Mass spec data analysis software company ProteoMetrics is literally a shell of its former self: On February 7, Genomic Solutions of Ann Arbor, Mich., scooped out the five-year-old protein informatics company’s software to form the seed of a new subsidiary, Proteomic Solutions.
Founded in 1997 by Rockefeller University’s Brian Chait and former lab members Ron Beavis and David Fenyö to commercialize their protein identification software, ProteoMetrics shut its midtown Manhattan headquarters two weeks ago and sent the 40 or so employees it housed packing. The company’s 11-employee Winnipeg office, led by former ProteoMetrics CEO Beavis, will become the new Proteomics Solutions. Fenyö, former CSO and president, will take on the role of director of proteomics at Genomic Solutions, working remotely from his home in New York.
The acquisition began in July as a software co-development deal to integrate Genomic Solutions’ Investigator Protein Warehouse data management software with ProteoMetrics’ Radars mass spec analysis system. At the time, neither company was reticent about the possibility of the partnership ending in an acquisition. “We’ve been on the market to be invested in or acquired for the last three or four months, ProteoMetrics spokesman Gould Porter told BioInform in July.
Genomic Solutions entered the partnership with “a right of first refusal” to either acquire ProteoMetrics or its technology, said Genomic Solutions spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy.
Meanwhile, as ProteoMetrics’ efforts to seek funding proved futile, an acquisition began looking like the better option. In May, the company hired e-commerce veteran Doug Lockyear as co-CEO to lead its hunt for VC investors. By November Lockyear stepped down, “because of several reasons, but mainly because that was his job — to bring in the funding — and that wasn’t happening,” said Jennifer Krone, who was VP of scientific consulting at ProteoMetrics and is now proteomics specialist with Genomic Solutions.
Neither company would comment on the cost of the acquisition.
Putting 2 and 2D Together
Both companies were quick to insist that their complementary software offerings stand at the core of the deal.
“We really were looking to expand beyond just handling mass spectral data,” said Krone. “Our customers have been asking to bring in more of the front end, whether it be 2D gel or some sort of HPLC separations.”
Genomic Solutions, on the other hand, offers hardware and software for the pre-mass spec steps of protein separation. What both companies have in common is instrument-agnostic software that is not tied to a specific vendor’s mass spectrometers.
Said Krone, “We liked them because they not only have hardware but they have a software package that does image analysis all the way through picking the spots to digesting … And they are mass spec-neutral like we are, so it seemed like a good fit. They’ve brought in the front end.”
Genomic Solutions intends to continue developing and marketing the full line of ProteoMetrics’ products, which include Radars, Knexus, Profound, Sonar, and other tools. “We’re going to now be able to offer our full complement, but with a very strong bioinformatics package,” said Murphy.
In addition, the co-development project that began in July has generated a new product that links together the companies’ flagship software products. PWRHouse (pronounced PowerHouse), as the integrated Protein Warehouse/ Radars product is called, is expected to be the first platform to combine techniques for 2D gel analysis with mass spec analysis. The platform relies on BioML (biopolymer markup language), a proprietary XML format developed by ProteoMetrics and Rockefeller University, to integrate and manage biological information.
PWRHouse could be launched as soon as this quarter, according to Genomic Solutions. The product just entered in-house testing this week, “and then it will go to some of our early access customers — Cornell University and Genencor — a couple weeks after that,” said Krone.
The price tag: $150,000.
— Aaron J. Sender