A company that started out as a life sciences IT project within a Canadian hospital has entered the commercial market by warning competitors to take their hands off its intellectual property.
Unleashed Informatics has given a deadline of June 1 to any for-profit firm that is selling a software product or service that falls under its patent, which is described as a “System for electronically managing, finding, and/or displaying biomolecular interactions.”
Unleashed Informatics started out as the Blueprint Initiative at Mt. Sinai Hospital about three years ago. Based in the recently opened Medical and Research Sciences (MaRS) centre in Toronto, a team of researchers was using grid computing hardware and software from Sun Microsystems and others to create a Web-accessible repository for all kinds of genomic and proteomic research. This system, dubbed the Biomolecular Interaction Network Database (BIND) continues to exist, but changes in the funding for such projects by the Ontario government last year forced the Blueprint Initiative to consider moving to Singapore, and accelerated its plans to commercialize its technology. Unleashed Informatics was incorporated about two years ago but late last year the firm entered into an agreement with Mt. Sinai for exclusive rights to Blueprint’s intellectual property, including BIND, a small molecule database called SMID, and the data warehouse SeqHound.
“We launched a lifeboat, and a handful of us got in,” said Eric Andrade, Unleashed Informatics chief executive. “We did extensive survey work in terms of the competitive landscape in bioinformatics and it looked like there had been a massive forest fire. Anyone who was there was gone, or was on their last legs.”
As part of the agreement with Mt. Sinai, Unleashed Informatics continues to offer freely available versions of BIND, SMID and SeqHound to academic researchers. But it has also created a growing number of products, including the data warehouse tool DogBox and BIND Plus, which would be offered via subscription fees.
Because the free versions of BIND and other products require registration, Andrade said Unleashed Informatics knows its intellectual property vulnerable.
“We sit and watch these companies daily use our open access resources to market products that compete and infringe on the patent,” Andrade said. “It’s a whole new world.”
Geoff Taber, a partner with Toronto-based Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, said public sector institutions such as universities hospitals are getting better at understanding the patent process and preparing their work for commercialization.
“You need to do quite a bit of due diligence work,” he said. “One of the first things you do once you see if (a business idea) is feasible is your prior art search.”
Andrade said preparing BIND and other offerings for the mass market required significant reengineering.
“We worked with a number of customers who kindly kicked us in the shins until we got the product right,” he said.