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UPDATE: Geneva Proteomics Plans Rapid Growth After Signing $84M Novartis Deal

NEW YORK, Oct. 17 – After announcing Tuesday it would receive $84 million from Novartis for a five-year proteome analysis project, Geneva Proteomics said it would begin rapidly ramping up its Geneva-based operations immediately and that it plans to open a proteomics factory in Princeton, N.J next year.

“We have over 35 employees, and are looking to hire another 60 people over the next six months here in Geneva,” Cedric Loiret-Bernal, Geneva Proteomics’ CEO told GenomeWeb.

The company has just begun to receive its equipment, but plans to have 51 mass spectrometers and a Compaq supercomputer platform--which is going to be the largest scientific supercomputer in Europe—installed by March 2001 so it can begin working on the Novartis project in April, Loiret-Bernal said.

After Geneva Proteomics gets its Geneva factory up and running, it expects to open the Princeton-based facility sometime during the second half of 2001. “What we are doing is so valuable to the pharmaceutical industry that we need to have more capacity, and we want to be a global company that can address U.S. and non-U.S. pharmaceutical markets,” said Loiret-Bernal.

These grand plans come after Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland said Tuesday it will make a $43 million equity investment in Geneva Proteomics, and will pay the proteomics company $41 million in fees over the next four years to analyze the twin proteomes of three human diseased tissues or body fluids and their healthy counterparts.

Novartis will use these proteomes to select out proteins or peptides with potential to serve as targets for lead discovery, or proteins that could serve as direct biomarkers for disease state or therapeutic efficacy.

Geneva Proteomics may also receive additional milestone payments, license fees, and other reimbursements. The agreement covers an additional fifth year, in which Novartis could make further payments to Geneva Proteomics based on the results of the initial research.

“From a global perspective, this is the big deal on proteomics,” said Felix Raeber, Novartis’ communications director.  

" The collaboration with GeneProt complements our in-house research activities in functional genomics and proteomics and strengthens our position as leading in the post- genomics area,” Paul Herrling, head of Novartis' pharma research, said in a statement.   

Geneva proteomics is Novartis’ biggest partner in proteomics research, but on the other end of the drug discovery pipeline, Novartis entered into an $800 million deal last May with Vertex pharmaceuticals to develop drugs for known protein kinase targets. Twenty-five to 28 percent of Novartis' research budget is directed towards outside research partnerships, so further genomics and proteomics partnerships will be likely, Raeber said.

Geneva, which was founded by a group of Swiss bioinformatics experts in March of this year, does not plan to work exclusively with Novartis either.  

“As our preferred pharmaceutical partner, Novartis is going to get our first twin proteome, but with two factories running, we’ll soon have more possibilities to work for other partners," said Loiret-Bernal. The Novartis deal, he added, “is just a very good start.”
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