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Jean-Jaques Codani, President and CEO, Gene-IT

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AT A GLANCE

PhD in computer science, specialized in high-performance computing.

Prior to co-founding GeneIT in 1998, led the bioinformatics project at INRIA (French National Research Institute in Computer Science and Control) and consulted with Genethon.

Won French IBM numeric intensive award in 1992 for the physical mapping of the human genome.

Enjoys skiing, literature, and spending time with his family.

QWhere will bioinformatics be in two years? Five years?

AAt the time being, the bioinformatics community is hardly addressing the simple question, “How distant is the mouse from the human?” Within five years, about 500 prokaryotic genomes and tens of mammalian ones will be sequenced and bioinformatics will be needed more than ever to mine all that sequence data.

QWhat are the biggest challenges the bioinformatics sector faces?

AIntegrating, analyzing, and viewing various types of biological data is the standard, obvious answer. Needless to say this is important, but people must be aware that browsing data and generating knowledge from data are very different processes. Scientists know they won’t get a drug by collecting generic, pre-chewed data and then clicking on a button. Let’s go back to science — that’s the biggest challenge the bioinformatics sector should be facing in the short term.

From a more general perspective, educating computer scientists to understand the science, and educating biologists to understand software design are indispensable.

QWhat do you see as the most important task for bioinformatics to address beyond genome sequence analysis?

AWe collaborated with Genoscope to estimate the number of human genes by directly comparing the pufferfish genome to that of the human. Now, 16 months later, the debate is still open and far from being closed. I would say bioinformatics could keep us busy for the next 20 years just analyzing sequence data.

QWho are your current customers?

AGene-IT has a portfolio of customers with very different needs. They are primarily European and include AFM/CNRS, BioMerieux, the European Bioinformatics Institute, Derwent Ltd., Genoscope, InfoBiogen, NV Organon, Pasteur Institute, Rhobio Aventis Cropscience, Servier Labs, and Dupont de Nemours.

QWith what companies do you have partnerships?

AWe have a strategic alliance with a pharmaceutical company. As for partnerships, we think our technology can perfectly complement different ones from other bioinformatics companies, such as those used for data management and gene expression analysis software.

QWhat non-existing technology is number one on your customers’ wish list?

ACommercial software is supposed to be robust but far from the cutting edge of research, whereas academic software aims to provide good science, but is difficult to rely on. Commercial, high-performance scientific software at the cutting edge of research is what our customers need. That’s what we aim to provide.

QWhat is the company’s annual revenue? Are you profitable?

AGene-IT is a privately held company with SocietÈ GÈnÈrale Asset Management (SGAM) as its major investor. Since its start, in 1998, Gene-IT has been profitable.

QWhat products do you have in the development pipeline?

AWe are developing FACET to speed up high-similarity searching and clustering of sequences. FACET speeds up the Blast search algorithm by at least two orders of magnitude on conventional hardware platforms.

QWhat made you decide to enter a career in bioinformatics?

AWhile doing research on high-performance computing at INRIA in the 1990s, I had the chance to be involved in the global physical mapping of the human genome conducted at Genethon’s laboratories. I then definitely and completely switched to bioinformatics.

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