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OGS-Marconi JV Debuts Its Protein Atlas. But Customers Will Have to Wait Til June

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 27 - The Protein Atlas is a bit of a June bug.

Confirmant, a joint venture born last June between Oxford GlycoSciences and Marconi, gave a coming-out party here at the 2002 Genome Tri-Conference for its widely anticipated database of human protein-coding genes.


When it is commercially introduced this June, the Protein Atlas will contain information for 10,000 experimentally derived genes, said Jonathan Sheldon, the JV's chief technology officer.

By June 2003, the goal is to have 30,000 genes and to expand the database over time by adding information on genes linked to time progression of disease states and eventually providing information on protein-protein interactions.


The samples for deriving the database's gene information come from tissue, cell lines, and body fluids from many different populations with different diseases from all over the world, said Sheldon.


"You name it, we've got it: hearts, livers ... cancer, Alzheimer's. All kinds of diseases," he said here.


The proteins held in the database are separated using a variety of methods, including 2-D gels and ICAT, and identified using mass spectrometry, Sheldon explained. The peptides are then mapped back to the human genome using coding exons.


"Our data is unique because it is experimentally derived, it's not computational prediction," said David Palmer, acting CEO of Confirmant. He will resume duties as vice president of business development once a search for a permanent CEO is completed, he said.


Confirmant appears to be bucking the trend away from bioinformatics as a business model. Despite the shape of the bioinformatics marketplace these days, Palmer--who calls Confirmant a "bioinformation company"--was adamant that the JV would stick to its data-for-sale model.


"We are not a drug-discovery company," Palmer insisted. "It is not in the charter, it is not in the plan."


Confirmant plans to market its database to pharmaceutical companies and large biotech companies, though company officials would not reveal how much they would charge.


"It comes with a whole stack of qualifications," said Sheldon. "Currently, the business model is a variety of offerings, priced accordingly."


Sheldon, however, did not dispute the £2 million, or roughly $2.9 million, annual per-company fees reported before.


The 50-50 Confirmant JV received initial cash funding of £30 million. Terms of the agreement call for Confirmant to pay Oxford GlycoSciences £5 million for exclusive marketing rights to intellectual property on selected proteome databases and £1.5 million to license data-analysis software. Additionally, Marconi will invest £10 million in Oxford GlycoSciences through the purchase of company shares.


Confirmant executives described Marconi's interest in the joint venture as the JV's de facto entrée into the biotech industry.

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