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Glaxo, SmithKline Finally Join Forces; Integrated Bioinformatics Push Begins

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With the merger of GlaxoWellcome and SmithKline Beecham finally complete, the newly merged company now expects to announce new bioinformatics appointments in the next month or two, said David Searls, head of bioinformatics in the combined company.

“I have named my direct reports, who are equally divided in their origins from the parent companies,” said Searls, who declined to name any of those reports. “We are now actively engaged in appointing the next layer of management and the remainder of the organizational plan, which should be done well within the first quarter.”

A source at SmithKline had told BioInform previously that the merged bioinformatics group would consist of about 150 researchers.

Searls said that the numbers would be somewhat higher than that, although he could not say by how much until the reorganization was finalized.

Searls’ new management team has been meeting regularly at various offices. The merged company’s six major bioinformatics centers are located in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, London, and Geneva.

“This will be a full service bioinformatics shop with everything from software development to research to direct support of business areas, and major efforts in both genomics and genetics,” said Searls.

Searls, who was previously vice president of bioinformatics at SmithKline Beecham, will report to Allen Roses. Roses, previously vice president and worldwide director of genetics at GlaxoWellcome, is head of genetics research at Glaxo- SmithKline.

The company can now turn part of its attention to expanding its bioinformatics staff. Roses said in October that the delays in the merger were affecting the companies’ abilities to hire more bioinformaticists.

“Both Dr. Roses and Dr. Tachi Yamada, the head of R&D, have mentioned bioinformatics as a target for reinvestment, but it is still too early to know the likely extent of this,” said Searls.

It is unclear how many more specialists the company wants to add and how it plans to recruit them.

The merger is expected to create a force in genomics although what it means for specific genomics collaborations is unclear right now, said Rick Koenig, a spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline R&D.

“One of the primary reasons for the merger was to ensure the company had the capacity and scope necessary to take advantage of the expanding knowledge of the human genome,” said Koenig.

The company will have an estimated research and development budget of approximately 2.3 billion pounds ($3.4 billion).

Recently, Glaxo signed a research collaboration with Oxford GlycoSciences to discover new protein biomarkers for nine diseases using its proteomics platform. The merger of Glaxo and SmithKline will not affect the collaboration, according to Oxford CFO Stephen Parker.

Glaxo also brought in more gene expression analysis technology by licensing Rosetta Inpharmatics’ Resolver Expression Data Analysis System.

Separately, Glaxo announced last month that it would participate in a new bioinformatics coalition of about 40 corporations, universities, and non-profit institutes called the North Carolina Genomics and Bioinformatics Consortium. The group is coordinated by the state-sponsored North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

IBM and SAS Institute are two of the other 17 companies participating in the consortium

. —Matthew Dougherty

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