The National Center for Genome Resources (NCGR), a non-profitcompany set up in 1994 by the federal government, has formed acommercial spin-off firm, called Molecular Informatics Inc., tomarket computer software for genetic data analysis.

The for-profit Molecular Informatics Inc. is seeking equity financingfrom pharmaceutical companies. It already has received start-upcapital and personnel from NCGR, which will own 60 percent to 70percent of Molecular Informatics.

Edward Cantrall, president of NCGR, is president of the fledglingcompany. Both organizations are located at NCGR's offices in SanteFe, N.M.

Cantrall, a former executive with American Cyanamid Co., ofWayne, N.J., will move full-time to Molecular Informatics when it isoperational. A new leader will be hired for NCGR.

Julie Grey, an NCGR spokeswoman, said Molecular Informatics isseeking $5 million in initial funding. The bioinformatics software itwill sell is licensed from NCGR, which was formed to developgenetic data management and analysis products. NCGR will receivelicense fees and product royalties.

NCGR also serves as a public data base of DNA sequences. ItsGenome Sequence DataBase is linked with a worldwide network ofdata bases controlled by three groups: GenBank at the NationalInstitutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., the DNA Data Base inJapan and the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge,England.

However, NCGR is not part of the international advisory board thatoversees the data base network, which serves as a centralizedrepository of the DNA sequence information generated daily byresearchers throughout the world.

NCGR's formation, which is credited to Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), has been questioned by some as an unnecessary expense andduplication of GenBank's work. Others have called the twocomplementary. (See BioWorld Today, April 28, 1995, p. 1.)

Tools to manage and analyze the explosion of genetic data generatedby efforts to sequence the human genome and those of other speciesare considered essential in understanding the functions of genes.

Molecular Informatics, Grey said, is considered the first of numerousspin-off companies designed to commercialize genomics-relatedservices developed by NCGR and eventually make the non-profitresearch group self-sufficient. In addition to its bioinformatics workand maintenance of the Genome Sequence DataBase, NCGRdevelops resources to support policy making initiatives dealing withethical, social and legal issues of genetic medicine.

NCGR employs 60 people. About 30 of them are joining MolecularInformatics, which expects to double its staff by the end of next year.The company has licensed two software products from NCGR forlarge scale DNA sequencing and anticipates marketing them in thefirst quarter of 1997.

NCGR's current funding includes $3 million from the U.S. SmallBusiness Administration (SBA) and a commitment for $9.8 millionover five years from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

NCGR's development took shape when GenBank was moved fromNew Mexico to Bethesda four years ago. GenBank, formed in 1982,was part of the DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory, but it wasfunded mostly by the NIH.

When GenBank in 1992 moved within the NIH, Los Alamos was leftwith data resources, but no data. In 1994 the Los Alamos data basewas relocated to Sante Fe with $5 million from the SBA and $2million from DOE. n

-- Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.