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Celera, Lion in Deal to Beef Up SRS Platform; New Version of CDS Expected by Year-End


Celera Genomics has signed a three-year deal with German bioinformatics company Lion Bioscience to co-develop an enhanced version of Lion’s SRS data integration platform that will be used to power the next version of the Internet-based Celera Discovery System, the companies said Thursday.

“Our focus is to become the comprehensive reference library for genomics and biological information on the Internet. Lion places systems on a company’s Intranet,” Peter Barrett, Celera’s chief business officer, told BioInform. “There are synergies for both solutions.”

The deal represents a closer alliance between Lion and Celera, which has been using SRS as its core data integration platform since March on a contract basis. In addition to the deal to co-develop SRS, Celera also said that it would market Lion’s Scout products.

Lion’s director of product marketing, Christian Marcazzo, has already met with Tony Kerlavage, senior director of bioinformatics and product strategy at Celera, to discuss the types of modifications and developments Celera would like to see in its system.

Marcazzo will now take these recommendations home to Lion’s team of bioinformaticists headquartered in Heidelberg. In addition, Lion employees will be regular visitors at Celera’s facilities in Rockville, Md.

Barrett declined to say when the next version of the Celera Discovery System would be released or to specify the new functions that were likely to be added, but he did say that Celera was looking to improve its system’s ability to integrate and handle an ever-growing amount of data.

“Researchers are at their desks and they need all the information on their screens in a usable format. This is an opportunity for us to provide a comprehensive data source,” said Barrett.

In addition to offering access to a host of genomic data, Celera has also created a single-nucleotide polymorphism database and has licensed Genzyme Molecular Oncology’s SAGE database and Proteome’s protein database for access through the Discovery System. Celera is also ramping up its in-house proteomics effort, in the hopes of generating an unprecedented amount of protein data.

Winton Gibbons, an analyst at William Blair, said that he heard the new version of the Celera Discovery System is scheduled to be released by the end of the year.

Barrett noted that the company was trying to provide an “evidence trail” to substantiate any annotations made in its databases.

“Knowledge will change constantly and we need to know why that decision was made,” he said, referring to a hypothetical case in which Celera indicates the discovery of a particular gene.

Celera will not retain exclusive rights to any improvements jointly made to SRS, giving Lion the opportunity to offer improvements to its customers.

“That’s the great thing for our customers,” Marcazzo said. “All of our customers will benefit from the work that we do with Celera. Those developments for the most part will be incorporated into our SRS product family.”

While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, representatives of both companies said the deal’s upside potential was in the opportunity for each company to offer improved products to potential users as well as to gain access to the other’s customer base.

“Their success will increase demand for our solutions and greater demand for our products increases interest in their products,” said Friedrich von Bohlen, CEO of Lion. “Celera has customers such as Pfizer and Amgen that Lion doesn’t have. In the best of all worlds, we can use our integrated products to leverage their customers.”

Also on Thursday, Celera said it would offer Lion’s BioScout, GenomeScout, and ArrayScout tools as add-ons for its subscribers. For example, Celera’s customers can choose to license the GenomeScout product to compare genomes that Celera offers through its databases. The two companies will share revenue generated from the tools.

The Scout products will be slightly modified to fit Celera’s specific needs, Marcazzo said. Marcazzo would not say how much it would cost to integrate the products into the Discovery System, but said that both companies would invest the resources necessary to make the Scout tools available through Celera’s platform in the first quarter of 2001.

—Jennifer Friedlin and Aaron J. Sender

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