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Deltagen, the Un-Tool Company, Puts a New Toy Up For Sale

SAN FRANCISCO, May 29 - If Deltagen builds a life-sciences IT platform, will customers come?


This month the company began offering not only the data from its DeltaBase in vivo mammalian gene-function database but the engine itself. The platform, based on an Oracle database, offers multiple windows of numeric, graphic, and text information on genes from the sequence level up through tissues.

Deltagen has been developing the tool as part of its own drug-discovery program, so why has it decided to hawk the platform?


"It's at a point where it may be worth something to other people," Deltagen CEO William Matthews told GenomeWeb during a visit to the company's Redwood City, Calif. headquarters.


Though Matthews would not disclose how much he would charge for the tool, or how much Deltagen shelled out to commercialize it, he said the price would be determined on a case-by-case basis. (A three-year subscription to DeltaBase data, for the record, currently runs about $15 million and is expected to return $25 million in profit this year.)


The additional tools for sale does not make Deltagen a tools company, stresses Matthews, who prefers the label "emerging drug-discovery company." The DeltaBase data together with its platform are being developed to find drug targets, said Matthews. In fact, he predicted that Deltagen will have a number of Investigational New Drug Applications in the pipeline by 2006.


Is Matthews worried about introducing an informatics product at a time when bioinformatics as a business model may be in question, or in a market inhabited by similar platforms from the likes of Gene Logic and Compugen? No. And besides, a non-starter here would not jeopardize the company as a whole.

"What's fallen by the wayside is people selling sequences," Matthews said. We "have a platform built not just from the bioinformatics perspective but biologists [have] fine-tuned it. This is a tool that we have and think it is reasonable to make available to people. People will either want it or not. We needed the tool [anyway]."

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