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AlphaGene Inks Investment and Collaboration Deal with Indian Bioinformatics Company

NEW YORK, June 19 - AlphaGene has partnered with Indian bioinformatics company Questar in an equity investment and a trade-of-services deal.

Hyderabad, India-based Questar will make an equity investment in Woburn, Mass.-based AlphaGene. The investment of less than $5 million will occur in two payments over an 18-month period, Peter Schad, chief scientific officer of AlphaGene, told GenomeWeb. Schad said that the investment represented a less than one percent interest in AlphaGene, and that the agreement included an option to continue the collaboration and equity investment.

"AlphaGene will get bioinformatics and systems in place, Questar gets novel proteins," said Schad in summing up the deal.

Schad said that AlphaGene was approached by a number of Indian and Russian bioinformatic companies with an interest in developing partnerships. Questar "was the most serious about doing a deal," Schad explained about the final selection.

AlphaGene was ripe for a partnership, said Schad. "It was becoming apparent that we have a rich resource of genes not in the public domain," he said. Schad added that his company was ready for "bioinformatics outsourcing [for] things we need but can't afford."

"There are good resources in India and Russia for computation," explained Schad. With the difference in exchange rate, "$100,000 will get you a million dollars in work."

Questar, a one-year-old company with a mandate to build up proprietary bioinformatics software and a functional proteomics capability, will get access to specific protein targets and functional genomics expertise from AlphaGene as it builds out bioinformatics systems for the company, said Schad.

Questar CEO C.S.N. Murthy called it a "strategic investment."  

"We will be looking at validated drug targets, a very good precursor to modeling the proteins and looking at binding sites to [eventually] go into clinicals, Murthy told GenomeWeb. "We get the functional genomics expertise from AlphaGene."

Questar and AlphaGene will share joint ownership of any discoveries stemming from Questar's analysis of AlphaGene protein structures, according to Murthy. 

Questar will also use the partnership to build out its small molecule computer modeling capabilities and bioinformatics software. As part of the agreement, Questar will have the right to sell any bioinformatics software developed as part of the partnership, with AlphaGene retaining rights for internal use and modification, said Schad.

"We will utilize and test it as a wet lab and [as an] alpha/beta tester," said Schad. "They can market it."

Questar currently has 14 employees and a collaboration with India's Department of Biotechnology's Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics. In the collaboration, Questar provides bioinformatics support and gets access to the Centre's wet lab and proteomics capabilities, said Murthy. 

AlphaGene is a privately held genomics company focusing on differential gene expression in diseases that include cancer and degenerative neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.     

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