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Silicon Genetics Signs First GeNet Customer; Contemplates Going Public in Three Months

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Silicon Genetics has sold its enterprise-wide gene expression software application, GeNet, to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, marking the first commercial sale of the product.

The two-year deal will cost the foundation somewhere in the six-figure range. GeNet and the company’s desktop product GeneSpring are being installed on 20 workstations to be used in the foundation’s three core research labs. The products will also be accessible throughout the university, secured by a password system.

As the market for these and other tools grows, the company is considering an initial public offering some three months down the road, said CEO Andrew Conway.

“This is the first product we’ve licensed on an enterprise-wide basis,” said Silicon Genetics CFO Michael Bates. “Serving a hospital is not unusual, when it’s a research organization, though most of our business is from large pharmaceutical companies and biotechs.”

The foundation, an arm of the University of Cincinnati, was one of 20 different research firms and companies that beta-tested GeNet, a Web-enabled system for storing, finding, and publishing gene expression data.

“GeNet is an intranet for gene expression data,” said Bates.

GeNet’s analytical tools, which enable a user to move among different kinds of stored data, made for a good match with the foundation’s needs.

“When we upgraded to a group license for GeneSpring we also got GeNet,” said Bruce Aronow, associate professor in the department of Biology of the University of Cincinnati.

The foundation, which is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has had individual desktop licenses for GeneSpring for more than a year. Aronow said that the GeNet technology would enhance the foundation’s ability to explore tissue-specific human diseases and developmental biology for eventual uses like drug development.

The foundation will use GeNet to manage information from Incyte Genomics and Affymetrix chips as well as from its in-house microarrays. Information from any of these can then be stored, annotated, and retrieved using a Web browser or GeneSpring.

The foundation is implementing the version of GeNet that comes with an Oracle back-end. “We have outstanding expertise in Oracle already,” said Aronow.

Aronow also hopes that University of Cincinnati undergraduate genetics students will take advantage of GeNet’s functionality and user interface.

“They can easily explore biological phenomena at the genomic level,” said Aronow. The program is already being used by graduate students, who learn how to use genomic applications in the field of molecular biology.

— Martha Heil

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