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Celera Predicts Online Business to Turn a Profit in 2002 as it Aims for Future in Drug Discovery

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 10 - Celera Genomics received a boost for its drug discovery ambitions with a milestone payment from Aventis Pharma for their joint Cathepsin S research, the company said on Thursday.


The payment, a fourth and final research milestone in a collaboration with Aventis to develop inflammation and autoimmune disease drugs around Cathepsin S inhibitors, was part of an agreement Aventis had with Axys Pharmaceuticals, which Celera acquired in Nov.


["This] fast-forwards Celera into the therapeutics business," Michael Venuti, general manager of Celera's South San Francisco facility, said at the 20th annual JPMorgan H&Q Healthcare Conference, which ended today.


The push into drug development comes at a time when Celera's traditional data programs are growing and turning towards profitability.


The genomics and proteomics data being generated by the company will reach the double- or triple-digit petabyte level and Celera's online information business will turn a profit by the end of 2002, said company president Craig Venter.


Money from the online business will help fund drug discovery, Applera CEO Tony White said.


"Information will never be a multibillion dollar business," said White. "The goal was always to become a user of our data. Celera is in the transformation stage. Information is a means to an end. We have to get busy to retool to become a credible drug discovery company."


Retooling also includes working out storage challenges for the company's rapidly expanding data, said Venter.


"[We're] keeping things segmented and talking to all the major computer players" about solutions, said Venter, who added that he was also talking to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison about new approaches to data storage.



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