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UPDATE: Eyeing Proteomics Space, IBM Agrees to Help Proteome Systems Launch its Proteomics Platform

NEW YORK, Nov. 21 — Proteome Systems' deal with IBM to develop and co-market its proteomics platform, announced on Tuesday, is believed to be a boost to the Australian company's clout in its market space.  


Although Sydney-based Proteome Systems has yet to release its proteomics platform, IBM represents the last in a list of instrument and equipment suppliers that the company has assembled to help take the product to market, said Keith Williams, Proteome Systems' CEO.


The company's proteomics platform, known as ProteomIQ, is an integrated 2D gel-based system for separating and identifying large numbers of proteins. Proteome Systems has assembled a team of instrument suppliers to provide the elements of the system, including Sigma-Aldrich, Millipore, Shimadzu Biotech, and Thermo Finnigan.


Armonk, NY-based IBM will supply the IT infrastructure for the platform, including hardware, middleware, and support and training for customers. Additionally, Proteome Systems will have access to IBM's worldwide sales and marketing force, who will help market the entire proteomics package, said Williams.


Unlike IBM's previous proteomics deals with MDS Proteomics and Structural Bioinformatics, IBM will not be taking an equity stake in Proteome Systems. "It's really very commercially focused," Williams said of the partnership with IBM. "The intention is to just get out there fast [with the proteomics analysis platform]."


The collaboration also involves some degree of participation from IBM on the development of Proteome Systems' platform. Because Proteome Systems conducts its own proteomics discovery research in addition to selling the analysis platform, the company's internal research will serve as a testing ground for IBM hardware, middleware, and other IT products. In fact, Proteome Systems will soon upgrade the server running its internal proteomics research to IBM's p690, or Regatta, UNIX server, Williams said.


Proteome Systems also has access to IBM's R&D facilities as part of the partnership, Williams said, which may provide additional avenues for the two companies to work together. Proteome Systems has already had initial discussions with IBM's computational biology group, Williams said.


These types of relationships may prove beneficial in the long run, but when ProteomIQ hits the market next year it will have to compete with Bio-Rad and Amersham Pharmacia, two other large and entrenched suppliers of 2D gel-based proteomics analysis systems. It will be difficult for companies such as Proteome Systems to succeed if they're trying to enter the market with standard technology, said David Walker, the business unit manager for protein discovery at Bio-Rad, of Hercules, Calif.


But Proteome Systems claims its platform is valuable not only for its technology, but also because it integrates the various analysis systems that customers would otherwise have to optimize for themselves. Furthermore, IBM's willingness to devote its sales and marketing force to ProteomIQ reflects the company's desire to find applications for its products in the life sciences, Williams said.


"Our review of the situation brought us to the conclusion that IBM is the group that really wants to take this space," he said. "We felt they were pretty hungry and pretty keen to do it and that obviously helps enormously."

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