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Stefansson Sure of Success as DeCode Takes Bioinformatics Tools to Market

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With its recently hatched plan to “vigorously” market its bioinformatics tools, DeCode Genetics may soon be perceived as a key player in the sector, said Kari Stefansson, president and CEO.

“We are still much better known for our gene finding and discovery, but I predict that pretty soon we will become equally well known for the software systems we are developing,” Stefansson said.

Stefansson said that DeCode has invested “enormously” in bioinformatics to serve its unique research needs. Around 30 percent of the company’s staff is currently charged with developing software and algorithms, and that number is expected to grow as the software aspect of the business gains momentum.

DeCode has developed software systems for genetic analysis, genotyping, and project management. The company has also built a suite of software systems called the Clinical Genome Browser that Stefansson said is “designed to make the data in the sequence of the human genome user friendly.” The browser places genomic information in the context of genotyping, disease, and SNP data so that users can mine the various data sets at once.

DeCode has also focused on software systems to protect the privacy of the participants in the company’s population genetics research.

The decision to begin marketing its bioinformatics tools was made last year, and the company is just now ramping up its efforts in that area. DeCode has several customers already and Stefansson expects to sign up many more in the near future.

While he did not reveal the specifics of the company’s licensing terms, Stefansson said there would be different pricing plans for academic and commercial customers.

Stefansson said the sequencing of the human genome made evident the fundamental fact that “the basic unit of life is a bit of information stored in a relatively simple code — much simpler than Java at least.”

This influenced DeCode’s decision to gradually shift its emphasis toward informatics and data mining.

“I think it is clear that the primary enabling technology when it comes to developing new understanding and knowledge in biology will come out of the toolkit of bioinformatics, not from molecular trickery,” Stefansson said.

Stefansson is confident that DeCode will be able to compete in the tough bioinformatics market because its tools are a product of its discovery efforts.

“Our genome browser has been built by people who have been using the sequence, while other software systems have been put together by people generating the sequence,” Stefansson said. “It’s a great advantage to be developing the tool in the context of the kind of work that the user eventually wants to do with it.”

Stefansson is equally undaunted by current dismal market conditions.

“We will weather this. The market is going to come back. We are very well financed, our revenue prospects are good, and I think that we will survive this and do well,” he said.

— BT

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