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Bioinformatics Companies Get Wall Street Audience At Industry Investors Conference

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NEW YORK--The Health Care Information Systems and Bioinformatics Conference held here November 12 was promoted by sponsor Punk Ziegel as the first and only investment-bank-sponsored conference for bioinformatics companies. The meeting aimed to stimulate awareness among investors and identify strategic opportunities for the industry.

In an overview describing the bioinformatics industry, Punk Ziegel analyst Paul Boni said that for investors, the implications of bioinformatics are twofold: "As an industry, its youth entails uncertainty, but this uncertainty does not diminish the huge obvious potential. As more drug developers embrace bioinformatics, we believe competitors must follow suit," Boni remarked.

"As innovation in the wet aspects of biomedical research slows, we believe competitive advantage will belong to those who can transform massive amounts of data into knowledge," he continued. "For an industry offering such enormous potential, we believe investors should accept the early-stage risks and invest in some of the best companies they can find in this field."

Companies presenting under the "bioinformatics" heading included those with commercial bioinformatics applications as well as firms applying proprietary bioinformatics tools in-house to genomic data for drug discovery. Public companies presenting were Affymetrix, CoCensys, Gene Logic, Perkin-Elmer, Pharmacopeia, and Tripos. Private bioinformatics companies were Base4 Bioinformatics, Ciphergen Biosystems, Genomic Solutions, Genomica, Lexicon Genetics, Molecular Applications Group, and NetGenics.

Gene Logic's Steve Push said the meeting was a sign that the industry is coming into its own. Another indicator, he observed, was a call he received from a Barron's reporter previewing the meeting who asked him to explain "what the heck is bioinformatics."

"People are starting to think about what we're doing," Push concluded.

Many investors the conference attracted were already knowledgeable about bioinformatics and came seeking information on companies' business models, he said. But beyond that core, according to Push, "we have quite a challenge to educate the investor community." Many potential investors want 25-word descriptions of a company's technology, he claimed. "Gene Logic has other things we can talk about, such as gene expression and array technology, but I'd be hard-pressed to explain what we're doing in bioinformatics in 25 words," said Push.

--Adrienne Burke

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