When Merck announced it was acquiring Rosetta Inpharmatics in May, some users of the Kirkland, Wash., company’s Rosetta Resolver microarray data analysis software began wondering out loud what would happen to support and upgrades for this product.
Meanwhile, competitors like Silicon Genetics, manufacturer of the popular GeneSpring analysis software, contemplated whether the playing field for gene expression analysis products had suddenly become less crowded, sources have said.
But the good news for Resolver users and the bad news for Rosetta competitors is that Rosetta plans to continue to support and upgrade the Resolver system as part of its plan to cordon off its biosoftware division into a separate unit.
The biosoftware division’s 60-plus employees will move to a new building in Kirkland, Wash., near Rosetta’s existing headquarters, and the business unit will conduct its affairs “at arms length from Merck,” said Doug Bassett, vice president and general manager of Rosetta’s biosoftware unit.
“Rosetta Inpharmatics had two key business components, its scientific collaborations and high throughput expression profiling business, and its software business,” Bassett explained. “In the context of the Merck acquisition, the [first] business makes sense to plug into the Merck research and development engine. But the commercial software product portion of the business flourishes by virtue of the fact that it has a large number of diverse customers, and a user base that is coming up with new requirements for the system.”
To keep these Resolver customers, which include some of Merck’s competitors in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, Rosetta knew it had to assure them that their data would not get into the hands of the competition. The separation of the biosoftware division is designed to accomplish just this.
“It’s a separate IT infrastructure and a separate physical infrastructure, and to the extent that customers have confidentiality arrangements with us, Rosetta continues to exist as an independent corporate entity,” said Bassett. “Theres’ no risk of confidential information” being communicated to Merck.
As Rosetta goes through this corporate mitosis, the biosoftware division will be looking to hire more software developers and marketing staff, Bassett said. It will also be expanding its efforts to develop and provide “best of breed” bioinformatics systems to customers. Currently, these efforts focus on the proteomics arena, with plans to develop a proteomics bioinformatics program that will “link tightly” with Resolver, said Bassett.
The division is meanwhile planning to continue its schedule of releasing one major and two minor updates of Resolver per year.
Since Merck completed its acquisition, a stock transaction valued at $540 million, in July, Rosetta has begun assuring customers that business is going on as usual. The company recently held a user group meeting in Delaware that was co-sponsored by the company’s distribution partner Agilent Technologies, and Sun Microsystems. The division discussed with customers its plans for the future, and “in general, customer response was very positive, “ said Bassett. “People were happy to hear that we are very committed to this business ongoing and that we continue aggressive development and enhancement of the Resolver.”
Rosetta has licensed the Resolver system to Merck, (which will remain a customer given the separation), Monsanto, Dupont Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline, Amgen, Immunex, Paradigm Genetics, ReNovis, AbGenix, Europroteome, Biogen, Protein Design Labs, the University of Washington, and Harvard.