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Compugen Inks First Multimillion-Dollar Bioinformatics Deal with Parke-Davis

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WOBURN, Mass.--In a deal its participants claim is one of the largest ever in bioinformatics, Compugen here has signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar-per-year agreement with the Parke-Davis division of Warner-Lambert that makes Parke-Davis the first partner for Compugen's Leads bioinformatics platform.

Under the agreement, Compugen will provide Parke-Davis with tools for identifying drug targets based on the analysis of expressed sequence tag (EST) and genomic databases, pattern recognition in expression results from chips and proteomics, and mutation detection and qualification.

The Leads platform is designed to enhance the ability of pharmaceutical, biotech, and other life-science companies to extract useful information from genomic and protein data, according to Compugen. Peter Mansfield, the firm's vice-president of sales and marketing, described the technology as "a set of algorithms and analytical tools that allow you to cluster the EST databases so that you can make long contigs or full-length cDNA sequences from the EST's."

Mansfield told BioInform that Parke-Davis, which has been a Compugen customer for several years, can apply the technology to public-domain databases as well as to its own databases of EST's. The power of the algorithms and other proprietary bioinformatics technologies incorporated in the platform has been demonstrated through Compugen's analysis of public-domain EST data, the company claimed. Using Leads, Compugen said it has identified thousands of human genes and alternatively spliced variants not previously identified in the databases.

Parke-Davis said it is ramping up its bioinformatics capabilities to prepare to handle an increasing data load. Wendell Wierenga, the company's senior vice-president of preclinical research, development, and technologies, said he expected that his firm's recent acquisition of gene/Networks, as well as partnership agreements with Axys Pharmaceuticals, Affymetrix, and Genzyme Molecular Oncology, will generate large amounts of data over the next few years. "Bioinformatics is a critical aspect of genomics-based drug discovery and we are extremely pleased to have Compugen's team as an integral part of our effort," Wierenga stated.

Several Compugen researchers will be placed at Parke-Davis's Ann Arbor, Mich., facility "using our tools on their data," Mansfield explained. "Our partners get high-quality results out of their data and we get to refine and develop our tools even further using real, live biological information in a customer setting," he said. "It's truly a two-way partnership."

Mansfield said Compugen does not take quite the same approach as some of its competitors by suggesting that customers outsource their bioinformatics needs. "We are hiring very analytical people who are as much algorithm developers as bioinformatics experts," he noted. "We see our core competency as being able to develop and refine algorithms that accurately reflect real biology."

Mansfield added that Compugen expects to announce five or six more deals with major pharmaceutical companies between now and the end of 1999. Placing Compugen employees at customers' sites will be a typical arrangement.

"We're anticipating that for each deal like this we sign, we'll have to hire four or five people," Mansfield commented, adding that one function of his company's new facility in Jamesburg, NJ, will be to train those new hires.

--Adrienne Burke

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