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Accelrys Adds Middleware to Product Line, Builds Consulting Staff with Synomics Buy

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Accelrys, the newly launched software subsidiary of Pharmacopeia, said it expects to gain additional integration capability and consulting manpower through last week’s acquisition of Synomics.

In the transaction, valued at approximately $4 million, Accelrys agreed to acquire all of the outstanding stock of Synomics, which is privately held.

Synomics will join Molecular Simulations, Synopsys Scientific Systems, Oxford Molecular, and the Genetics Computer Group, recently united by Pharmacopeia to create a single provider of bioinformatics, cheminformatics, and modeling software. Accelrys also added a new consulting group to its offerings as part of its official launch June 1.

Accelrys said the Synomics acquisition was “central” to its key strategic aim: an integrated software platform that incorporates all of its solutions as well as third-party software and clients’ in-house tools.

“All the other units we’ve either developed or bought are little islands of technology,” said Sue Rodney, manager of investor relations at Pharmacopeia. “Synomics is the bridge between all those islands. It’s technology that allows the user to utilize those different islands of technology but have them all interface in a cohesive, useful way at the desktop.”

Synomics’ Alliance integration architecture supports its Lead Explorer and Project Explorer software for enterprise-wide sharing of project data. Alliance acts as middleware, combining disparate data sources into a federated data solution that appears as a single source to the end user.

Synomics’ software products will remain available for customers to buy separately, “but where we see a lot of advances is in the new consulting business that we’re starting,” Rodney said. The middleware, which will enable Accelrys to integrate its own software offerings with that of other vendors, “is going to be a key component of what we can now offer [consulting clients].”

In addition, Rodney said the “majority” of Synomics’ current staff of 40 will join the Accelrys consultancy business, allowing Accelrys to build an experienced consulting staff far quicker than it would have been able to by hiring in the open market.

Robert Booth, currently CEO of Synomics, will serve as vice president of European operations under Accelrys. Rodney said that no other staff changes or layoffs are expected at Synomics as part of the acquisition. Accelrys, based in San Diego, Calif., intends to retain Synomics’ current facility in Cambridge, UK, minutes way from Accelrys’ European headquarters in Cambridge.

The Synomics middleware may be an essential step toward building an integrated software platform of its own, but Accelrys will certainly face fierce competition from IBM, which recently launched its own DiscoveryLink middleware, in marketing it as a solution for clients’ existing integration problems. IBM has already partnered with several bioinformatics vendors to co-market DiscoveryLink with their products (see story on page 7), and has a significant jump on Accelrys in terms of its consulting capacity.

While conceding the “nascent” state of the Accelrys consulting practice compared to that of IBM, Rodney said, “I don’t think we come head-to-head with IBM when we’re out there looking for business.” She added that Accelrys would, in fact, consider partnering with IBM in the future.

“We’re not done,” Rodney said. “We’ve got what we think are a large number of technology islands and a real jump on the integration step, but there’s certainly more to go to improve our ability to help our customers.” She said Accelrys would continue to add additional bioinformatics technology or additional modeling and simulation technology to its existing product lines and would also consider building or acquiring additional middleware technology.

— BT

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