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Vincent Zurawski, Chief Executive Officer, Compugen


AT A GLANCE: PhD in chemistry from Purdue University. Served as director of research business development at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Health System. Founder of DNA-based vaccine developer Apollon and co-founder of Centocor. Hobbies include tennis, genealogical research, and writing fiction.

QWhere will bioinformatics be in two years? Five years?

ACompugen, like other companies engaged in the study of the human genome, transcriptome, and proteome, is in the first phases of the study of the languages of life. Living organisms communicate within and between cells using these languages, which might be called “transcriptomics” and “proteomics.” Only in the last year, computational and experimental biologists, like lexicographers and lexicologists working together, finally began to write the complete dictionary of transcripts and proteins. These researchers are piecing together a cryptographic puzzle and beginning to validate the existence of words composed of alphabets of nucleotides and amino acids, perhaps more than 100,000 words, for example, in each of the lexicons of the human dialect of transcriptomics and proteomics.

Yet all the words in even a single species dialect remain unknown. And their meanings have also remained largely unknown. In the next two years, the experimentalists and cryptographers will, with luck, complete the list of words in several dialects of these languages of life. In the next five years the meanings of many of these words will be discovered by the experimental and computational lexicologists and added to each of the relevant dictionaries. Then finally, biological scientists may begin to discover the rules of grammar and syntax enabling the understanding and speaking of the languages of life in more than just a rudimentary fashion. Like linguists they will revel in their ability to communicate in these languages. And they will long for the first poets who can write the elegant verse that will serve to cure disease and even prevent it.

QWhat do you see as the most important task for bioinformatics to address beyond the sequencing of the genome?

AClearly, the completion of the dictionary of human transcriptomics ranks as the next great task on which the lexicographers and lexicologists of life are embarked. Compugen has already made great strides in contributing to this effort by developing, using, and making available to researchers its algorithms in the company’s LEADS and Gencarta software platforms. In addition, Compugen’s molecular biologists have begun the exciting process of validating the authenticity of the individual words in the lexicon and defining their meanings.

QWho are your current customers?

ACurrently, Compugen is selling its LEADS and Gencarta platforms as well as its DNA Chip design solution and Z3 software application for analyzing two-dimensional gels to numerous research scientists in academic and government laboratories. In addition, biotechnology and pharmaceutical customers include, among others, Avalon Pharmaceuticals, Aventis Pharma, Genentech, Motorola, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble. Compugen also continues to sell its accelerator hardware BioXLp and software to the US Patent and Trademark Office in addition to Bayer, Incyte, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, and SmithKline Beecham, just to name a few. Compugen expects to expand its customer base by selling these products to many additional researchers among commercial and academic laboratories in the coming months.

QWhat is Compugen’s annual revenue? Is the company profitable?

AInvestment bank research analysts have projected annual revenues of $12-$13 million for Compugen this year with profitability occurring during the second half of 2003.

QFrom where does the Company’s financing come?

ALast year, following a $35 million private mezzanine financing, Compugen raised $53 million in an initial public offering of the company’s common stock on Nasdaq. In addition, Compugen continues to sell products and services that generate significant revenue for the company. At the close of the first quarter Compugen reported more than $87 million in cash reserves.

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