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New Tripos Management Takes Charge as Publicly Traded ‘Shell’ Mulls OTC Listing

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This week, the newly private Tripos launched its first software package following its acquisition by Vector Capital in mid-March, while its publicly traded counterpart faces delisting from the Nasdaq Stock Market, which deemed the firm a “public shell” on Wednesday.
 
The existence of two entities operating under the same name has led to some confusion in the marketplace, according to Jim Hopkins, CEO of the privately held discovery informatics, which has taken to calling itself the “New Tripos.”  
 
Some of the confusion could be resolved on June 28, when the “old” Tripos — just the former CEO, John McAllister — has a hearing with Nasdaq to discuss a continued listing. The company said this week that it is currently pursuing the option of listings its stock on the OTC Bulletin Board, and if this is not possible, on the Pink Sheets.
 
Hopkins told BioInform this week that the Nasdaq meeting has nothing to do with the “new” Tripos, but in a world where image is sometimes everything, that remains to be seen. He did concede that currently, there is ambiguity in the market as the two companies continue to use the same name.
 
Hopkins — appointed by San Francisco’s Vector after a long history of swooping in to salvage companies — reiterated his previous claim that the St. Louis-based discovery informatics business is on target for profitability within the year. [BioInform 03-30-07].
 
As a privately held firm, the “new” Tripos no longer has to disclose its revenues, but the publicly traded former company this week filed its quarterly financial statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for the three-month period ended March 30, which revealed that discovery informatics revenues fell 15 percent compared to the prior-year period, to $5.6 million from $6.6 million.
 
Net loss from continuing operations, meanwhile, widened to $2.6 million from $1.4 million in the comparable period of 2006.
 
The company’s bottom line should see a boost from its new status as a privately held firm, however.
 
I think, in general, the renewed focus of the company is [to go after] what its core business is, and not have to incur the costs of being a public company,” Hopkins said.
 
He added that no single issue differentiates the “new” Tripos, which he said has been “streamlined” to go after its core markets more directly.
 
Hopkins told BioInform in March that the company had “a broader product line than they really need at this point in time,” and said that the firm would review its product portfolio.
 

“I think, in general, the renewed focus of the company is [to go after] what its core business is, and not have to incur the costs of being a public company.”

That evaluation process is still ongoing, according to company spokesperson Brian Moran, who wrote via e-mail that “the new Tripos will consistently review its product portfolio to ensure it is meeting customer needs, and will adjust product strategies if necessary.”
 
This week, the company released its first product since the Vector acquisition, its Chemistry Extensions V1.0 for KNIME (see Downloads and Upgrades), but Hopkins was fairly tight-lipped on future product development plans.
 
“There are things in development, but [there] is nothing I can talk about in public yet,” Hopkins said. 
 
He said that the company’s “main focus” is to improve the usability of the flagship Sybyl product. “It hasn’t had in recent years a ‘major facelift’ in terms of changing the way workflows work, the way the user interacts with it,” he said, “so we are doing things to make it easier to work [for inexperienced users] and more convenient for experienced users, with enhanced usability.”
 
Additionally, Benchware Discovery 360, initially introduced last August, will be deployed live in November [BioInform 08-11-06].
 
Also, for the first time, Tripos’ customers will be able to buy online Benchware 3D Explorer, a product that Hopkins said has performed very well for the company.
 
Hopkins noted that “organizationally,” Tripos is still the same business. He said that he’s currently working with the firm’s European subsidiaries and was in Germany this week, “visiting customers.”
 
The trip could be evidence of how Tripos has metamorphosed after going private. “Since none of us have to pay any attention to supporting the public market, I’ve had the luxury of spending seven or eight days in Asia visiting customers, coming back, then visiting customers in Europe [for example],” Hopkins said.
 
“As CEO of a public company, I would have a hard a hard time staying away that long.”

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