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NetGenics and Pfizer Collaborate to Integrate R&D Systems via Synergy

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CLEVELAND--NetGenics has begun collaborating with Pfizer to use the software firm's Synergy bioinformatics platform to integrate multidisciplinary research initiatives across Pfizer's global offices. This effort will connect drug discovery data and scientists across the biology and chemistry spectrum at the drug company.

It is not clear which Pfizer sites are involved in the project. Both Manuel Glynias, president and CEO of NetGenics and a Pfizer spokeswoman declined to name the offices participating in the development, although they both emphasized the global nature of the project. However, the spokeswoman did say that the pharmaceutical company has major R&D facilities in Groton, Conn., Sandwich, UK, Amboise, France, Nagoya, Japan, and Terre Haute, Ind., in addition to a "significant" research team at its New York headquarters. "We have about 50,000 employees around the world and about 7,000 are R&D staff," she added.

NetGenics will create a dynamic data-formatting and presentation application based on Synergy's framework. The new software will be the hub for

information on drug discovery projects, enabling Pfizer researchers to exchange and query data within an interactive work space. Collecting data in Synergy will allow updates to information to be made in real-time and without disrupting endusers, according to NetGenics

With the first phase due for delivery in September, the collaboration has already yielded a system that is integrated to the point where it would not be easy for an outsider to identify which pieces are from Pfizer and which are from NetGenics, Glynias claimed. While the integration is not quite seamless yet, that is the ultimate goal. A phased approach was chosen so that Pfizer's staff could begin using the system as soon as possible, Glynias told Bioinform.

Pfizer's central research unit and NetGenics' software developers will all contribute software code for the project, an approach that is something of a departure for NetGenics. This is the first time "we've actually done real collaborative software design and implementation--where everybody's doing different parts of it," Glynias explained. Both companies are supplying new as well as existing code, he added.

Synergy, a system in which Glynias claimed NetGenics has invested nearly $20 million, is an object-oriented framework that can not only gather and distribute data across an enterprise, but can also ascertain how one piece of biological data relates to another. NetGenics' software treats all DNA sequences equally, which means that the same tools can be used on data from GenBank, an Incyte database, or a proprietary database from Pfizer. Having a system based on software objects allows the components to be used over and over, enabling NetGenics to develop "fairly sophisticated extensions" in a relatively short time frame, explained Glynias.

NetGenics expects to benefit by selling elements of the Pfizer project to other customers. "There are parts of this that are proprietary to Pfizer but there are significant parts--by far the majority--which are not proprietary," noted Glynias. "Those we'll be able to resell." For its part, Pfizer gets a system that will run the pharmaceutical company's proprietary content in a consistent framework, he added.

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