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Accelrys Expands its Reach with New Agilent Partnership, Expanded UD Deal

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Accelrys has embarked on a strategy to aggressively pursue new partnerships in order to increase the visibility of its newly launched Discovery Studio platform, Scott Kahn, general manager and senior vice president of Accelrys Life Science, told BioInform last week.

As proof of that line of attack, the company announced a technology alliance with potential competitor Agilent Technologies last week. Under the terms of the agreement, Agilent will license Accelrys’ ActiveX Control 3D visualization software, which will be integrated into Agilent’s new Synapsia Informatics Workbench.

“In this world, everybody’s a collaborator and everybody could be a competitor,” said Kahn. While both companies are building horizontally integrated component-based informatics platforms for life science research with “some overlap” in their offerings, Kahn said the partnership was driven by customer demand for a seamlessly integrated path between the two solutions. Essentially, the companies determined that “it’s not a bad thing to have more than one choice,” especially in a time when companies are seeking productivity enhancements wherever they can get them.

ActiveX is the first Discovery Studio component to be included in Synapsia, but several more are planned, said Kahn.

In another move to expand the company’s reach, Accelrys is gearing up to launch a commercial version of its LigandFit virtual screening program to run on United Devices’ distributed MetaProcessor platform — “the first commercial application for grid computing in the space,” according to Kahn.

LigandFit will also replace the Think screensaver that powered the web-based cancer research project United Devices has sponsored since April 2001 in partnership with Intel and Oxford University. Think, while successful, was “basically a proof of concept,” said Kahn. LigandFit is more accurate and will be able to support the goals of the second phase of the project, which will prioritize the hits generated in phase one for their suitability as potential lead candidates.

Four “global pharmas” are currently beta-testing the distributed version of LigandFit, which Kahn says scales linearly — a network of PCs can run the program a factor of 100 to 1,000 times faster than a typical supercomputer. Kahn said that the licensing model for its distributed software “encourages large-scale usage,” with tiered pricing based on the number of computers running the program.

Kahn said he’s seen a drastic change in the acceptance of grid computing since partnering with UD: “A year ago no one was considering it, six months ago everybody thought it was novel, three months ago they were intrigued, now they think it’s practical and cost-effective.”

The biggest challenge to overcome, he said, was convincing customers that the MetaProcessor screensaver wouldn’t interfere with their critical desktop applications. Accelrys’ CHARMm molecular dynamics software is next in line for the distributed treatment, Kahn added.

— BT

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