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India Readies for Bioinformatics Monsoon


Indian information technology firms have discovered the cash cow of bioinformatics. Lower labor costs mean that establishing facilities, employing scientists and programmers, and handling data are all significantly less expensive in India than in the West, giving the country a new niche. Government officials and industry execs are rushing to form alliances and launch new initiatives in the field.

One of India''s largest IT firms, Satyam, recently announced a five-year agreement with the government-run Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB). Satyam will provide the management and marketing structure as well as IT expertise, while CCMB will contribute its research and development capability. The new business unit will market value-added database services and professional manpower to customers involved in genetic research, drug discovery and development, and genetic engineering.

Meanwhile, Indian pharma leader Nicholas Piramal has inked a pact with the government''s Center for Biochemical Technology to pursue functional genomics and bioinformatics in a joint venture called GenoMed. Syngene, an arm of the Indian biotechnology firm Biocon, is involved in custom software and database development, and has plans to go into SNP mining.

The biotech division of DSQ Software is also spinning off its genomics and bioinformatics business. The goal is to develop patentable products, keep the new company debt-free, and get it onto the NASDAQ in 2002. Only a few Indian companies, including Satyam, are listed on the NASDAQ at present. However, the exchange set up an office in Bangalore in February, with plans to list dozens of Indian companies in the next couple of years.

— Sherri Chasin Calvo


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