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Incyte Launches 20/20 Initiative to Build the Biotech Customer Base for its Data Products

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Incyte is loosening its licensing terms and lowering its prices in a bid to expand its database business into the biotech sector — a relatively untapped market for the company.

At this week’s Drug Discovery Technology conference in Boston, Incyte will introduce its “20/20” initiative, which grants biotech customers a 20-week online subscription to its information products with a 20 percent reduction in the cost of the license during that time. According to Jim Merryweather, executive vice president of business development and commercial operations at Incyte, access for a single user at a “typical biotech” under the program would run around $60,000.

The program is a radical departure from the company’s long-standing subscription model, which locks in customers for multi-year licenses, requires in-house installation behind company firewalls, and ranges in the millions of dollars. In addition, customers are required to pre-negotiate licensing terms for commercial development of all the intellectual property contained within Incyte’s information coffers. While this arrangement may be attractive to large pharmaceutical companies engaged in multiple research areas, it is unnecessary for most biotechs, and has placed the products at a price orders of magnitude beyond what most can afford.

But those days are over, according to Merryweather. “Quite frankly, Incyte has not been effective penetrating biotech as an information company over the years,” he said. The mission of the 20/20 campaign is to essentially re-launch Incyte’s data business in a format — and price — more attractive to the biotech market.

The low-priced online subscription model may sound suspiciously similar to failed bioinformatics portals of yesteryear, but Incyte is counting on its proprietary content — as well as a new linkage capability between the company’s LifeSeq Foundation, ZooSeq, and Proteome BioKnowledge Library — to pique the interest of potential buyers.

The company will introduce a number of enhancements at DDT, including over 1,000 “disease-view” reports that consolidate information that was previously available only on a protein-by-protein basis; new expression data for mouse, rat, dog, and monkey; and cross-species ortholog pairings between human, mouse, and rat.

The marketing initiative comes as Incyte’s information business revenues are plummeting. Last week, the company disclosed that its second-quarter 2003 revenues dropped 62 percent year-over-year — down to $11.0 million in Q2 2003 from $29.1 million in Q2 2002 [BioInform 08-04-03]. Since Incyte has until now focused its attention on the pharmaceutical market and largely ignored biotech, there’s a chance that the new model will drive a much-needed sales boost. On the other hand, Incyte isn’t the first data provider to tweak its offering for a lower-budget customer base: Celera launched a lower-priced database to target the academic sector in February.

But according to Merryweather, the 20/20 initiative is hitting the market just as the biotech market prepares to loosen its purse strings a bit. “There’s a point at which you can circle the wagons, but anyone in research knows there’s a limited time frame to get through a tough season. It’s inevitable that at some point they’re going to need to enhance the data they could generate themselves.”

— BT

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