LONDON - Oxford GlycoSciences plc set up a 50-50 joint venture with the networking equipment company Marconi plc to specialize in the supply, hosting and management of proteomics databases.

The company, called Confirmant Ltd., will have initial funding of £30 million (US$42 million), which the founders will contribute equally in cash. Confirmant will pay Oxford GlycoSciences (OGS) £5 million for exclusive rights to proteome databases, and £1.5 million for a license to OGS's data analysis software.

In addition, OGS, based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, will be contracted by Confirmant to extend the content of the databases, including building a comprehensive protein atlas. This contract is expected to generate revenues of £22.5 million over the next three years to OGS. Marconi is to invest £10 million in OGS, buying 645,162 shares at £15.50 per share.

Separately, OGS said it has pulled out of a previous venture for marketing its databases, ending its contract with Incyte Genomics Inc. under which Incyte was selling OGS's data. Incyte has sold its shares of OGS.

Michael Kranda, CEO of OGS, said the company will become Confirmant's first customer for outsourced computing and hosting services. "By tapping the computational power of the joint venture, OGS will further its IT capacity and exploit its expanding wealth of proteomics data, all without distracting us from our core activity of drug discovery and development."

The protein atlas will use sequence information obtained directly from naturally occurring human proteins to identify all protein-coding genes in the genome. Andrew Lyall, OGS's chief information officer, said, "The identification of all protein-coding genes and their protein products is the next major step in the human genome initiative. The accomplishments of HUGO were impressive, but the attendant excitement created a misperception that all the genes had been identified."

OGS said it will finish most of the Protein Atlas over the next 24 months, and it is expected that Confirmant will begin selling the data in early 2002. As well as selling subscriptions to the database, Confirmant will draw on Marconi's skills in broadband networking and hosting, offering managed IT services in proteomics.

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