AT A GLANCE: Served eight years in the Israel Defense Forces’ Talpiot unit, during the first three of which he completed a Bachelor’s degree at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Holds an MBA from INSEAD, France. Hobbies include skiing and reading.
Q Where will bioinformatics be in two years? Five years?
A In the last few years the data mining aspects of bioinformatics focused on figuring out what the genes are and assigning putative function to them, mostly through similarity searches. This analysis was sequence-centric. In the next couple of years, by integrating sequence, expression, text, and interaction data bioinformatics should enable us to assign function to genes with higher confidence. In five years time, we should be able to predict with confidence regulatory networks.
Q What are the biggest challenges the bioinformatics sector faces?
A The sector will have to prove that bioinformatics is an essential part of the drug discovery process. This will drive the value of the bioinformatics companies. We view the lack of bioinformatics experts, the growth and complexity of the data, and the other similar “problems” associated with the sector as major opportunities.
Q Who are your current customers?
A Our current customers are researchers at biopharmaceutical and academic institutes. Pfizer and Human Genome Sciences are our two major customers for Leads, an algorithm-driven bioinformatics platform for the analysis and mining of genomic, expression, and protein sequence data. In September we launched our initial proteomics product Z3, a high-throughput two-dimensional gel electrophoresis analysis system that employs proprietary registration algorithms for highly accurate automatic alignment of two gel images within a few minutes. We already have a number of customers including the Australian Proteome Analysis Facility, Genentech, Procter & Gamble, and Protagen. We also have a hardware sequence analysis product line with long lasting relationships with over 40 customers including Bayer, Incyte Genomics, Merck, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Q With what companies do you have partnerships?
A We have partnerships with companies such as Genzyme and Genome Therapeutics that provide us with proprietary data, which we incorporate as part of the services provided through Compugen’s life science portal LabOnWeb.
Q What non-existing technology is number one on your customers’ wish list?
A Currently, the industry is looking for better ways to prioritize targets for screening or for therapeutic development. This is what people mean when they say they need functionally validated genes. Bioinformatics-based function prediction needs to advance significantly before researchers put their trust in it.
Q How large is your bioinformatics staff?
A We have over 80 mathematicians, software engineers, biologists, and physicists as well as 20 bench biologists in our research and development team, out of which over 30 hold PhDs. We believe that verifying computer predictions in a “wet” biology lab is a crucial component for the development of data mining tools.
Q Do you see yourself more as a software provider or as a consultant?
A Compugen is a computational genomics and proteomics solution provider. We mostly make products out of our technologies, though doing consulting work for customers is also sometimes part of our collaborations.
Q What is the company’s annual revenue? Are you profitable?
A Our 1999 revenues were $3.2 million. The company is not profitable yet, as we are still investing in R&D, marketing and sales, and building the company.
Q Where does the company’s financing come from?
A In July Compugen raised $35.4 million in a private placement, and in August the company went public on Nasdaq and raised approximately $53 million.