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Entigen Founder Launches Bioinformatics Consultancy Business with Educational Focus

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Tim Littlejohn, who founded Entigen and served as its CEO and CSO, has embarked upon another venture with BioLateral, a bioinformatics contract and consulting company based in New South Wales, Australia.

Littlejohn still serves as chair of Entigen’s scientific advisory board.

In addition to contract and consultancy work with clients in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, government organizations, research hospitals, and universities, BioLateral is also developing its own intellectual property portfolio, focusing on bioinformatics engineering technologies. While Entigen focused on end-user capabilities with its BioNavigator portal and on database integration with the ADAAPT product, Littlejohn said he wants his new company to provide a hardware platform to act as a bioinformatics development environment.

The company will also provide a professional training component to meet the high demand for bioinformatics practitioners, Littlejohn said. The combined training and platform package will allow people to learn “not only to be ëfield doctors,’ but also have their Gladstone bag full of stethoscopes and thermometers and so forth — a basic toolkit for actually being a bioinformatics engineer.”

The company’s first series of professional training courses will begin in December. Littlejohn expects to attract organizations that will run in-house training programs for their staff as well as individuals who will train at the BioLateral facility.

Students will be expected to come from a life science background, Littlejohn said. “They better know what a genome is and they better have a problem in information management and data processing that they want to solve. We don’t want to just teach them esoteric rubbish, we want to help them in a practical context to develop new technologies.”

BioLateral will incorporate this training focus as part of its consulting work, Littlejohn said. “Our idea is to partner with people, help them create solutions and then move out and support them if they want, but also have a bit of skills transfer in the process.”

In August, BioLateral won a $250,00 grant from Australia’s Biotechnology Innovation Fund for the development of a prototype workstation for bioinformatics research and education called iBiostation, which will operate both as a stand-alone system as well as within a network. The proposed system will run on PC-based systems with a Unix-like operating system and contain a number of standard bioinformatics packages as well as training modules.

The company is also considering offering an on-line distance-learning program in bioinformatics.

BioLateral consists of six ex-Entigen founding staffers, a group Littlejohn described as “a second-generation bioinformatics company.” As Entigen moved its focus to North America, Littlejohn said several members of the staff elected to stay behind in Australia where a “tremendous opportunity” still exists for bioinformatics consulting.

— BT

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