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2007 MDL acquisition fuels claims of market leadership.

By Kevin Davies

Feb. 1, 2008 | The dust is still settling on Symyx Software’s acquisition last October of MDL Information Systems, but the company believes the merger has made it the undisputed market leader in life sciences software. 

Timothy Campbell, president of Symyx Software, sees the life sciences software market as “an important and critical market,” albeit narrower than CRM, ERP, or supply chain. “So in order to be successful in this market, you need to be the leader.” The new Symyx Software has more than 200 engineers worldwide “developing our applications for our customers.” Symyx Software is one of three business units of Symyx Technologies (the others being Symyx Tools and Research Services), and is destined to become the largest in 2008.

The MDL acquisition from Dutch publishing giant Elsevier (See Symyx  Acquires MDL, Bio•IT World, Sept. 2007) tips Symyx’ offerings firmly towards life sciences from the chemical industry. Campbell says Symyx recognized that it needed to augment its two major platform areas, automation and electronic lab notebooks, “with a deeper capability in chemistry, broader content offerings, and a complete cheminformatics infrastructure.”

MDL Merger
Joining Symyx from MDL is Trevor Heritage, now senior VP of science at Symyx. Heritage had joined MDL in 2005 from Tripos, tasked with transitioning MDL from a platform company to more of a solutions and applications company. He credits Elsevier with doing many things right over the years, including the acquisition of the Beilstein database and the creation of the PharmaPendium database.

Heritage thinks the integration has proceeded “amazingly smoothly” so far. The merger marries Symyx’s strengths in ELN and lab execution with MDL’s forte in logistics and data access and analysis, “without really causing conflicts between the two,” he says.

The new combined strategy offers solutions in four key domains. Two are the traditional strengths of Symyx, namely ELNs and software for experimental design, workflows, execution, and results capture in areas such as developmental chemistry (crystallization, solubility, catalysis).

The third domain is logistic systems for registration, chemical inventory management, and workflow requests, including instrument scheduling and calibration. Heritage says: “A scientist can sit there and looking at only one application environment — their notebook — use that environment to completely design the experiment from A to Z, execute that experiment, as well as integrate with all the other operational systems you need as part of the normal lab workflow.”

Fourth is data access, analysis, and the physician support area, which is where users will find former MDL products such as ISIS and Isentris. Says Heritage: “We provide a single environment, whether you’re working in development or discovery, where a scientist can accomplish everything they need to do, whether they’re setting up an experiment or whether they’re actually in the data access and analysis and physician support phase,” says Heritage. “If you’re looking at biological screening data in some column of your spreadsheet, you’d have access to the systems and the notebook pages that generated that data.”

Early Days
Every big pharma is now using Symyx’s software, Campbell asserts, although that wasn’t the case before the acquisition. He quickly cites Eli Lilly, which two years ago, purchased an enterprise deployment of Symyx’s ELN spanning discovery to development. “They are at about 850 seats with an objective to grow to 1,100 seats in 2008 and then with a move to biology and analytical ELN offerings.”

Heritage adds that many biopharma companies were already transitioning from ISIS to Isentris for chemical information and data management. Since the merger, he says, “We’re already closing business deals where customers have licensed or added to their MDL or Symyx license, with the specific intention of making integration between Isentris and between Symyx lab execution or Symyx notebook.”


This article appeared in Bio-IT World Magazine. 
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