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Accelrys Acquires ELN Company to Complement Existing Symyx Notebook


By Uduak Grace Thomas

This article has been updated from a version posted May 24 to include comments from Accelrys officials.

Accelrys announced this week that it has acquired Contur Software in order to add the privately held company's electronic laboratory notebook to its software cache.

Accelrys bought Contur for a total of $13.1 million in cash, including $500,000 to be paid upon reaching certain agreed-upon milestones.

Contur, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and opened its doors in 2003, had approximately $600,000 in cash at closing, about 100 customers, and a headcount of 20 employees.

Accelrys plans to retain all Contur's employees in their current roles and responsibilities, Max Carnecchia, Accelrys CEO, told BioInform, adding that Martin Wattin, Contur's executive chairman, and Thomas Rozlucki, the company's CEO, will join Accelrys' executive staff.

He also said that Contur’s ELN will continue to be marketed under its current licensing structure and Accelrys plans to have a "tight roadmap" for integrating the company within 90 days.

Accelrys does not expect the purchase to have a material impact on its GAAP and non-GAAP revenue, expenses, operating profit, or earnings per share for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011.

The firm described Contur ELN as "an ideal complement" to its Symyx Notebook because it "broadens the range of solutions that Accelrys now provides to scientific R&D organizations."

Carnecchia explained that Symyx Notebook targets “big customers” with “stringent requirements for validation in the life sciences community” who require “tight integration with other software, instruments, and diagnostic tools,” while Contur’s iLabber is geared toward small and medium-sized businesses, biotechs, academic labs, and other groups that may not have a “robust” information technology support staff in place.

“When we talk about [the products] being complementary, we mean in terms of being able to cover the full spectrum of requirements in all the segments of the notebook market,” he said.

Accelrys bought Symyx Technologies in an all-stock transaction worth $186 million last year (BI 04/09/2010).

Symyx Notebook is designed to integrate with other enterprise systems and instrumentation and can also be deployed in validated environments.

Contur ELN documents experimental processes and captures the results in a searchable central location for research and development organizations, Accelrys said.

Contur markets Contur ELN to the small- to mid-size segment of the ELN market in the biotechnology, chemical, food and beverage, and academic industries.

Customers can deploy the notebook as an on-site server-based installation or via a software-as-a-service model under the name iLabber Cloud.

Accelrys isn't the only company bitten by the ELN bug. Recently, PerkinElmer purchased ArtusLabs, CambridgeSoft (BI 03/25/2011) and Labtronics, all of which offer ELNs (BI 05/20/2011), to enhance its laboratory informatics portfolio.

Accelrys views PerkinElmer's investments in the ELN market as a validation of its own strategy, Carnecchia said, as well as evidence of the ELN market opportunity.

During a presentation at the B. Riley & Co. Investor Conference this week, Carnecchia cited numbers from Atrium Research that peg the current ELN market at around $1.6 billion market. Furthermore, Atrium estimates that only about 20 percent of labs currently use ELNs, representing a significant growth opportunity.

Accelrys’ approach to the ELN market is "quite differentiated" from its competitors', Carnecchia told BioInform.

"PerkinElmer fundamentally is an instrumentation company and their investments ... will ultimately arrive at how they [can] sell more hardware ... [and] more instruments," he said.

Meanwhile, as a pure-play software company, Accelrys has "an open standard extendable platform that supports all the varying instrumentation vendors as well as all of the varying software platforms and scientific software tools that can plug into that platform," he noted.

In terms of branding, Carnecchia said that Accelrys is still deciding whether to keep the Contur company and product name, but expects to make a decision in the next couple of months.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com.