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Ardais Finds Buyers for Clinical Genomics Database and Bioinformatics Platform

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Clinical genomics firm Ardais announced the first customers for its BIGR database and suite of bioinformatics tools last week. The Lexington, Mass.-based company launched the BIGR (Biomaterials and Information for Genomic Research) resource in October 2001 and now claims a dozen customers, according to a company spokeswoman. Those announced last week include Abgenix, Aventis, and CuraGen.

Ardais, a privately held company, began building the BIGR resource in September 2000 in cooperation with a number of universities as part of its National Clinical Genomics Initiative. Participants in the initiative, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, Maine Medical Center, and the University of Chicago, gain access to the resource in exchange for submitted clinical materials and information.

Ardais said it is content with its role as a platform company and sees great potential for the BIGR resource, an online repository of tissue samples, tissue microarrays, molecular derivatives, clinical information, and databases. Proprietary bioinformatics tools permit researchers to search BIGR based on diagnosis, tissue type, and sample format. A web-based interface allows users to order particular resources of interest.

Martin Ferguson, senior vice president of bioinformatics at Ardais, said that while a “few papers” correlating clinical data with genomic information have been published by researchers such as Pat Brown and Todd Golub, Ardais is “the first and only company to provide such a platform at this order of magnitude.” The company put “a large piece” of its $50 million in funding toward its IT infrastructure, Golub said.

Greg Landes, vice president of product discovery at Abgenix, noted that his company could have opted to gain access to clinical samples on its own, “but that can be a daunting task.” And while other companies consolidate and repackage clinical data, they primarily offer it on a fee-for-service basis and don’t permit the samples to leave their own labs. Thus, said Landes, Ardais’ web-based offering was a selling point because it “allowed us to control our own destiny.”

Financial terms of its customer agreements were not disclosed, although Ferguson said the company charges only an up-front licensing fee and does not see downstream revenues from the use of its platform.

— BT

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