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Bear Code Drops Oil and Gas Software Biz to Focus on Bioinformatics

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Bear Code, a software developer based in Rockville, Md., has secured its first bioinformatics client in 20/20 GeneSystems, a protein array start-up also based in Rockville.

Michael Howe, president of Bear Code, said the company has specialized in 3D visualization tools for the oil and gas industry since its launch in 1998. But its convenient location within the heart of the Maryland biotech corridor, combined with the skillset of its primarily Russian programming staff, prompted the recent decision to sell off its oil and gas product line and focus on bioinformatics.

The company has hired molecular biologist Sergei Atamas to head up its bioinformatics efforts and is seeking to hire an additional expert in computational protein structure determination.

Howe said these experts would head up teams of programmers who have been trained by the Russian military in image analysis, pattern recognition, data mining, and other programming skills that “really translate well into the bioinformatics field.”

Under the 20/20 GeneSystems contract, which includes a royalty and equity arrangement, Bear Code will develop software to identify families of proteins in biological samples. The software will combine and analyze images from 20/20’s proprietary layered membrane platform to yield differential expression profiles of the samples.

20/20 describes its membrane system as “carbon paper” that creates copies of the protein content of the tissue being analyzed. The company said the technique is faster and less expensive than current protein identification methods.

The protein identification software will be sold with 20/20’s layered membrane kit for image analysis. Beta versions of the product are expected in the third quarter of this year.

Howe said that Bear Code is in negotiations with a number of other potential bioinformatics clients.

— BT

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