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Structural Genomix Looks to Forge New Deals, Ramp Up Production in 2001

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 8 – Structural Genomix’ deal to jointly develop a new protein analysis system with Caliper Technologies represents one of two types of transactions the company is looking to forge, Linda Grais, Structural Genomix’ executive vice president and founder, said Monday.

"In some deals, we will be licensing technology in and in others we will sell information about protein structures," said Grais, who was attending the JP Morgan H&Q conference.

Grais said that in the deal with Caliper, Structural Genomix, a company that solves protein structures using X-ray crystallography, would work to modify Caliper’s Automated Microfluidics System for its own proteomics work. In exchange, Caliper would be able to market a speedier protein analysis tool.

Grais noted that "not a lot of cash is involved right now" in the deal.

She said that it would take about six months to develop the new technology, which will involve adapting Caliper’s protein sizing and analysis assay into an automated, sipper-chip based 96-well format. When completed, each chip would be expected to be able to process hundreds of protein samples per day.

Grais said that Structural Genomix was also currently in the process of talking to pharmaceutical companies about licensing its structural proteomics data for their in-house use. She declined to comment on the current state of these talks, but said that Structural Genomix was interested in forming partnerships around particular protein families that are implicated in disease processes.

To date, Structural Genomix has completed over 20 protein structures, mostly in the infectious disease area, which could be potentially useful for the development of new drug targets for antibiotics, Grais said.

She said that the company would be ready to license a database of structures in another one to two years.

Although Structural Genomix is primarily interested in forming non-exclusive deals for its protein structure data, Grais said the company would consider exclusive partnerships, although these would likely be for limited periods of time.

"Ultimately we may want to get the structures back into the database," she said.

Currently the company is focused on reducing the time it takes to solve a protein's structure. Grais said that recent improvements in the process the company employs would allow Structural Genomix to solve over 100 protein structures during 2001, five times the number solved to date.

"We are doing a lot of our own technology development," said Grais, citing the company’s efforts to develop an automated imaging and image display robot that could look for protein crystals.

By the end of 2001, Structural Genomix also plans to complete building its dual undulator beamline facility, which should enable the company to generate at least 10-15 structures per day, or 2,000-3,000 a year, Grais added.

She said it was "pretty definite" that the company would eventually issue shares through an initial public offering, but noted that the company still needed to achieve one or two "significant revenue generating partnerships" before it would attempt to go public.

The privately held San Diego-based company, which has raised some $85 million in venture capital, is currently planning to double its staff to about 160 people by the end of the year.

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