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News Briefs from the Bio-IT World Conference Floor: Nov 18, 2002 (rev. 1)


IBM Plans to Triple Partner Base in 2003

IBM said last week that it has surpassed its partnership goals for the life sciences market for this year. The company launched an initiative to recruit new partners in February, and now counts up to 100 partner companies in the market, said Anne-Marie Derouault, director of business alliances and distribution channel management at IBM.

But it won’t stop there. Derouault said IBM aims to triple that number by the end of next year across all four of its focus areas in life sciences: high-performance computing, data management, e-clinicals, and information-based medicine.

Last week, IBM added Daon, a biometrics company, and Edgewater, a clinical trials systems integrator, to its list.

IBM seeks partners on various levels, Derouault said: independent software vendors, resellers, and system integrators. The company has launched a formalized three-step training program to get its new partners up to speed on IBM’s product line. In addition, new partners — particularly resellers and integrators lacking domain experience — are given a crash course in biology.

Once qualified, partners are then entitled to marketing development funds, co-marketing campaigns, regional joint seminars, or other sales and marketing support from IBM.


Entelos Readies New Data Center

Entelos is moving from its current home in Menlo Park, Calif., to new digs in Foster City with plenty of room to grow, said Alex Bangs, CTO.

The new facility will allow the company to bring its computer power — currently co-located — in house for the first time. The company currently has 125 Intel Linux processors spread across two clusters. Hewlett-Packard recently donated a 27-processor Alpha biocluster in support of Entelos’ Diabetes Research Forum, and Bangs said the farm could grow as large as 250 processors by the middle of next year.

The new surroundings will also have space for the company to add wet labs if it so chooses in the future, Bangs said.

Entelos is also working on expanding its PhysioLab simulation platform to work in new disease areas, including cancer and immunology.


Versant Sees Biology as Perfect Match for its Object Database

Versant, a provider of object data management systems since 1988, has tapped life sciences as a key market for its object database technology.

The company just signed a deal with the Science Factory to build the Versant Developer Suite into berTool, Science Factory’s workflow-based bioinformatics analytic system.

UberTool is based on a biological object model, making it a good fit with Versant’s technology. Versant is hoping that other bioinformatics organizations heavily dependent on object models will follow suit. Robert Greene, director of systems engineering at Versant, said that early vendors of object databases weren’t able to offer enterprise solutions, which kept the market for the technology relatively low. Versant was able to survive those early days, and rose to success on the back of the telecom market. But the subsequent crash there left the company looking for new horizons.

Olav Zimmermann, director of customer relations of Science Factory, said the company’s product provides “a vast network of objects that stores molecular and experimental datatypes including sequences, expression data, metabolic pathways, and more. Eliminating object-relational mapping of this network by using Versant VDS enabled us to get a powerful and polished product to market fast.”


Encyclopedia of Life Goes Commercial

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) project, an academic effort to annotate the proteome launched a year ago at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, has spawned a commercial branch that will provide data and services based on the EOL to industry.

“We’re following the Swiss-Prot model,” said David Stoner, who makes up half the staff of the commercial effort, called Encyclopedia Proteomics.

The company at first plans to provide custom protein annotation services to commercial firms. Once the EOL gets rolling and more data is accumulated, the company will sell subscriptions to the complete catalog of protein annotation, called the Proteome Encyclopedia.

Early subscribers to the project pay between $50,000 and $350,000 for annotation services and also receive a one-third discount on the annual encyclopedia subscription fee for seven years, a three-month black-out on the use of custom annotation by other customers, and shared IP rights for some custom annotation.

A web-based query and visualization interface for the EOL is currently in development, and is expected to come on line in the second quarter of 2003.

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