Staff Writer

Accelrys Inc. and Confirmant Ltd. entered a deal to produce a database of highly annotated proteins, a collection of information that could aid in selecting drug targets and thereby accelerate drug discovery.

To that end, San Diego-based Accelrys will license its GeneAtlas software product, an application for high-throughput sequence and structure-based functional annotation, to Confirmant. The Abingdon, UK-based firm will use GeneAtlas to annotate the function of protein sequences contained within its Protein Atlas of the Human Genome, a database of proteins that can be directly mapped back to the human genome. The proteomics information contained within includes experimentally derived, protein-coding genes and their expression in a variety of normal and diseased samples.

The annotations developed as part of the Accelrys agreement will be commercially available from Confirmant within Accelrys' Discovery Studio AtlasStore database, which integrates protein sequence, structure and annotation data. Specific financial terms were not disclosed, but the resulting database will be marketed by both parties as complementary to Protein Atlas.

Confirmant, which labeled its Protein Atlas the first definitive database of human proteins, said it includes about 11,000 protein-coding genes, their structure and the protein variants they encode. The company was established in June 2001 as a 50-50 joint venture between Oxford GlycoSciences plc and Marconi plc to identify protein sequence tags. At its outset, they contributed $42 million in cash to Confirmant. The joint venture uses broadband data transmission and hosting capabilities provided by London-based Marconi, a networking equipment company, and a proteome database belonging to Oxford, UK-based Oxford GlycoSciences.

Data for Protein Atlas, the joint venture's first commercialized product, was experimentally derived using technology developed at Oxford GlycoSciences to obtain peptide sequences that can be mapped back to the human genome in an effort to define a gene's structure.

Last month the University of Pennsylvania gained a multiyear license to Protein Atlas, which was released nearly a year ago. At the time, Confirmant said it expected that the entire number of known genes - about 30,000 - would be completed by June. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 26, 2002.)

Accelrys is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pharmacopeia Inc.

Company officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.