Tripos acquires Optive Research

In a move that further broadens its offerings in bioinformatics software, Tripos Inc. closed its acquisition earlier this month for Austin, Texas-based Optive Research, a two-year old technology and software spinout of the University of Texas at Austin.

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ST. LOUIS—In a move that further broadens its offerings in bioinformatics software, Tripos Inc. closed its acquisition earlier this month for Austin, Texas-based Optive Research, a two-year old technology and software spinout of the University of Texas at Austin. The combined stock and cash deal had a value of slightly more than $7 million.
 
Core Optive products acquired in the deal include Concord, a 2-dimensional to 3-dimensional chemical modeling program developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Robert Pearlman, a co-founder of Optive, and widely used in drug discovery R&D; EA Inventor, an in silico lead discovery and compound creation program targeted for use by bench scientists; and other "enabling technologies" that will add functionality to existing Tripos software products.
 
"Our technologies are very compatible in terms of framework and format so it is a very strategically comfortable transaction," says Jim Rubin, chief financial officer of Tripos. Adding to that comfort is the fact that Tripos has been a distributor of Concord for more than 17 years and sold other offerings from Optive including DiverseSolutions and StereoPlex software. There also was "very little" overlap in functionality between the offerings of the two companies, Rubin says.
 
Optive's products fit Tripos' current strategy in the market of looking to lessen it focus on enterprise solutions where it had some success in the 1990s and emphasize providing off-the-shelf solutions that bring a drug discovery organization's information to the fingertips of a broader population of R&D scientific personnel.
 
"It's all about productivity and knowledge management," Rubin says. "Historically where there has been information 'siloed', we are building capabilities that allow a broader base of scientists to have, manipulate and analyze data to make better decisions and that's what it is all about."
 
The reasons for joining Tripos were just as compelling for Optive according to Bryan Koontz, the company's chief executive officer. "This provided us with an opportunity for all 15 of our products — not just the five Tripos already sold – to take advantage of their global sales and marketing organization," Koontz says. "This should serve as a wake-up call to people who may have doubted Tripos' commitment to the software side of the business. They are very serious about it and our products along with existing Tripos software like Lithium show a commitment to providing integrated solutions now and into the future."
 
Once the deal closed, Dr. Pearlman was slated to remain at the University of Texas, but he will also serve as a consultant and scientific advisor to Tripos. A small number of R&D employees in Optive's Austin office were expected to be retained and Koontz was slated to join Tripos's Discovery Informatics executive team as vice president of corporate development, a role that he apparently relishes.
 
"It's a classic development role within discovery informatics," he says. "So it will be determining where we need to expand our offerings, then either build it ourselves or look to form strategic alliances with other companies that may already have the capability."
 
Rubin notes that Koontz will serve a vital role. "We are certainly not interested in maintaining the status quo," he notes. "Bryan will help us right away to integrate the Optive products into our business. But more importantly, he has great strategic ideas that we think will help us as we look to create new relationships and to help drive us through a step-change growth period in this area of business."


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