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Entigen Prepares to Close Shop; Web Portal and Integration Technology up for Sale

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Struggling bioinformatics ASP firm Entigen is on the verge of shutting its doors for good, sources close to the company told BioInform last week.

Several former employees confirmed that Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Entigen is now down to four core staff members and CEO Denise Gilbert is shopping the company’s technology around to prospective buyers.

The news follows on several months of setbacks for the company, formed in late 2000 by the merger of eBioinformatics and Empatheon. In November, Entigen changed the pricing structure for its BioNavigator online bioinformatics service (www.bionavigator.com) and eliminated free trials as an option for the site. The following month, the company closed its Sydney, Australia, office and laid off all its employees in Australia as well as a “substantial number” of US employees [BioInform 12-10-01].

According to one source, Entigen was close to securing a new round of funding in the fall, but the investors pulled out in the wake of the September 11 attack.

A former employee, who requested anonymity, said simply that the company had “fizzled.”

Gilbert and other Entigen officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Entigen raised $12.5 million in two rounds of venture capital financing in 1998 and 2000. Investors include Colonial First State Private Equity, International Biotechnology Trust, CSL Limited, Rothschilds Australian Bioscience Trust, Allen & Buckeridge, and 3iBioscience Investment Trust.

With its cash and staff gone, the company’s remaining assets lie in its core technology: the BioNavigator portal, the Adaapt integration and aggregation techology, and BioNavigator-BioNode, a combination of the company’s tools that can be installed behind company firewalls.

Howard Goldstein, formerly president of Entigen, told BioInform in June 2000 that the company’s burn rate was $325,000 per month and that it expected to grow its subscriber base to over 40,000 users “over the next three or four years.” At the time, Goldstein estimated that the typical BioNavigator user would spend between $500 and $1,000 per year in user fees and another $3,000 on e-commerce purchases from partners at the site.

Goldstein, who recently left Entigen to join Argonaut Technologies of Foster City, Calif., as senior vice president of sales, marketing, and service, said in November that the company had over 17,000 users of the BioNavigator portal, but did not disclose how many of these were paid subscribers.

Entigen has not announced any customers for Adaapt or BioNavigator-BioNode.

The company was supporting a project at the South African National Bioinformatics Institute to develop Clusterall, a group of gene expression datasets that were to be integrated into BioNavigator. While the project has been forced to cease, SANBI director Win Hide said that Entigen’s funding “allowed us to perfect techniques and to develop systems which are still in place.” The sets of assembled ESTs, mRNA, and gene sequence data from multiple organisms have been made freely available as a result of the project.

“The relationship with Entigen was one of excellent collaboration and we were sad to hear that they had to cease operations,” said Hide.

— BT

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