DURHAM, NC, March 16 - The term ‘regulanomics,’ which refers to the field of gene regulation, may never catch on the way that ‘genomics’ or ‘proteomics’ has. But Thomas Werner, CEO of the Munich-based startup Genomatix, is betting that this field has already taken off.
‘Regulanomics’ is the term Werner uses to describe the sub-field of gene promotion and regulation that his Munich-based company’s software and databases address. Werner’s company, a 1997 spinoff of his bioinformatics group at the GSF National Research Center for Environment and Health in Munich, is now marketing the Genomatix Promoter Resource database, a collection of over 40,000 gene promoter regions that it has identified with its Promoter Inspector software.
“What we are active in is the field of ‘how does the genome get into the transcriptome,’” Werner told GenomeWeb during the Atlantic Symposium on Computational Biology in Durham, NC. “We provide the first link between sequence data and functional data.”
This link, he added, is at the very heart of understanding biological pathways for drug development.
In January, Genomatix signed an agreement with DoubleTwist to exclusively market the GPR database in the US. So far, the team has signed a contract with one unnamed genomics company to subscribe to the database, which gets updated monthly. Werner said the companies are negotiating with six other prospective customers as well.
Genomatix's strategy is centered on its belief that it offers uniquely precise software products, which include Promoter Inspector, Genome Inspector, and Model Inspector.
Genomatix said that Promoter Inspector can identify gene promoter regions with 85 percent specificity. In other words, only 15 percent of the promoters it identifies are false positives, based on tests of the software on areas of the genome where the promoters are well established. The other publicly available gene promoter software, Werner said, have less than 7 percent specificity, yielding an abundance of false positives.
Werner’s software works on the human genome, from which the promoter data in GPR
database is gathered, as well as other mammalian genomes. The company is next
planning to find promoters in the mouse genome, and then use allied tools to
perform cross-genome promoter comparisons.
Genomatix's bioinformatics team has also developed a Genome Exploring and Modeling Software-Launcher to perform this comparative promoter and sequence analysis.
GEMS-Launcher includes Genomatix's own proprietary algorithm, SMARTEST, which
tests matrix attachment regions, areas that Werner said, “play a pivotal role in the transcription process and chromatin structure.”
In the future, Werner said that the company could team up with a proteomics company
to do complementary work on metaboalomics. But meanwhile, Genomatix is busy
trying to convince the market that its products are necessary.
“We are a little bit like a company running around in the late '60s selling fax machines,” said Werner. “We are still grappling with people saying ‘Do I need this?’” But that, he added with the fervor of a salesman, not a scientist, “is rapidly changing.”
“Regulanomics is gaining 10 times as much attention as proteomics,” said