Proteomics startup Caprion Pharmaceuticals has enlisted the aid of three IT heavyweights in the development of its new bioinformatics platform. Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and CGI have agreed to collaborate on Caprion’s platform for proteomic disease modeling.
Sun and Oracle will contribute servers, storage, and infrastructure technology to the project, while CGI (Conseillers et Gastion et Informatique) will provide systems integration capability. Oracle Consulting will also design a data warehouse as part of the collaboration.
Caprion will combine these tools with its cell biology and mass spectrometry techniques to analyze, map, and store the protein differences between normal and diseased cells. The platform will be part of Caprion’s CellCarta proteomics offering, which the company provides to its partners and also uses to develop its own diagnostic and therapeutic products.
Sun, Oracle, and CGI have partnered to develop IT platforms for other firms in the past, but although Sun and Oracle have a number of life science partnerships behind them, this is CGI’s first foray into bioinformatics. “We haven’t been very active in the life sciences area and we see this deal as important for us in terms of opening doors,” said Bernard Gagnon, CGI’s architect for the Caprion project.
“We are very interested in positioning ourselves in the life sciences,” said Muriel McGrath, CGI’s project director for the Caprion account.
Segal said that Caprion conducted an industry-wide request for proposals for the project between February and May “to virtually every player that is out there.” The Sun/Oracle/CGI triumvirate “was by far the winner,” he said.
The decision to outsource the project was an obvious one for Segal, who said Caprion’s staff is skilled in writing software to run on an individual proteome scale, but needed the experience of its new partners to address the scale of the new undertaking.
“Where biotech companies usually get it wrong is thinking that if they can build a garage they can build a skyscraper,” said Segal.
Sun will provide Enterprise-class servers, Sun StorEdge systems, and the Solaris operating environment as part of the deal. Oracle is providing its Oracle database as the software foundation for the project, while Oracle Consulting will design and develop the pipeline data warehouse. CGI will provide system integration, consultation, project management, and development for this project.
Caprion will house the platform in a data center, which will fill 7,000-8,000 square feet of a 54,000 square foot R&D facility that is currently in the last stages of construction. Caprion had previously said the R&D center would be complete by mid-April, but Segal said the entire structure had to be reworked to accommodate the new data effort. The company is scheduled to move into the facility on August 15. The data center will process up to 100 terabytes of information per year, and will be maintained by CGI for five years.
Caprion expects to spend around $25-28 million over the next three years in developing the proteomics data center, and Sun, Oracle, and CGI will collectively contribute over $5 million in software, hardware, and integration services.
While Gagnon said the Caprion project offers a number of unique challenges for CGI compared to the “regular business systems we see in most companies,” he has already drafted a complete architecture and it has been reviewed and accepted.
Segal said that Caprion has also begun writing search algorithms for whole-genome searching and matching with Sun and Oracle.
Caprion has raised a total of $38.2 million to date. Segal said that over 90 percent of the company’s focus is currently on partnered programs, although he declined to reveal who the company’s partners are. He said the company expects to announce its first partnered program in the fall.