor Thoas Fioretos MD PhD, Qlucore founder and senior consultant in clinical genetics at Lund University, Sweden and Carl-Johan Ivarsson, CEO of Qlucore.
What did data analysis in research look like 20 years ago?
TF: In the year 2000, having studied for a post-doctorate in the US, I came back to Sweden and started a research group measuring gene activity in paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was really difficult to analyze the data. The availability of instruments that could measure 20,000 genes at the same time was exciting, but this created an immense problem for analysts. Although well-established dimension reduction methods existed in mathematics and statistics, they had not yet been adapted for the kind of data that we were analysing. The cost of investing in separate research analysis was high in terms of both time and money.
After a while, we realised that collecting and visualizing complex data in an interactive way was key for scientists, researchers and academics who were not data analysis experts. We realised that if there was demand for the development of a software then we should start a company to do that. And that is how Qlucore began.
The software programme made the scientific work easier for us. Our discussions covered mathematics and cancer genetics, and by having this programme in place we were able to discuss the data in a more constructive way. For researchers, the ability to analyse data easily and interactively is impressive and makes their work extremely rewarding.
What are the challenges and opportunities within data visualisation today?
C-JI: One of the biggest challenges is the speed of the market and technology development. As an example, the types of data have considerably changed, and the analysis needs evolve constantly. We manage this in two ways: smart and lean development processes and, most importantly, by working with very talented software developers. Our solution is to offer better integration and higher speed than you otherwise could get.
How are you working to solve the challenges that researchers and clinicians face today?
C-JI: We provide powerful visualization-based bioinformatics data analysis tools for research and precision diagnostics. We’ve worked to create tools that are easy to use, enabling researchers, technicians and physicians to easily interpret and explore their datasets. Our software turns experimental data into actionable results.
Our research product for clinical data, Qlucore Insights, is in use at several labs across Europe. The current version includes support for gene fusion analysis as well as for subtyping based on gene expression for different disease areas.
Our development work continues to focus on two areas; new software versions for the data analysis segment with the product Qlucore Omics Explorer, and adaptations of the Qlucore Diagnostics platform to match the regulatory requirements. The first application will be in childhood leukaemia (BCP-ALL) which has a target launch date of February 2025. Together with partners we continue to develop tests for the diagnosis of lung cancer and bladder cancer, complementing our applications for leukaemia (BCP-ALL and AML). We have carried out the first demonstration of a preliminary classification model for bladder cancer in Qlucore Insights.
We are on our way to obtaining CE certification for our cancer diagnostic software (Qlucore Diagnostics), which will enable more researchers and clinicians, and therefore patients, to benefit from visualised data for diagnostics. The contract with a Notified Body is important from several perspectives, partly because Notified Bodies are a scarce resource that is now secured, but also because it requires project maturity on our part to be able to agree on a contract. We are looking forward to reaching an even wider audience and impacting the field of diagnostics on a larger scale.
TF: We currently have hundreds of customers in 25 different countries doing data analysis with our research-oriented software. We have shared our knowledge and when we retire, the software will continue to be used and implemented. The software is not only still unique and relevant but is also evolving. The move into diagnostics has been very rewarding and this brings us closer to clinical applications.
What is the future for research and diagnostics software?
TF: I believe that patient access to this type of software will soon become the norm. A patient will be able to get the results of a diagnosis and explore individual opportunities for treatment. They will be able to see, for example, that in the US there might be three or four other patients that have the same diagnosis with the same sub classifications. The patient will be able to see which treatments have been recommended and the results of these treatments and then liaise with doctors to discuss a tailored treatment.
Currently diagnostics is in the hands of specialised laboratories. This means that perhaps a lot of the detailed knowledge remains in the hands of those that are diagnosing the patients in the laboratory. The doctor on the clinical ward might be far away and unable to interact with that complex data. So step-wise, I believe that the knowledge will move from the specialist diagnostic laboratory to the treating clinician then to the interaction between the treating clinician and the patient, and then maybe even from patient to patient.
For more information about Qlucore, please visit www.qlucore.com.