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Ebioinformatics Merges with Empatheon; New Entity, Entigen, Targets New Markets


Ebioinformatics has completed its merger with Empatheon and taken a new name, Entigen. The name is indicative of Ebioinformatics’ plan to expand beyond bioinformatics to go after new undisclosed markets using Empatheon’s data integration technology.

Entigen doesn’t mean anything and therefore doesn’t restrict the company to one area like the Ebioinformatics name does, said James Nelson, vice president of product marketing at Entigen.

“And it’s easier to say than Ebioinformatics,” he quipped. The Internet domain name,, was also available.

Entigen will continue to focus on bioinformatics but wants to go after more business elsewhere, which may include other scientific computing areas. The company is looking at “many horizons” but is “not going to go boldly everywhere at once,” said Nelson.

The company won’t say more until its products for those markets are ready because it does not want to tip off new competitors it expects to have, said Nelson. Entigen plans to launch new products late in the spring.

The Empatheon technology will enable the company to access disparate databases in a logical way to bring the most current data into Ebioinformatics’ BioNavigator life science browser in real-time, said Nelson.

“This technology has some good intellectual property buried into it that makes it much easier to merge different kinds of databases, whether they’re flat file databases like GenBank or relational databases or text-type databases. All [of these] can be extracted very readily and then merged into a super-database of those, which then can be accessed by BioNavigator,” said Nelson.

Entigen will use Empatheon’s set of Java-based applications called Adaapt (Advanced Dynamic Access, Analysis, and Personalization Technology), which takes the place of a data warehouse. Its Java applications will also upgrade BioNavigator automatically, to inform users that new information from life science databases is available.

Entigen maintains that existing data warehouses are not able to supply information to researchers in real time because such approaches typically require scientists to use various software systems to access multiple data sources to get all pertinent data.

The data warehouse framework also inhibits real-time access to biological databases as they grow because database managers have to gather, reformat, and integrate new biological data, and republish their databases at intervals, said Nelson.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Initially the acquisition had been valued at $11 million but Nelson declined to comment on the price.

Ebioinformatics has had the money to do such a deal since the spring, when it stated its desire to expand its number of customers from 6,000 up to 40,000 over the next three or four years. In May, the company closed a $10 million financing round, which followed an initial $2.5 million round last year.

Since then, Ebioinformatics has added more than 3,000 users from the Austrailian National Genomic Information Service. The company is a spin-off of ANGIS.

Even though Ebioinformatics made the acquisition, it is also looking to Empatheon to provide leadership as Empatheon’s CEO Bala Manian has become the merged company’s chairman. Manian founded Biometric Imaging, Digital Optics, Lumisys, and Molecular Dynamics (now owned by Amersham Pharmacia Biotech).

Geoff Brooks, formerly Ebioinformatics’ chairman, willingly gave up his role as chairman but retains a seat on the board, said Nelson. No layoffs have been made and none are expected in part because there was such little overlap between the two companies’ work forces, said Nelson. Empatheon did not have any bioinformatics staff.

“It basically was a complete acquisition on our side but one that was wanted by Empatheon as much as it was by us. So we’re calling it a merger but essentially we took all of their assets and people into our company,” said Nelson, who held the same title at Ebioinformatics.

The acquisition grew out of talks between the two companies that began with Ebioinformatics wanting to license Empatheon’s technology.

Ebioinformatics, formerly of Pleasanton, Calif., has moved into Empatheon’s offices in Sunnyvale, Calif. The shareholders from both companies have approved the merger.

Empatheon was founded as iBrain in October 1996 to develop and commercialize Adaapt.

—Matthew Dougherty

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