GeneProt installs large Compaq server farm for protein research to diagnose and prevent diseases

Geneva 26 April 2001GeneProt Inc. has opened the world's first large-scale proteomic discovery centre in Geneva, Switzerland. The facility will enable GeneProt to discover new drugs and biomarkers based on the body's own proteins. The new centre will run twenty hours a day and will utilise the supercomputing capabilities of Compaq Computer Corporation's AlphaServer systems, Tru64 UNIX software and StorageWorks systems to capture, store, and analyse the huge volumes of data generated by GeneProt's proteome analyses. GeneProt will identify and synthesise commercially viable novel therapeutics proteins in order to significantly shorten the time which is required for the discovery and development of novel therapeutic agents.

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The facility is designed to identify and select for clinical study large numbers of previously unidentified proteins that are potential drugs, targets for drug development or markers which can be used to diagnose or prevent diseases. "The emerging field of proteomics promises to open a window onto the intimate details of the roles which proteins play in several diseases", explained Cédric Loiret-Bernal, M.D., chief executive officer of GeneProt. What makes GeneProt's research unique is the use of chemical synthesis techniques instead of recombinant technology, according to Dr. Loiret-Bernal.

GeneProt plans to obtain the complete protein profile of healthy and diseased fluids or tissues by studying the development of an organism, maturation of cell types and tissues, and progression of diseases as they vary over time. The results will be utilised to fast-track target identification in order to speed the development of new products by both pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Denis Hochstrasser, M.D., chairman of GeneProt's Scientific Advisory Board, co-founder of the company, and member of the Board of Directors noted that the Geneva facility has 51 of the most advanced mass spectrometers running around the clock in search for proteins which could become the blockbuster agents of tomorrow. "The speed at which we work, and the depth to which we analyse naturally occurring proteins in health and disease, should shorten the drug discovery lifecycle and significantly reduce the time it takes to get a final product to market", added Dr. Hochstrasser.

Backed by an equity investment from Compaq, GeneProt is using enterprise-class Compaq products such as its AlphaServer systems, the technology that helped map the first draft of the human genome, along with Compaq's Tru64 UNIX operating system. GeneProt selected Compaq's StorageWorks system to accommodate the immense storage and retrieval challenges posed by the company's ambitious proteomics undertaking.

The supercomputing technology includes 1420 Compaq Alpha-based, Tru64 UNIX computer processors, each of which is capable of performing over one billion sequence comparisons per hour, while offering increased sensitivity and performance in sequence similarity analysis. Compaq technology offers GeneProt storage, hardware, and maintenance support in a server facility separate from the Geneva plant, according to Dr. Loiret-Bernal.

Compaq's equity investment in GeneProt is managed as part of Compaq's US$100 million Genomics Investment Programme unveiled last September. The programme is designed to promote the development of life sciences companies through financial support and access to its high-performance AlphaServer systems, Tru64 UNIX and StorageWorks storage systems for use in genomics, proteomics, and other related research activities.

GeneProt's partners include pharmaceutical and technology companies, as well as academic and scientific institutions including Novartis, Compaq, Bruker Daltonics, and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. The company will pursue additional partnerships with organisations which can bring value to GeneProt's unique offerings in proteomics discovery and production. These partnerships represent significant revenue sources for both the short and the long term.


Leslie Versweyveld

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