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IBM Grants Accelrys Top-Tier Partnership Status in Latest Bid to Target Pharma

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  Just over a month after it locked in a partnership with Lion Bioscience, IBM secured another significant partner in the life sciences software market last week with Pharmacopeia software subsidiary Accelrys.

Calling the four-year deal “one of the most significant and influential relationships for IBM in life sciences,” Carol Kovac, general manager of IBM Life Sciences, noted that Accelrys is the first life sciences firm to join the ranks of software companies such as Siebel and SAP in IBM''''s PartnerWorld for Developers Program, which offers a range of sales, education, training, and technical support programs to a limited number of collaborators.

Judging from Accelrys’ current share of the bio- and cheminformatics market — the merged Oxford Molecular, GCG, Molecular Simulations, Synopsys, and Synomics claims nearly every major pharmaceutical and biotech company among its customers — it''''s clear why IBM would value its new partner as a key part of its strategy to gain a greater share of the biopharmaceutical industry. Until this agreement, Accelrys software didn''''t run on IBM hardware. Now, the ability to run Accelrys’ Wisconsin Package alone will give IBM a significant number of potential new customers in this sector.

Mike Svinte, vice president of business development at IBM Life Sciences, said that in addition to the Wisconsin Package, Accelrys’ Charmm, Modeler, DelPhi, and SeqFold applications would be immediately available for the IBM platform, with others coming on line as the partnership progresses.

In a conference call to discuss the alliance, Kovac said the decision to partner with Accelrys was driven by “two very significant pharmaceutical companies who have relationships with both Accelrys and IBM.”

Mike Stapleton, COO and executive vice president of Accelrys, told BioInform that the partnership offers a number of benefits for Accelrys as well. The result of “12 months of hard work” bringing together the two companies, according to Stapleton, is “the critical mass and focus to deliver the pre-clinical research platform.”

Under the terms of the broad-reaching alliance, IBM becomes Accelrys’ preferred information technology and services partner for life sciences, IBM’s eServer systems will be Accelrys’ server family of choice for life sciences applications, and Accelrys will include IBM’s DiscoveryLink integration middleware in its upcoming Discovery Studio platform, a set of technologies that will offer broad access to key life sciences applications. The companies will co-market Discovery Studio and will also offer joint consulting services to their mutual customers.

Stapleton noted that IBM’s formidable consulting and services staff was a key element in its decision to partner with the hardware giant. “In terms of the breadth of the platform that the pharmaceutical industry requires … a company the size of Accelrys would never be able to deliver such a platform alone. We would always need a more significant partner to provide the standard consulting arrangements around the domain expertise that we have,” said Stapleton. In addition, IBM’s branding and high-level contacts in pharma and chemical companies will drive additional business for Accelrys, he said.

As part of the agreement, IBM is also providing Accelrys with IBM eServer p690 systems running AIX, IBM eServer xSeries systems running Linux and Windows NT, and the IBM eServer Cluster 1300 Linux system for software development, testing, and knowledge management applications.

Stapleton said that IBM’s partnership with its competitor Lion [BioInform 12-03-01] isn’t a concern for Accelrys. “If you look across the entire pre-clinical and even clinical discovery platform, there won’t be a single provider, or a single partnership,” he said. “It’s my challenge to compete with Lion in that niche vertical market that Lion plays in bioinformatics. ... We’ll have to respond to situations where we have to integrate with Lion.”

Kovac noted that a three-way alliance between Lion, Accelrys, and IBM might be possible in some cases where the two software providers’ offerings are complementary.

Svinte added that IBM’s partnering strategy is broad by design, in order to address a broad swath of the life sciences software market. “We decided that we would never understand enough about the end users to actually build end-user software,” he said. “Our partnership strategy is not about exclusive relationships.”

— BT

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