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Lion Gets Roped into Deal with German Industrialist -- and Likes it

NEW YORK, Oct 27 – Some people sure have a funny way of doing business.

Klaus Tschira, co-founder of SAP AG, a leading German supplier of packaged business software, announced Thursday at the Scientific American Bio Silico conference in New York that Lion Bioscience would provide the bio IT platform for his new not-for-profit bioinformatics incubator in Dresden, Germany.

This, however, was news to Lion.

After Tschira’s presentation, Lion CEO Friedrich von Bohlen approached the German industrialist and asked, “Are you kidding?”

The eccentric Tschira, who spoke enthusiastically about his latest plan as well as his penchant for biology, was serious.

In fact, he’s very serious about building a site to provide bioinformatics startups with IT, compute power, and infrastructure. And he’s even more serious about the site’s architecture.

Tschira has decided to house BioParc Dresden in a building that will take the form of a double helix, complete with spiral ramps connected by bridges representing base pairs. He ultimately decided to set up shop in Dresden because the residents and bureaucrats in his first choice city, Heidelberg, rejected the idea.

Tschira said the Klaus Tschira Foundation would set up a bio IT research institute in the building, while the Max Plank Institute will create a theoretical life sciences research center. E-business venture capitalists First Ventury will act as an in-house business accelerator, leading the first round of financing for the companies and helping them draft their business plans, and SGI will provide the compute power.

Whether or not SGI, Max Plank Institute, and First Ventury have agreed to participate could not be confirmed. Von Bohlen said he would be interested in joining the project.

While the visionary might be getting ahead of himself on some fronts, Tschira is clearly serious about backing bio IT.

“The available IT is only a very tiny fraction of what could be done for biomedical research,” said Tschira. “My expectations for bio IT is to boost biotechnology in research and in business and it will be the driver of economic growth.”

The building, which will be completed in two to four years, will also have space for industry-wide conferences and a science journalism-training center, Tschira said.

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