Vector NTI Is Dead // Long Live Vector NTI

Posted by: Eli Roberson  :  Category: General

Previously in the Bioinformatics Toolchest series I talked about Vector NTI as a great tool available free to researchers. Unfortunately I’m going to have to reverse that recommendation. The cornerstones of my reasoning were that the tool worked well and was freely available to academic researchers. However, Vector NTI is no longer free for researchers.

Vector NTI was offered by Invitrogen. But Invitrogen will not exist much longer. Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems have finalized a merger to become the mega-company Life Technologies. I’m personally not a big fan of the big companies swallowing each other to create even bigger companies with less competition. But I thought, hey, probably not that bad. A few weeks ago I received an e-mail since I am a registered Vector NTI user. It stated that on December 15, 2008 Vector NTI 11 would be out. This is exciting for me. New Vector features, bug fixes, streamlining, should be good. Wrong. The new version comes with the discontinuation for free licenses for researchers. Why you ask? Good question. The original FAQ they published has disappeared since then, but is here courtesy of the Google cache. An excerpt from that FAQ follows

6. Why has Invitrogen discontinued the free v10 license program?
Over the past three years, the v10 free license program has been an overwhelming success by the sheer number of researchers using this version of the software.  In that time, you have told us very clearly you want added features, easier licensing, and more personalized technical support.  In response, we have completely redesigned both the software and our licensing options for academic researchers.  Vector NTI AdvanceTM 11 contains major new cloning, design and search functionality, a completely updated interface, support on Intel-based Macs as well as Windows® Vista, and new, cost-effective 1-year and 3-year license options exclusively for academic researchers.  These new license options also include personalized Technical Support by email, and are delivered directly to you by email without the need to register or log in separately.  At significantly reduced prices compared with our Commercial Licenses, these new options respect the current grant funding and other realities of academic research.

Personally I would rather have the free license with the option to purchase a tech support contract, or pay a higher rate for per use support. Who knows the real reason the licenses were discontinued. Maybe too many researchers asking for assistance. Maybe restructuring for additional money during and after the merger. Either way, Vector NTI is no longer a viable option for those looking for free tools. However, if you have liked the tool in the past and need it’s features for your research, it’s still a good application. If you’re willing to pay the price. Any suggestions for alternative free tools are encouraged in the comments.

22 Responses to “Vector NTI Is Dead // Long Live Vector NTI”

  1. Dave Bridges Says:

    I am quite annoyed by this too. I hope some people have some ideas about some FOSS alternatives

  2. ruben Says:

    This is a rather disgusting thing for Invitrogen to do, really. I have now made up all my constructs, primers and everything in Vector NTI 10 and since I activated my version about a year ago, this will mean that in short time my copy will be in demo mode again. Ergo, my data will become read-only and can not be exported or modified, making it practically unusable for my purposes. Basically Invitrogen is now holding my data for ransom, offering a free service and then changing the terms overnight. I took a look at their “cost-effective” license options targeted at post-docs or graduate students but they dare to ask £460 for a 1 year license. Cost-effective my ass, this is just outrageous. In general I used to be quite pleased with the reagents that I got from Invitrogen, but from now on I will start to look for alternatives wherever I can.

  3. Ian Says:

    This is terrible, I had hundreds of plasmids in vector nti and now i cant open them as the free licence expired.

  4. Eli Roberson Says:

    @ruben
    I’m pretty perturbed myself. I don’t see how me paying a large sum of me would be more cost-effective than not paying that money. At least from my perspective.

    @Ian & @ruben
    I think you may be able to export the data into FASTA files or other formats that should be readable in alternative software. If Vector won’t let you export your libraries then my advice would be to contact Invitrogen directly. They should be able to tell you how to export this information without an active license.

  5. Kevin S Says:

    @Eli Roberson

    Can you recommend any good plasmid manipulation software that can use those exported FASTA formated files?

    Haha, on the Invitrogen FAQ they said that you can export a still active license from one computer to another so I followed their instructions (emailing some info to them) and got a big ‘F-you, you can’t do that’ reply from them.

  6. Eli Roberson Says:

    @Kevin

    I’ll see what I can find out about other options for plasmid manipulation kinds of functions.

    I really have no respect for locking someone’s data in a proprietary format. You should ALWAYS be able to get your data out.

  7. Stefan Says:

    I can only agree with the other speakers. I an unknown period of time all my plasmids, constructs and so on will be locked. This is a really nasty move by Invitrogen.
    As a consequence I will start avoiding this company whenever I can.

    Greetings Stefan

  8. Matin Daneschdar Says:

    Two years work and now you have to pay for your own data, that’s not better then mafia. I used CLC viewer (free) to import Vector NTI data (there is an extra option to import your whole Vector NTI database). Then you are able to export your data as genbank files or FASTA. But there is still no way to search for motifs or to edit plasmid data properly.

  9. Jacob Says:

    It seems to me this should be illegal if there is no way to export the data other than buying a license.

  10. Kevin S Says:

    There *is* a crack for VNTI 11 out there, but I’ve been trying to learn CLCBio’s (free) Sequence Viewer as Matin mentioned and it’s really growing on me. It’s going to take a looong time to convert all of my plasmid maps, though.

  11. Johannes Says:

    Everyone contact your Invitrogen SalesRep and protest!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I know that it might not help much, but if many people protest and start using alternatives such as CLC it might help.

  12. ruben Says:

    The end of their statement says: “At significantly reduced prices compared with our Commercial Licenses, these new options respect the current grant funding and other realities of academic research”

    but really should be:

    “At significantly increased prices compared with our previous Free for Academic Usage policy, these new options turn Vector NTI into an overpriced and thus unattractive bioinformatics solution that has become completely out of touch with the realities of academic research”

  13. andy Says:

    Another Alternative is Geneious. Try it!

  14. chips Says:

    i have heard of pDraw32. it suppose to be able to use VNTI databases without export-import prosses.
    dont know- i didn’t use it myself yet

  15. RA Says:

    The Invitrogen’s arrogance has to have a price. I’m not sure if they understand the value of customer loyalty. GM, anyone? As a community we must start a boycott campaign to demonstrate that drug dealer tactics do not work in the long run.

  16. The Bioinformatics Blog » Blog Archive » Exporting Vector NTI Data — The Hail Mary Says:

    [...] golden age of Vector NTI has ended, and free software licenses are no longer available to academics. This move has been [...]

  17. Eli Roberson Says:

    Invitrogen has passed on some advice on exporting data from VNTI.

    I can be found here:
    http://bioinformatics.whatheblog.com/?p=29

  18. Doug Says:

    It’s a pain to pay for it when it was free, but they provided us annual licenses only though, not perpetual.. Besides the software costs +4500$ for non academics! I heard you can get a license for less than 500$ if you call and complain..

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