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Incogen Wins ATP Grant to Develop XML Protocols, Tools for Web Services-Based Analysis

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Incogen of Clemson, SC, said it was awarded a $2 million Advanced Technology Program grant from the National Institute for Standards and Technology for the development of a web services-based XML bioinformatics framework.

The total projected cost for the three-year project, “Development of an Extensible, Homogeneous Infrastructure for Distributed Bioinformatics Resources,” is $3.1 million, according to the ATP.

Maciek Sasinowski, CEO of Incogen, said there are two aspects to the project. First, he said, as a founding participant in the Interoperable Informatics Infrastructure Consortium, Incogen will continue to work with its I3C partners to develop communications protocols for distributed analysis resources for life sciences research. These protocols will be open and freely available. “We want to enable other software vendors to develop technology based on the protocols,” Sasinowski said. “If something like that was already out there we would all be using it.”

In addition to the open protocols, Sasinowski said Incogen would develop commercial tools and applications based on the technology.

The project will draw heavily from recent developments in web services technology for e-commerce, such as UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration)—an XML-based business transaction registry. Sasinowski said the underlying concept is a centralized web services broker that directs user queries to the ideal application or service for the type of analysis requested.

While the system is being developed to work over the web, Sasinowski said it would also work behind the firewall of a large company concerned about security issues.

The application interface will be similar to Incogen’s VIBE tool — a drag-and-drop programming environment that allows users to build an analysis pipeline by plugging in different data types and algorithms. The underlying technology, however, will be very different from Incogen’s current offerings.

“The bottom line is that the technology we’re going to take advantage of doesn’t even exist yet,” said Sasinowski. “A lot of companies are working on web services-based technology. There’s a lot of excitement about it and we want to apply the technology to the life sciences.”

In order to qualify for the ATP grant, Incogen had to prove that the proposed technology is new, challenging, and enough of a development risk that funding from other sources would not be possible. In addition, Sasinowski said, the company had to demonstrate that it would be able to commercialize the tools and that the technology would ultimately benefit the biotechnology industry as a whole, as well as industries outside of the life sciences.

Sasinowski said the grant would allow Incogen to hire three staff members to work on the project. The company currently employs 20 people.

— BT

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