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Aventis to Bioinformatics Researchers: Have Money, Will Deal

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 24 - Reports of the death of bioinformatics may have been exaggerated, according to Aventis US head of bioinformatics Brian Moldover.


Moldover is in the market to make deals with bioinformatics companies, looking to fund agreements from $10,000 to $30,000 for pilot programs to multi-year deals worth upwards of several millions of dollars.


"Because of the slack market, we've undergone belt tightening but we still have an alliance budget, [and] we're looking for alliances," said Moldover. "Good opportunities are always fundable."


Moldover spoke to an audience of entrepreneurs and investors at the Lifescience Portfolio investing conference here this week.


Moldover is looking for alliances that can round out Aventis' in-house capabilities. Current gaps, he said, include bioinformatics to integrate literature data with target data, bridge chemical and biological disciplines, conduct pathway analysis, virtually synthesize a chemical library, conduct toxicogenomics, and add additional layers of information to lead compound analysis.  The company is looking for deals "to give us a competitive advantage, to save time, to provide insight," he said.


Academic bioinformatics groups are also in the running.


"Since we're not an academic group, we have to look outside for those types of alliances," said Moldover. "We can do it cheaply for Aventis, but from [the academic] perspective it's a lot of money."


Aventis has built up its bioinformatics capabilities, working with IBM, Oracle, and Brio Software on a discovery portfolio and project management desktop tool to integrate internal and external data.


But Moldover believes bioinformatics has yet to come into its own, both within the company and the marketplace. "Bioinformatics, like genomics, is going through a bit of a wall right now," he said. "It will take a couple more years for people to understand the value of bioinformatics."


He sees the integration of clinical data with the genomics and other data streams as the tipping point for a "second explosion" of bioinformatics. And while he believes Big Bioinformatics - a business model which strove for big business and a big IPO -- is most likely history, he does believe the market has plenty of room for solid, small to medium-sized companies producing consistent profits. He pointed to Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Gene Codes as an example.


"Everybody [may have] a little piece, [but] it's a big market out there," he said.

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