BOSTON — Biosimulation firm Entelos has acquired integration technology and services shop Discovery Innovations, Alex Bangs, CTO of Entelos, told BioInform last week at the Bio-IT World Conference here.
Bangs did not disclose the financial terms of the acquisition, other than to say that it was "an asset purchase." Discovery Innovations' staff of 10 people has already moved into Entelos' offices in Foster City, Calif., bringing the company's total headcount to 80 people, Bangs said.
Scott Clarke, formerly CEO of Discovery Innovations, has joined Entelos as vice president and general manager.
Clarke said that Discovery Innovations' key strength is its ability to "wrap content." As part of Entelos, he said, that capability can be used to integrate data generated by Entelos' PhysioLab simulation platform into a broader research pipeline or, conversely, to integrate experimental data into the PhysioLab modeling environment.
Clarke described Discovery Innovations as the "surviving entity" from life sciences web portal BioSpace, which he joined as CEO in 2000 after serving as CIO at Incyte. When the dot-com bubble burst, he said, BioSpace reconfigured itself to offer integration services behind the firewalls of pharmaceutical companies. In 2003, BioSpace sold the Internet half of its business and the BioSpace name to Career Innovations, which manages several healthcare employment websites, while the integration technology and services portion of the business renamed itself Discovery Innovations.
The company offers informatics consulting, along with a web services-based integration framework called CHAI, and a knowledge-management platform called LInKS (Life science Information and Knowledge Solution).
Discovery Innovations claims Eli Lilly, Merck, and Celera Genomics as its key customers, while the primary clients for Entelos are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Organon — an opportunity for the newly combined firm to extend its reach on both the integration and simulation sides of the business, according to Bangs and Clarke.
The two firms also share a common business philosophy, Bangs said. Both companies developed their technologies in collaborations with pharmaceutical clients under agreements that provided the right to commercialize the technical underpinnings of the projects.
Bangs said that Discovery Innovations' capabilities are a good fit for Entelos' business model, which has expanded recently into a three-pronged strategy. The firm still considers R&D collaborations with pharmaceutical customers as its "core" business, Bangs said, noting that the integration services from Discovery Innovations will be useful in this area. However, Entelos has recently taken steps to extend its in-house drug discovery capabilities [BioInform 02-21-05], so the first customers for Discovery Innovations' technologies will likely be research scientists within the company.
In addition, Bangs said, the firm is responding to requests from pharmaceutical and academic research groups to release PhysioLab as a standalone modeling platform — without the collaborative aspects of previous PhysioLab agreements. Entelos was reluctant to release the platform in this form in the past, despite customer requests to do so, because "the market was not quite ready," Bangs said. Now, he said, several pharmaceutical companies are building their own internal systems biology and simulation research groups, so when customers ask if they can license the PhysioLab technology, "we're saying yes."
Bangs said that he and Clarke are currently "brainstorming about some new products" that the combined firm can offer under this model.
Pharma's interest in biosimulation — and other informatics tools commonly lumped into the "systems biology" category — is mounting, Bangs said, but he noted that most companies are still in the exploratory stages, and are likely to end up with multiple platforms. Companies currently using "qualitative" systems, which can predict all the possible connections between a set of given molecules, will soon require quantitative systems like PhysioLab to hone in on mechanisms of action, he said.
Qualitative systems can answer questions about whether a particular compound will inhibit a target, but they can't answer whether it will hit the target "hard enough," or whether it might work better in certain populations, Bangs said.
But he noted that these platforms could be used in conjunction with PhysioLab to generate hypotheses that can then be tested in "virtual patients" in PhysioLab before tests are even performed in animal models. Virtual patients representing many different phenotypes can also be tested in silico, providing some early insight into the best patient populations to use in clinical trials, he said.
Entelos would ultimately like to see PhysioLab used across the pharmaceutical pipeline, but Bangs admitted that most users still view the platform from the perspective of their own research "silo" — whether that is in discovery, preclinical, or clinical research. However, he said, efforts are underway at many firms to feed patient data back into early discovery, which is likely to drive demand for PhysioLab and Entelos' new integration services.
"It's starting to happen," he said, "but it's a slow process."
— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])