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OGS and Marconi Start JV to Sell Protein Database

NEW YORK, June 15 - Oxford Glycosciences and Marconi, a provider of communications and information technology services, have formed a joint venture to sell a new database of protein and genomic information, the companies said Friday.

OGS and Marconi will share equally in the ownership of the new company, called Confirmant, and the partners will each contribute 15 million pounds sterling ($21.1 million) to fund the new venture. 

Confirmant's database, called the Protein Atlas, will contain information linking the proteins OGS has identified from tissue samples with the proteins' corresponding DNA sequence in the genome. In a statement, OGS said that it expects to "substantially" complete the characterization of all proteins in the human body over the next two years. 

To build its database, OGS characterizes proteins extracted from cells using 2-D gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry. The protein sequence information is compared with genomic data archived in the Ensembl database, a joint project between the Sanger Center and the European Bioinformatics Institute, to determine the gene likely to encode for that protein.

Over the next three years, OGS plans to add additional technology for analyzing proteins, including MALDI TOF/TOF mass spectrometers from Applied Biosystems and the ICAT technology, developed by Ruedi Aebersold at the Institute for Systems Biology, for identifying low abundance proteins. 

The joint venture expects to begin releasing the Protein Atlas in early 2002, and will sell the database to customers by subscription or on a pay-per-use basis. Confirmant will also offer hosting services for biotechnology companies that want to outsource their bioinformatics infrastructure. In the long term, the company also plans to offer on-line diagnostic services to physicians, who would send Confirmant their clinical data for analysis.

OGS and Marconi have set up Confirmant to operate as an independent company, with its own management and sales teams. The company will license the rights to market the database from OGS for a payment of 5 million pounds sterling, and the rights to use OGS' data analysis software for a payment of 1.5 million pounds sterling. Additionally, Marconi will make an equity investment of 10 million pounds sterling in OGS as part of the collaboration.

The deal represents the first big commercial step in proteomics for Oxford, UK-based OGS, which has said in the past that it is focused primarily on developing drugs. The company currently has one compound for oral treatment of Gaucher's disease in clinical trials, an OGS spokesman said in March, and plans to file a new drug application for the compound, called Vevesca, in the US and a marketing authorization application in the EU for the drug by mid-2001. 

The joint venture is the first foray into the life sciences for London-based Marconi, which has developed a global communications and data management business with customers such as Coca-Cola and Sprint. 

The two companies said they expect Confirmant to generate annual revenues of 7.5 million pounds sterling over the next three years.

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