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Accelrys Adds Scynexis' SaaS Platform to Its Cheminformatics Suite


By Uduak Grace Thomas

Accelrys said this week that it has signed a reseller agreement that enables it to sell Scynexis software-as-a-service platform as part of its Cheminformatics suite.

The company said the addition of the Hit Explorer Operating System, or HEOS, will support real-time data sharing across disparate organizations — multiple companies, academic institutions, and contract research organizations — that are engaged in collaborative drug discovery.

Accelrys has included the new cloud-based capability in the latest version of its Cheminformatics suite, launched this week, which also includes a new chemical-registration module and chemical data cartridge.

HEOS is designed to secure and partition intellectual property and to enable multiple users to share data in real time "with minimal IT overhead and effort," Accelrys said.

The web-based software also provides users with real-time access to chemical registration, biological assay results, computational and visual analytics, safety assessment, and pharmacokinetics data, among other project information.

Moreover, lead organizations activate and deactivate partners without disrupting ongoing operations.

'Clear and Straightforward Decision'

Robert Brown, Accelrys senior director for life science marketing, told BioInform that including HEOS in its cheminformatics portfolio was a "clear and straightforward decision" because its is an "established" solution in the marketplace, one that was designed specifically to support pharma collaborations.

Durham, NC-based Scynexis in 2000 spun out of what used to be Rhône-Poulenc, a French chemical and pharmaceutical company that merged with German life-science company Hoechst to form Aventis, now known as Sanofi-Aventis.

Initially staffed with 24 former members of Rhône-Poulenc's animal-health research group, Scynexis provided fee-for-service discovery and development services for pharmaceutical and animal-health companies, Terry Marquardt, its executive director of market development, told BioInform.

The company has retained that business model, although it now focuses primarily on the pharma sector and its headcount has risen to130 employees.

Among Scynexis' staff are teams of medicinal chemists, biologists, computational chemists, biochemists, analytical chemists, and bioanalytical scientists who work with customers on projects ranging from hit identification to candidate selection. It relies on internally developed solutions such as HEOS and its Medchem-factory high-throughput synthesis and purification platform.

According to Marquardt, Scynexis has used HEOS in collaborations with big pharmas such as GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, and Merck.

The software is also licensed by organizations like the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, which uses it to study maladies like malaria.

Secure Collaborations

While previous incarnations of Accelrys's Cheminformatics suite were sufficient for the in-house needs of its biotech and pharma customers, Brown said it didn't meet the requirements of clients that outsource portions of their research and development to multiple partners in different locations.

Under this model, "various partners within the collaborations come and go," but typical in-house informatics systems are unable "to spin these partner networks up and down very quickly," he said.

Furthermore, partner organizations may need to implement several levels of permission within a project. For instance, "a chemistry contract-research organization may only [need to] see the tasks … assigned to them, but an assay CRO may need to see the results of the chemistry CRO's synthesis to know what to assay," Brown said.

And when intellectual property is jointly created, "the definition of who owns what may not be resolved until [later] into the project," he added. As a result, participants "need to keep the IP on the collaboration completely separate from [their] internal systems."

According to Scynexis' Marquardt, his company observed a similar need for collaborative software "early on in our history."

"We were doing a lot of collaborative work ... and we needed a way of transferring or exchanging information securely and quickly," he said, adding that this led to development and subsequent launch the first HEOS platform in early 2002.

HEOS is designed to address these issues by offering organizations separate workspaces for their collaborations that are distinct from their in-house systems. And because it is a SaaS system, "it's very quick to spin up a new project or partner" and "spin [that partner or project] down" at the end of the collaboration, Brown explained.

Other updates to the Accelrys Cheminformatics suite include a new web-based chemical-registration system and an updated chemical data cartridge designed to manage structure and reaction databases in the Oracle environment.

Existing capabilities in the suite include a biological registration system; a database-search and -visualization tool; Accelrys Draw for drawing, editing, and viewing small molecules, reactions, and biological sequences; Accelrys Isentris for accessing, searching, and mining data; synthesis planning; and visual exploration.

Customers can licenses specific applications within the suite based on their project needs, or can use it as a "single comprehensive and unified suite," Brown said.

Brown also noted that the suite is integrated with other tools in Accelrys' portfolio, such as Contur's electronic laboratory notebook, which the company acquired during the summer (BI 5/27/2011).

"That’s a very different proposition ..., [one] that you couldn’t get from some of the other companies in the space where it would be much more piecemeal," he noted. In such cases, "you have to think about joining the pieces together, so the IT burden becomes much higher."

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