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The Information Business Is in Flux. Do You Know Where Your Database Is?

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Celera’s recent about-face is only one example of how bioinformatics data providers are coping with the disappointing market value of their offerings. DoubleTwist and Entigen are still seeking buyers for their databases, while Proteome has revised its pricing structure. The latest status of these databases follows, for subscribers and others who may be keeping track:

Bala Manian, chairman of the board at Entigen, told BioInform that the company’s tools and assets are currently “being held in abeyance” while he seeks a buyer for the technology.

“The company’s not closed down,” he said. “I’m working on trying to find a home for the technology and I’m in discussions with several people.” Manian said the company is attempting to sell its technology in one piece rather than splitting it between several buyers.

According to a contractor who answered the phone at Entigen’s Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters, CEO Denise Gilbert has left the company to take “some personal time.”

DoubleTwist, meanwhile, is also selling to the highest bidder with the help of Los Angeles-based business advisory firm Sherwood Partners. Rob Williamson, the company’s former CEO and president, recently told BioInform’s sister publication Genomeweb.com that the company’s assets may be divided between several bidders, but did not disclose who these companies were.

One piece of the company’s technology is alive and well, however: The AGAVE XML format that DoubleTwist developed to help annotate its human genome database has resurfaced at the website of former senior software architect Brian King (www.animorphics.net).

King, a co-designer of AGAVE (Architecture for Genomic Annotation, Visualization, and Exchange), said that the standard was released under an open source license similar to the Apache license. Any third party can redistribute and use it, but modifications to the original format must be released under a different name. DoubleTwist owns the AGAVE trademark, which will presumably pass on to whoever picks up the rest of the company’s assets, but the underlying format will remain open, according to King. As for his post-DoubleTwist career, King said he’s still looking for work, but is enjoying the opportunity to do some projects on his own.

Proteome, a subsidiary of Incyte Genomics, has done away with the free-for-academics licensing model for its BioKnowledge Library. As of June 1, paid subscriptions to the web-based service will be required for access at $2,000 per year/per lab. The company noted on its website that the paid subscription would give academic, non-profit, and government users access to features that were not available to them through the complementary subscription. In addition to YPD (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), PombePD (Schizosaccaharomyces pombe), and WormPD (Caenorhabditis elegans), these users will now have access to MycoPath (human fungal pathogen database), HumanPSD (the Proteome Survey Database for human, mouse, and rat), and GPCR-PD (G protein-coupled receptors for human, mouse, and rat).

A Proteome spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

— BT

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