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CIHR Negotiates Master Contract to Facilitate Celera CDS Access for Canadian Researchers

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Building on an agreement signed in the fall between Celera Genomics and Compaq Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has negotiated a master contract for Canadian researchers to gain access to the Celera Discovery System at a substantially reduced rate.

In November 2001 Compaq Canada signed an agreement with Celera that made Compaq the exclusive distributor of CDS to the Canadian research community. While this contract guaranteed a lower pricing structure, according to Rod McInnes, scientific director of the Institute of Genetics at the CIHR, only a “small number” of Canadian researchers signed on prior to the CIHR deal: Of an estimated dozen or so researchers who had subscribed prior to the renegotiated agreement, around eight were at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, which had already purchased a subscription at the standard academic rate in November 2000, McInnes said.

McInnes said the reluctance on the part of the Canadian research community was largely due to intellectual property concerns. The original agreement between Compaq and Celera didn''t address publication rights for research derived from CDS data. Nor did it address intellectual property rights for clones of genes in the database. With these important questions left unanswered in the original contract, researchers were less than enthusiastic about signing on.

Another obstacle, McInnes said, was convincing public-sector researchers of the value of Celera''s data as a supplement to publicly available resources. “It was important for the Canadian community to hear from their colleagues that having access to the database is a tremendous complement to having access to the public database,” said McInnes.

Noting the natural unwillingness of public-sector researchers to align with the often-controversial Celera database, McInnes said the agreement between the US’s National Cancer Institute and Celera that was signed in July served as an important precedent for the CIHR negotiations.

“While some very prominent research organizations and scientists around the world have tried to encourage scientists not to sign on with Celera, the trouble is that research is an incredibly competitive and fast-moving business. If your competitor''s research is considerably advantaged by having access to those databases and you don''t, you''re going to lose,” McInnes said.

After 10 months of negotiations between the CIHR, Celera, and Compaq, McInnes said, “We were able to tell the community that the contract had been scrutinized by the leaders of several institutions and they felt it was a good document.”

The master contract has been drafted for the use of all Canadian researchers seeking to subscribe at the reduced rate. Aside from ensuring the lower price and protecting the intellectual property rights of the research community, McInnes said the master contract saves research groups the time and money involved in negotiating their own contracts with Compaq.

McInnes noted that individual institutions have the opportunity to further negotiate the agreement.

Licenses can be purchased through Compaq for C$12,000 per license per year over a three-year term. In addition, each principal investigator or institution can further reduce the cost through a rebate program that Compaq is developing.

McInnes noted in a letter to the Canadian research community that, “Although the price of C$12,000 is more than CIHR had initially hoped that Compaq might be able to arrange, it is a very significant reduction compared to the published Celera pricing (based on units acquired, of 1-5 units / PI = C$25,500) that most subscribers would otherwise have to pay.”

Compaq Canada''s manager of strategic investments, Jay Allen, noted that approximately 10 research licenses have been purchased since the CIHR deal was signed, and “we''ve had interest from every major university and teaching hospital.”

If the Canadian partnership between Compaq and Celera proves fruitful, Allen noted, the companies may launch similar initiatives in Latin America and other regions.

— BT

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