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Celera Chooses Inpharmatica to Develop Protein Structure and Interaction Database

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In a sequel to its recent database deal with GeneFormatics, Celera Genomics will team with London-based Inpharmatica to develop a joint product built around Inpharmatica’s structural bioinformatics technology and Celera’s genomic data, the companies said last week. Notably, the effort marks the first time Celera has released its entire mammalian database to a third party for processing and structure/function annotation.

The new product, called Celera Edition Biopendium, will be a premium version of Inpharmatica’s existing Biopendium database, which currently is built around public domain sequence data. The first release of the Celera Edition should be ready around the end of the first quarter of 2002, said David Ricketts, vice president for business development at Inpharmatica.

Founded in 1998, Inpharmatica’s key technology is its software for predicting protein structure and function — including putative protein-protein interactions — from sequence data. The technology was originally developed in Janet Thornton’s lab at University College London. Since July, Thornton has been research director at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton.

For 90-person Inpharmatica, the Celera deal represents an important validation of its technology. “We are delighted that Celera has chosen Inpharmatica as its partner in the application of structural bioinformatics,” said the company’s chief executive, Malcolm Weir.

Inpharmatica builds the current Biopendium database by pumping public sequence data through its software, a process that takes about three months and requires a large amount of raw computing power. Customers receive updates quarterly. The Celera Edition will include the same public data but also Celera’s human and mouse information. Ricketts expects the first version to contain around a billion predicted protein-protein interactions.

Celera and Inpharmatica will jointly market the new product and share revenue on a formula weighted toward Inpharmatica in the early days but reaching parity after certain revenue targets are hit, said Ricketts. An annual license for the database is expected to cost around $2 million for a mid-sized pharmaceutical customer. Customers who do not already subscribe to the Celera Discovery System will also be required to purchase a minimal Celera license, he said.

As a starting point, both companies are expected to try to upgrade their existing customers to the new product. Inpharmatica’s largest customers for the existing Biopendium are Pfizer, Genentech, and Serono, of which the first two are also Celera Discovery System users.

As part of the deal, the companies have also cross-licensed each others’ databases for their internal drug discovery efforts.

Ricketts said the companies have been in serious negotiations since early this year. The Inpharmatica negotiating team was headed by Edith Cookson, director of business development. On the Celera side, responsibility for the joint Biopendium product will fall to Tony Kerlavage, Celera’s senior director for product strategy. — DW

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