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News Briefs from the ICSB 2004 Conference Floor

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Biomax Previews Systems Biology Platform, Raises €2.25M

Biomax Informatics of Martinsried, Germany, had a booth at ICSB 2004 as well as a poster previewing its BioXM Master Suite, a knowledge management platform that the company said is targeted toward systems biology.

The platform, expected to be available for beta testing by the end of the year, is based on a three-part framework: a process graph that represents biological processes; annotation objects that represent an information network; and an ontology.

Biomax also announced during the conference that it had raised €2.25 million ($2.75 million) in venture capital funding.

Investors included BayBG Bayerische Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Ecos Venture Capital Beteiligungs, and S-UBG Bayern Gesellschaft f r Unternehmensbeteiligungen.


All Systems Go for Yeast Community

An international consortium of researchers has formed the Yeast Systems Biology Network, a coordinated effort to integrate experimental and computational studies of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

YSBN, which was first formed over the summer, held a workshop meeting after the main ICSB conference last week. The effort’s primary objective is to create a web-based resource (http://www.ysbn.org) to which the research community can contribute data and mathematical models. “The vision is to generate reference models for all cellular processes of budding yeast,” according to a brochure distributed at the conference.

YSBN co-founder Hiroaki Kitano told BioInform that the international effort isn’t seeking funding from any single source, but is more of a way for the yeast systems biology community “to work on the science, and agree upon the issues and some standards.”

Kitano said that the YSBN will coordinate its efforts with the Saccharomyces Genome Database.


Bioinformatics Startups Hawk Their Wares to ICSB Crowd

Several new bioinformatics companies were among the exhibitors at ICSB 2004:

InNetics, headquartered in Linkoping, Sweden, was demonstrating its PathwayLab software, which the company released in September. PathwayLab can be used to draw and share pathway-based models, and also serves as a simulation tool, said Johan Gunnarsson, CEO. Gunnarsson said the company, which was founded in 2002 as a spin-out from technical simulation firm MathCore, has been developing PathwayLab in collaboration with pharmaceutical customers, including AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, Biovitrum, and Arexis. The list price for the software ranges from $1,500 to $3,950.

IT-Omics, of Lille, France, was also demonstrating a pathway software tool called LSGraph. The software mines the scientific literature to build biological networks that integrate in-house functional genomics data. Moez Majed, business development manager for the company, said that the company licensed LSGraph to Aventis, Proskelia, and UCB Pharma earlier this year, and most recently licensed it to Galderma, a dermatology joint venture between Nestlé and L’Oréal.

Yet another pathway analysis package, InSilico Discovery 1.1, from Stuttgart-based InSilico Biotechnology, was on view at the conference. The software allows users to lay out their own cellular networks, and import pathways and reactions from other models or databases.

Quantiom Bioinformatics, based in Weingarten, Germany, was founded in 2003 by scientists from the Universities of Karlsruhe and Heidelberg and the German Cancer Research Center. The four-person company offers software and bioinformatics services in a number of areas, but specializes in building process workflows for analytical tasks, according to CEO Martin Granzow.


IBM to Add Systems Bio Module to DB2

IBM will soon be adding a systems biology module to its DB2 database, according to Jeremy Rice of IBM Research.

Rice discussed a project underway at IBM to discover motifs, or sub-patterns, within large biological networks. The method uses heuristics to reduce the combinatorial complexity of the problem, Rice said, and is unsupervised, so it has the potential to identify motifs that were not known previously.

The company is “working on incorporating these methods into a DB2 extension,” Rice said.


Germany Commits to Systems Biology

In addition to serving as the host nation for this year’s International Conference on Systems Biology, Germany has launched a number of initiatives to ensure its role as a leading player in the international systems biology community.

Two days before the meeting started, the city of Heidelberg broke ground on a new center for systems biology called BioQuant. Located within a technology park associated with the University of Heidelberg, the 7-floor, 7,000-square-meter building will house a multidisciplinary network of biologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists. It is expected to be completed in the summer of 2006.

In addition, conference organizers held a press conference for the local media on the first day of the meeting to raise awareness of the field itself, as well as a national systems biology initiative called Systems of Life that will provide €50 million ($62 million) over five years to support a consortium of public and private researchers working to develop an in silico model of the human liver cell.

German Universities are also involved in several systems biology projects funded by the European Commission’s FP6 funding framework, including EUSYSBIO, a general systems biology development initiative; SYMBIONIC, a project to build an in silico model of a neuronal cell; and EMI-CD, a biological modeling initiative geared toward complex diseases.

 

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