After Assimilating Symyx, San Diego’s Accelrys Sets Ambitious Course for Scientific Software

Eight months after San Diego’s Accelrys (NASDAQ: ACCL) completed its merger with Santa Clara, CA-based Symyx Technologies, the scientific software developer is today lifting the curtain on a new strategy based on the company’s broader and deeper resources.

The merger, valued last year at about $175 million, combined Accelrys’ flagship software for simulating and modeling scientific experiments with Symyx’ strength in cheminformatics and notebook software used to chart and manage lab experiments. Along with its fourth-quarter financial results today, Accelrys is also sharing some new software products that are intended to help manage the entire process of scientific development—from R&D to commercialization and manufacturing—at industry, academic, and government institutions.

Max Carnecchia

“It’s the future for us, the strategy for the next two to three years,” says Accelrys CEO Max Carnecchia. “What we’re hearing from our largest customers is that they really need a framework, they need a [software] architecture that can harness all of the innovation, all the experiments, all the modeling and simulation, and all the work they’re doing across labs on a global basis, both within their own organizations and within their collaborators.”

In explaining today’s new product introductions, Carnecchia said, “A series of individual islands of capabilities have now been brought together into a true platform.”

The Symyx merger brought Accelrys a combined base of more than 1,350 customers, including 29 of the top 30 biopharmaceutical companies, all five top chemical giants, and many U.S. government agencies and universities.

“It was actually our customers who talked with us about their needs during the merger and pre-merger” that led to the strategy, says Melissa Purcell, Accelrys’ senior director of marketing communications.

“Obviously, we had thoughts around the idea that the combination was going to create this very broad and deep scientific platform that would be valuable to our customers,” Carnecchia added. In brief, the company’s new product lines include:

—Accelrys Enterprise R&D Architecture is enterprise software that draws on the company’s “Pipeline Pilot” platform for scientific modeling and simulation, adding capabilities for enterprise lab management, experimental and operational workflow processes, and data management and informatics.

NGS Collection (as in Next Generation Sequencing data collection) is designed for use by genomics researchers and others to integrate and automate data processing from the latest, high-speed gene sequencing equipment introduced by such companies as San Diego-based Illumina and Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies. Accelrys says its NGS software also can provide predictive modeling and decision support for gene researchers. Carnecchia says, “You just can’t take analytical tools from Business Objects, [Oracle] Hyperion, or [IBM] Cognos and apply them to this data because the data models in those systems don’t understand the science.”

—Symyx Notebook by Accelrys is an updated version of Symyx’ multi-disciplinary “electronic lab notebook” software that now provides access to Accelrys Pipeline Pilot data analytics capabilities. Accelrys says other added capabilities are intended to accelerate product development for scale-up production in the biopharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, agrochemicals, and consumer packaged goods industries.

Carnecchia says such institutions have long sought enterprise software that would help them better manage their operations in the same way that global financial and manufacturing companies rely on major software providers like Oracle or SAP. “But because the science is so domain specific, it has basically prevented conventional software providers from providing those challenges,” Carnecchia said.

The goal that Accelrys has set, Carnecchia explained is to create “a software framework that allows for information and knowledge to travel up and down the value chain, down through development, and through early scale-up manufacturing. That’s just not something that many of these big companies have in terms of a scientific software point of view.”

The company, which now has about 550 employees (including roughly 225 at its San Diego headquarters), counts Cambridge, MA-based CambridgeSoft and IDBS, based near London, among its competitors. But Carnecchia says most of the scientific software providers “tend to be much smaller, almost consulting-size companies, and you end up with this really highly fragmented set of providers.”

In other words, the scientific software market has proven difficult for any single developer to corral because the nature of the beast has been so esoteric, and providers are so small and specialized. Now, with Symyx under its belt, Accelrys is pursuing a strategic opportunity that wasn’t practical a year ago.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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