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ST. LOUIS—As a shaky economic climate continues to squeeze the life sciences industry, consolidation of disparate service providers has become de rigueur, but Sigma-Aldrich says its recent acquisition of cheminformatics software developer ChemNavigator.com Inc. is less a reflection of recent business trends and more of a fulfillment of its ongoing pledge "to accelerate customer success through innovation and leadership in life science, high technology and service."
The acquisition, announced in August, breaks down the silos between compound discovery and delivery in that it combines ChemNavigator's robust database of searchable chemical compounds and the convenience of Sigma-Aldrich's compound library delivery services. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Marrying the two' companies service offerings will enable medicinal, computational and synthetic chemists to virtually screen tools and products that allow them to channel their chemical designs toward sets of commercially available compounds using ChemNavigator's iResearch Library of more than 60 million compounds, then have Sigma-Aldrich procure and distribute these screening libraries using its DiscoveryCPR service, and even customize the libraries so they are ready for testing when they arrive.
"We started talking to ChemNavigator late last year about the possibility of the two of us working together," says John Radke, director of marketing for chemicals and laboratory essentials at Sigma-Aldrich. "Sigma-Aldrich's service offerings are really what set us apart from other companies, and this acquisition is another tool to enable us to provide even greater service to the research community. It makes the workflow more efficient and seamless for researchers, and also gives them a little more control."
Scott Hutton, director of sales at ChemNavigator, says the capabilities brought about by the acquisition will also go a long way to solving some of the informatics challenges posed by researchers working at the molecular level to perform structure activity relationship (SAR) studies. This virtual discovery process typically leads to a selection of compounds that can be compiled into target libraries based upon the identified SARs and molecular designs, and target compounds must then be identified from among the millions of potentially available chemicals and procured for actual testing of their biological properties, he points out.
"There is an overwhelming amount of data involved with these millions of chemical substances that they can access," Hutton says. "Maintaining a database of that size and keeping it up-to-date is only part of the problem. The other part is how you get those chemical compounds to the supplier. If you buy 1,000 products from 100 different sources, assembling one uniform library of chemicals can be difficult. We're working with Sigma-Aldrich to make that process much more efficient."
The acquisition does not involve any significant changes at either company for now, but Radke says, but long-term, Sigma-Aldrich would like to relocate ChemNavigator's operations to Milwaukee, Wis., and the IT portion of the service to St. Louis.
"This is part of our mission to demonstrate our commitment to bring significant service to our customers as well as innovative technology and efficient solutions," Radke says.
"We created the iResearch Library over nine years, and now we are giving it much broader capabilities," adds Hutton. "This acquisition was something we were very much in favor of because it gives us a way of offering what we feel is a fantastic sourcing system for chemical compounds."