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Unable to Find a Buyer, Celera Pulls the Plug on Paracel

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Celera Genomics’ bioinformatics subsidiary Paracel quietly threw in the towel earlier this fall, posting a notice on its website that it had ceased operations — except for ongoing support for its current customers — as of Sept. 28.

The closure brought an end to several years of uncertainty about the business unit’s role within Celera after the genomics giant reinvented itself as a drug discovery shop in mid-2002.

“The decision to close Paracel was made following an analysis of various alternatives for the business,” Celera noted in a statement on its website. “Applera purchased Paracel in June 2000 because its advanced genomic supercomputing technology showed promise in applications such as Celera Genomics’ effort to assemble the human genome, and for third-party genomic and text-finding applications,” the statement continued. “As a result of the shift in focus at Celera from genomics data and services to the development of targeted therapeutics, Paracel is no longer deemed strategic to Celera’s business plan.”

Amanda McNulty Sheldon, director of marketing at Paracel, says that the company “pursued a variety of different options, including a sale, before the decision was made, but this is their final decision.”

Paracel’s intellectual property, including several patents, is owned by Celera, Sheldon says, adding that “interested parties can contact Paracel.”

Paracel, which sold combined hardware/software systems for accelerating bioinformatics computations, currently employs around 40 people, including contractors, Sheldon says. This team will be cut to a “core staff” of around eight people who will be responsible for supporting the company’s existing customer base. Sheldon says that Paracel has around 100 life science contracts in place currently, and that the “majority” of them will end within the year.

— Bernadette Toner

 

PATENT WATCH

US Patent 6,801,861. Apparatus and method for automated protein design. Inventors: Stephen Mayo, Bassil Dahiyat, Benjamin Gordon, Arthur Street, Yaoying Su. Assignee: California Institute of Technology. Issued: October 5, 2004.

This invention includes software-based methods related to quantitative protein design and optimization. The process involves receiving a protein backbone structure and then performing various alterations and/or analyses on the variable residue positions and classifications. Protein sequences are tested for optimization and the program generates nucleic acid sequences encoding those protein sequences as well as expression vectors and host cells containing the nucleic acids.

 

US Patent 6,789,020. Expert system for analysis of DNA sequencing electropherograms. Inventors: Arthur Miller and Barry Karger. Assignee: Northeastern University. Issued: September 7, 2004.

The patent covers analyzing post-separated DNA fragments “the use of an expert system that interprets raw or preprocessed signal from the separation,” according to the abstract. The system can be used for base-calling in real time or offline and is “directly applicable to all types of electrophoretic separation used for DNA sequencing, i.e. slab gel, capillary, and microchip,” the abstract states. Bases are called and presented with numerical confidences assigned to each.

 

Datapoint

14%

Bump in Accelrys’ stock following the close of its acquisition of SciTegic and its announcement that it would release two more software products for Linux through a partnership with IBM. The company’s share price, which had declined steadily since its spinoff in May, jumped from $5.76 to $6.59 the day after the announcements in late September.

 

NIH awards close to $80 million in five-year grants for four new National Centers for Biomedical Computing, part of the agency’s Roadmap for Medical Research. The centers are based at Stanford University, led by Russ Altman and Scott Delp; the University of California, Los Angeles, led by Arthur Toga; and two at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, one led by Ron Kikinis and the other by Isaac Kohane.

 

Through its Genomics: GTL program, the US Department of Energy awards Genomatica a two-year, phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant worth $750,000 to continue developing its biological modeling platform known as SimPheny.

 

Ariadne Genomics also receives a two-year, phase II SBIR grant for $750,000 from the National Center for Research Resources. The funding will go toward further development of software products for MedScan, the company’s natural language processing technology.

 

The US FDA issues a draft guidance for software used in clinical trials aimed at addressing regulations on data quality, particularly for computer systems at clinical sites used to collect data. The guidance could also affect systems in CROs, data management centers, and others.

 

TurboWorx software is licensed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for facilitating phylogenetic analysis.

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