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Persistent Buys Agilent's Software Marketing and Development Business; Eyes Expansion into Europe

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By Uduak Grace Thomas

This article has been updated to include additional details about the transaction.

Persistent Systems said this week that it will buy Agilent Technologies’ software marketing and development business based in Grenoble, France.

While the financial details of the deal were not disclosed, the acquisition is expected to wrap up by Aug. 1.

Agilent's software and development business provides data acquisition and control software for scientific instruments to the life science, environmental, energy, applied research, and other markets.

Specifically, Agilent sold Persistent the Galaxie instrument data and control system business which it acquired with Varian, an Agilent official told BioInform.

However, the firm still maintains its presence in the the instrument data/control market with its OpenLAB CDS suite which encompasses the ChemStation and EZChrom Elite systems as well as an electronic lab notebook and an enterprise content management system.

The divestment will not impact Agilent's bioinformatics business as well as its software platforms for mass spectrometry data acquisition and interpretation.

Pune, India-based Persistent, an outsource software development firm, said the new arm will contribute to its "strategic thrust" in the life sciences and healthcare markets.

Specifically, the acquisition brings a team that has a history spanning 15 years with a "significant amount" of domain expertise and provides an inroad for Persistent to expand its client base in the European market via a location that’s considered “a technology hub,” Peter Boler, vice president of Persistent's life sciences and healthcare group, told BioInform.

The purchase adds 30 new employees to Persistent's existing workforce, which currently includes more than 40 life sciences domain experts and over 500 software professionals working on services to support laboratory instrumentation, bioinformatics, and chemical informatics projects for companies in the life sciences and healthcare markets.

On the life sciences side, the company develops software products for a client list that includes companies such as Agilent and Bruker. It also markets a laboratory information management system that’s targeted at pharmaceutical companies and develops drivers for use in laboratory instruments such as high-performance liquid chromatographs.

As part of its services for the space, the firm develops algorithms for secondary and tertiary sequence analysis, new tools for sequence data visualization, and customizes open-source sequence analysis tools. It also provides services for gene expression analysis, proteomics, and metabolomics among research areas.

The company has collaborated with several groups to deploy the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid. In 2009, it helped both Christiana Care Health System, a private healthcare system in the mid-Atlantic states (BI 06/12/2009), and the University of Edinburgh's Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (BI 05/22/2009), adopt the caTissue suite, an open-source tissue banking repository tool.

It also partnered with the University of California, Davis, to develop caELMIR 2, or the Electronic Laboratory Management Information Resource — a laboratory information management system that is compliant with caBIG (BI 11/12/2009).

Persistent also services the technology, telecommunications, healthcare, consumer packaged goods, and financial services industries.

Boler said the new hires will maintain their current roles and will initially focus on software solutions for life sciences although it is possible that the team might also work on other aspects of the company's business that aren’t exclusive to the space, such as its cloud computing offering.

Besides providing services, Persistent is looking to expand its intellectual property in addition to its LIMS package, Boler said, adding that the new Grenoble-based team will play a role in that process.

Currently, Persistent is discussing what those products will be, but they will not compete with its existing customers' offerings. Rather, "what I see are opportunities to develop complementary products for their existing products," Boler said.

As an example, there is a lot of opportunity to develop management software for chromatography datasets including tools to improve accessibility to data, he said.

As part of its expansion plans, Persistent plans to establish what it calls a Life Sciences Center of Excellence in Grenoble in an effort to bring its software solutions and services offerings to the market.

Globally, the firm will have to contend with competition from other outsource software development companies such as Mindteck, Mphasis, and Infosys, all of which provide similar services and have a presence in the life science space.

However the added industry experience its new staff members bring will help keep Persistent ahead, Boler said.

"Most of what you would see in a competitive world [is that] somebody needs a product developer and they hire somebody who doesn’t have a lot of domain expertise," he told BioInform. "To my knowledge, we are unique in that we have this type of team that has come out of this industry that is fully intact ... nobody else can compete with that."


Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com.

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