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Swiss Bioinformatics Firm Launches Plans To Expand its Business in Japan, America

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GeneData, a Basel, Switzerland-based developer of bioinformatics tools that analyze various types of genomics data, is currently planning to step up its marketing efforts to expand its customer base in the United States and Japan.

“At the moment the majority of our customers are in Europe,” said Andreas Hohn, GeneData’s director of business development and marketing. “One of our biggest goals is to become just as strong in the US and Japan.”

To date, GeneData has a total of about 25 pharma and biotech licensees for several of its various software products, which are designed to analyze gene expression, proteomic, and comparative genomic data.

Most recently, the company, which has sales representatives in both the United States and Japan, announced that Japan’s National Institute of Technology and Evaluation licensed the Phylosopher software and that Novartis, already a user of the Expressionist gene expression software, also signed up for Phylosopher.

Hohn said that annual licenses go for several hundred thousand dollars to up to $1 million for an annual, company-wide license.

GeneData was spun off from Novartis in 1997. At the time the Novartis Venture Fund made an angel investment of an undisclosed amount in GeneData, allowing former Novartis employees to start the company.

Over the course of the next few years, the company developed five software tools. In addition to the Expressionist and Phylosopher software packages, GeneData also markets Impressionist for protein expression data analysis. The company is currently working with unnamed development partners for Screener, a high-throughput data analysis tool, and Metabolist for metabolic profiling.

Unlike most software companies, GeneData does not have a single patent for the tools. Instead, Hohn said the company relies on secrecy as well as on the company’s commitment to continuously develop its tools to maintain a tough hold on its intellectual property.

Hohn said GeneData, which counts Rosetta Inpharmatics and Lion Bioscience among its main competitors, became profitable this year and is hoping to go public in about two years.

The company, which now has 45 employees, up from 30 a year ago, is hoping to have a headcount of 50-60 by the end of 2001. Of its current employees, 36 are bioinformaticists.

— JF

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