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Is Ariadne-GeneGo Product-Integration A Sign of a Collaborative New Market?

Ariadne Genomics and GeneGo, competitors in the bioinformatics sector, this week announced a collaboration that may well be a sign of molecular biology tools companies taking a fresh look at partnerships in order to expand markets, create incremental revenue growth opportunities, and cushion bottom lines.

The two companies, with their respective corporate headquarters located halfway across the US from each other, said on Monday they will integrate selected products for high-throughput functional data analysis.

Under this collaboration, St. Joseph, Mich.-based GeneGo’s MetaCore analysis product, which contains curated human biological and chemical databases, will include Rockville, Md.-based Ariadne’s MedScan automated text processing platform, which comprises natural language processing technology. Both companies will market the integrated products.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Earlier in the year, Ariadne and Jubilant Biosys penned a co-marketing deal, linking the Pathway Assist application with Jubilant’s PathArt database. A deal in late 2003 gave the company pathway information from Integrated Genomics’ ERGO collection of curated genomes.

In June, GeneGo licensed its pathways database and software to Invitrogen in a multiyear agreement that included plans for a collaboration to develop new features for the software.

The two companies began discussing a possible alliance earlier in the year, as customers began to ask for functionalities not available in its product, Natalia Alexandrova, marketing director for Ariadne Genomics, told BioCommerce Week. Ariadne has 25 employees and revenues of over $1 million a year.

While the two companies are in essentially the same broad market segment, they do not compete head-to-head, she said. “We agreed to be partners and try to come up with better products for the market,” said Alexandrova. “We are working in the same area, we are dealing with [biological pathways], and we each have our own pathway products, and each are very different.

“What we are doing is creating a new market for the new product,” she added.

GeneGo’s customers include a number of large pharmaceutical firms who typically opt for product installations across their enterprise, while Ariadne’s installations of text-mining products are desktop-based. Ariadne’s text mining application costs $3,000 per seat license, with a minimum installation of five seats, with average sales ranging from 10 to 20 seats, said Alexandrova.

Julie Bryant, GeneGo’s vice president of business development and marketing, said the collaboration might not have an appreciable affect on the company’s revenues, but will please its pharma customers.

“I don’t think it will make a massive amount, necessarily,” she said. “It’s more scientific, more for the customers.”

GeneGo, which employs 45 people, has begun the integration project using a team of specialists, programmers, and PhDs, said Bryant. “The cost is relatively minimal; we will have it implemented by the last quarter of the year,” Bryant said.

The product will be available as an option and can be accessed through the Internet, or isolated behind a corporate firewall, pharma’s preferred installation.

“It just makes much more sense to partner with Ariadne,” Bryant said. “In software, so many have tried to do everything for everyone, and it’s not realistic. Times have changed.”

Bryant said that not only has the competitive environment changed, but bigger companies such Agilent, Applied Biosystems, GE Healthcare, Invitrogen, and Beckman are looking to make deals of their own with smaller vendors. She wouldn’t say whether any of these shops had called her company.

Pharma, meantime, is looking for tools that can build digital pathway representations from data on the fly, as well as tools that can accept disparate collections of data from technologies such as sequencing, gene expression, 2D gels, and mass-spectrometry, and visualize it in context, Alexandrova said.

Yet even with this collaboration, GeneGo and Ariadne do not offer all of the tools necessary for creating such a system-wide view of molecular process. But this deal allows them to offer more than they could before.

“There is a process to that, maybe nine steps; we offer steps 1, 3, 5, and 7, and can suggest putative pathways by putting the putative dots together,” Alexandrova said.

Customers like big pharma are today grappling with how to connect their varieties of research data, she said.

“Systems was really big last year, and pharma was asking what did it mean, how to do it,” she said. “Now they have spent the next 12 months, learning what to do, the nuances, and what to do next.

“Everybody is in such a collaborative spirit: Could we merge this, could we add another table?,” she said.

— Mo Krochmal ([email protected])

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