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UPDATE: Incyte Outsources Genomics Knowledge Platform to Secant Technologies

NEW YORK, July 9 - Recognizing that its Genomics Knowledge Platform has capabilities that exceed its own in-house research needs, Incyte Genomics awarded Secant Technologies an exclusive license to develop and market the data integration software platform, company officials said Monday.

For the past twenty months, the two companies have worked together to design the "middleware" that ties together and supports Incyte's genomic databases. However, Incyte decided to outsource the marketing of the technology because it wants to stay focused on providing biological content. "We don't want to diffuse ourselves," Incyte chief operating officer Mike Lack told GenomeWeb.

Although Lack said Incyte viewed Secant as the "ideal people" to take over the commercialization of the Genomics Knowledge Platform, or GKP, Secant said that they made a competitive bid for the technology. "There may not have been any serious bidders," said Jim Holt, Secant's president, "but we acquired--we paid for [the technology license]."

The arrangement calls for Secant to exclusively license the right to further develop and market the software platform. In addition, Incyte said it made an undisclosed equity investment in Secant, and the two companies will also work together to provide support services to customers of the platform.  

The platform, launched last November, provides tools for researchers to integrate and analyze a wide range of data, from gene sequence, expression, polymorphism, proteomic, and other functional data. The object model-based platform currently uses IBM's DiscoveryLink data integration software to integrate, or "federate," Incyte's multiple databases to make them appear to the user as a single source.

For the next one to two years, Holt said, Secant plans to expand the platform to encompass publicly available databases, and will initially tap into Incyte's customer base and existing sales force. The first customers are likely to be current Incyte partners who are beta testing the GKP system. The two companies hope to have 12 customers by the end of the year, and have outlined a mechanism for revenue sharing that the partners did not disclose.

In the long run, Holt and Lack said that the deal makes sense because Secant, as a provider information technology services only, could appear more accessible to other life science companies that may compete with Incyte in genomics services or drug development.

"For us, the focus is on selling content; [GKP] is a way to deploy content," said Lack. "For others not willing [to buy services from Incyte], they can buy from Secant."

Because the platform can integrate top-end applications, such as those provided by DoubleTwist, Spotfire, and others, with various biological databases, such as Celera's genomic databases, Holt said that Secant hopes eventually to partner with both application and content companies to develop a comprehensive bioinformatics platform. In addition, Holt said that Secant is also targeting the "Big Five" consulting companies, as well as more specialized life science consulting businesses, as potential partners. 

Secant and Incyte eventually plan to enlist several companies in a consortium to help direct the development of the GKP's fundamental architecture, known as the biological object model, "so that the industry doesn't have a dozen different standards," said Holt. Although the partners have yet to choose the consortium members, the license agreement contains a timetable for establishing the consortium," so that we don't decide not to decide," Holt added. 

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