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UD to Sell Distributed Computing Service to Top Genomics Co.

NEW YORK, Sept 28 - Ed Hubbard, CEO of United Devices, a distributed computing hosting company, said Thursday a leading genomics company would sign on as a customer sometime next week.

The unnamed customer is currently testing a version of HMMER for protein sequences as a proof-of-concept for genomics companies and is expected to soon pen a deal.

“This app was driven by a large genomics company and they will be a customer of ours,” said Hubbard, who declined to discuss the terms of the deal.

He did, however, say that the customer would either be Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA), Incyte Genomics (Nasdaq: INCY), or Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI).

“There’s three leading-edge firms out there in the genomics space and bioinformatics in general: Celera, Incyte Genomics, and HGS,” Hubbard said. “It is one of those.”

Such a deal would underscore a potential paradigm shift in the way large genomics companies meet their computational needs.

Based in Austin, Tex., United Devices brings the idea behind the popular [email protected] project—which harnesses 15 teraflops per second of processing power from 2.3 million personal computers to analyze extraterrestrial radio signals—down to earth. [email protected] founder David Anderson is the company’s chief technology officer.

By using idle computer processing power, Hubbard said distributed computing could increase the speed or reduce the cost of data processing by a factor of 10.

A handful of other companies, including Parabon Computation of Fairfax, Va., and Entropia of San Diego are also trying to deliver distributed computing options to the genomics and bioinformatics market. The National Cancer Institute is currently using Parabon's system, while Entropia is providing its service to Scripps Research Institute for their AIDS research.

United Devices said it would offer the general public the opportunity to download the software client that will manage the data processing, with frequent mileage and gift certificates as incentives to participate.

But citing the success of [email protected], Hubbard said that the sense of being part of something great was enough incentive for most people.

“The nice thing about it is that you can participate in something that could potentially change the world and it really doesn’t cost you anything,” he said.

Last month United Devices secured $13 million in a first round of venture capital funding lead by Softbank Venture Capital and Oak Investment partners.

 

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