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UPDATE: IBM Takes Minority Stake in Structural Bioinformatics

NEW YORK, Nov 29 -- IBM has taken an undisclosed minority equity stake in protein database provider Structural Bioinformatics of San Diego, marking Big Blue’s first investment in a life sciences company.

As part of the deal, IBM has become the strategic information technology partner of Structural Bioinformatics.

The two companies will collaborate to make the content of Structural Bioinformatics’ databases more accessible to researchers worldwide through the Internet on a subscription basis. Joint marketing initiatives are being planned as well.

Anne-Marie Derouault, director of business development for IBM Life Sciences, told Genomeweb that the deal with Structural Bioinformatics is a good example of IBM’s strategy to increase its prominence in life sciences.

“It [the agreement] involves the equity investment and it also includes a strategic partnership on helping them standardize on the DB2 platform and the Websphere platform to build their Web infrastructure and data management infrastructure. So we’re going to provide them with the assistance that they need to be successful,” said Derouault.

The relationship with Structural Bioinformatics is the latest initiative by IBM's Life Sciences business unit, which was started in August with a $100 million allotment to form partnerships and develop IT solutions for genomics, biotech, pharma, and other life sciences companies.

Derouault noted that the investment in Structural Bioinformatics is not part of Big Blue’s $100 million fund but rather an additional amount.

Structural Bioinformatics will use IBM's DB2 Universal Database as its development platform and IBM Websphere as its Internet software infrastructure for accessing protein structures on the Web.

Besides providing software, the computer giant will supply hardware including a high-performance cluster of eServer xSeries servers running Linux, that will replace an IBM SP2 supercomputer.

The Linux-based system will be used to help in high-resolution protein modeling and dynamics calculations that track the changing shapes of protein molecules.

“We can get almost a 300-fold improvement in our computational power for dynamics calculations,”said Edward Maggio, chairman, president, and CEO of Structural Bioinformatics.

In addition, Structural Bioinformatics will begin marketing its Variome structural variant database modules to pharmaceutical companies in early 2001 with DB2 as the preferred database.

Aside from helping Structural Bioinformatics manage and process its data, IBM will also provide advice on how to send data in a secure fashion to pharma customers.

The company also expects to collaborate with IBM and benefit from its computational research projects, including the Blue Gene supercomputer IBM is building to study protein folding.

“I think [Blue Gene] is going to give rise to some fundamental developments from an algorithm standpoint and from a theoretical standpoint in the area of protein structure prediction,” said Maggio.

The partnership with IBM will enable Structural Bioinformatics to enlarge the content of its protein databases and offer its customers better tools for protein analysis, Maggio added.

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