By Brady Huggett

In what Celera Genomics Inc. said should be a positive step in entering world markets, it agreed to acquire a minority interest in HuBit Genomix Inc. and stick a toe into Japanese waters.

Tokyo-based HuBit Genomix, originally founded in April 2000 as Medical Genome Systems Inc., focuses on the association of genes and disease to develop therapeutics and diagnostics. It was both what HuBit does and where it is located that attracted Celera.

"They have a great core group of researchers," said Paul Gilman, director of policy planning at Celera. "They are working to develop relationships in both the biotech and academic communities in Japan. This gives them significant research capabilities both in Japan and internationally."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. While Gilman could not comment on the percentage of HuBit acquired or whether increasing that percentage is planned, he said it allowed both companies to gain from each other.

"It's an opportunity to work together and benefit mutually," Gilman told BioWorld Today. "It's a practical way to take advantage of the fact that we are very complementary companies."

HuBit plans to provide its biological information to biotechnology companies and research centers, something Celera already does. In March alone, Celera, of Rockville, Md., signed three agreements allowing companies access to Celera's database products. Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego; AMDeC LLC, the consortium of 37 New York medical schools; and Vita Genomics, of Taiwan, all subscribed. Also this month, Celera agreed with Lynx Therapeutics Inc., of Hayward, Calif., to integrate sets of Lynx's gene expression data into the Celera Discovery System.

Of the action in March, the most interesting might be the signing of Vita Genomics, simply because it is based outside the United States. Gilman acknowledged Celera's desire to establish a worldwide presence, and commented on that being part of the attraction to HuBit.

"We recognize the Japanese market is a very important market," he said. "The research community is impressive there, the work in the human genome is impressive. Of course we are very interested in Japan, but we have a global view for our company. We are interested in the rest of the world, also."

He added that Celera has eyes for six continents, excluding just one.

"Antarctica," he said. "The penguins in the arctic we aren't looking to make subscribers out of."

In February, Celera announced publication in Science of data from its sequencing of the human genome, finding virtually the same results as the public sequencing effort. Celera continues to work with the data, filling in gaps. While it is known for sequencing and having the associated data, it is looking to expand. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 13, 2001.)

"The information business we are still developing," Gilman said. "At the same time that we are trying to bring our information business to a more mature state, we are trying to move into the discovery business.

"[HuBit Genomix] is working on important diseases, not just for Japan but internationally," he added. "Our ability to work with them is important to us."

Celera's stock (NYSE:CRA) dropped $1.98 Wednesday to close at $29.32. n