The ties that BIND

Thomson acquires Unleashed Informatics and its open access BIND and SMID databases

Chris Anderson
STAMFORD, Conn.—Lookingto create greater value for its information products targeted at pharmaceuticaland biotech companies, The Thomson Corp. announced in late March that it hadacquired Toronto-based bioinformatics company Unleashed Informatics for anundisclosed sum.
Now a part of the Thomson Scientific business unit,Unleashed's products include both public and prorprietary databases such as theBiomolecular Interaction Network Database (BIND), which contain more than200,000 biomeular interactions; the Small Molecule Interaction Database (SMID)containing more than 230,000 experimentally observed small molecule interactions;and the Biomolecular Object Network Database (BOND) a data warehouse thatcombines access to both BIND and SMID with publicly accessible databases,including similarity search algorithms.
"Going forward the Thomson Pharma solutions is our strategicplatform of choice where we are focusing most of our investment," says RachelBuckley, vice president of product management for Thomson Scientific. "We see theacquisition of Unleashed fitting in with that strategic vision to improve andstrengthen our offerings in the drug discovery and drug development pipeline."
Specifically, Buckley notes, the company is strong in theareas of investigational drugs, marketed drugs and information in the biologyarea. One facet the company is actively looking to strengthen is its productstargeted toward users engaged in early discovery work, particularly in genomicsand bioinformatics.
"It's connecting the dots in discovery," Buckley says."We've got great content around targets, genetic sequencing and mechanism ofaction—the whole space of looking broadly at what biologists need on theirdesktop. What we haven't been able to do particularly in the genomics area, isbring closer alignment to our product content, such as GENESEQ, because wehaven't offered it in an environment with the proper tools wrapped around it."
Spun out of the Blueprint Initiative, a CDN $30 millionmultinational public good  researchprogram, Unleashed was launched as a for-profit venture by Eric Andrade and Dr.Christopher Hogue as funding for Blueprint dried up.
For the small team at Unleashed, the acquisition shouldprovide the necessary resources to hasten development of new products, as wellas restart the curation effort for BIND and SMID, an effort that has beendormant for the past year-and-a-half, due to lack of funds.
"This will allow us to continue to develop our core productsand integrate the small molecule information on BOND," says Andrade, former CEOof Unleashed who will stay on with Thomson as its head of product development."We can now resume our aggressive curation effort which we had put on pause."
According to Buckley, the curation effort is the primarytask for the company in the coming months as it looks to integrate informationavailable from Unleashed with Thomson's other pharma offerings.
"We want to bring that information up to present day,because we see that as one of the main hooks that we can associate the contentwe currently have in our Thomson Pharma solution—to provide thatprotein-protein, gene-gene, gene-protein interaction information is vital to usbeing able to build that."
Further, Andrade notes, the match of Unleashed with Thomsonwas a good fit in terms of both vision for its products as well as a commitmentto operate BIND under its existing model. "We have been an acquisition target for a number ofcompanies over the past year," he says. "But it was important to Mount Sinai Hospital (the original home of Blueprint) and Unleashed tokeep open access and keep BIND freely available. And when Thomson first metwith us they felt the same way, which was music to our ears."


Chris Anderson

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