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January 23, 2001
Olympus Optical and Mitsui Knowledge Industry
Form New R&D Joint Venture
NovusGene Inc. to offer analytical services of genomic information
based on biomolecular computing technology
Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. (Head Office Shinjuku Monolith, 2-3-1, Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo; President Masatoshi Kishimoto) and Mitsui Knowledge Industry Co., Ltd. (MKI; Head Office 2-7-14, Higashi-Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo; President Susumu Miyamoto) have announced that they have concluded a basic agreement to provide capital to establish an R&D-based joint venture, NovusGene Inc. Beginning March 1, 2001*, NovusGene will develop technology to analyze genetic and other biological information. Using advanced biomolecular computing technology (see Note 1), NovusGene will also offer a variety of analytical services of genomic information to the medical and health care industries, where there is considerable demand for the outsourcing of such.
* Note: At this stage, both the name of the joint venture and the date of its establishment are tentative.
The R&D programs conducted at NovusGene Inc. will focus on the development of biomolecular computing technology, particularly in the area of DNA computing. The results of such R&D will be applied directly to the development of business in biological fields, targeting principally the medical and health care industries. Initially, using analytical expertise of SNP (see Note 2) and gene expression profiling (see Note 3), the joint venture plans to provide research support services targeted at the fields of pharmacogenomics and clinical applications for the treatment of cancer. In addition, NovusGene also plans to provide design services for DNA probes and primer DNA to support such types of analysis.

The biomolecular computing technologies used at NovusGene work by taking advantage of the information processing functionality of biomacromolecules (see Note 4) such as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that result by virtue of their particular physicochemical properties. The joint venture plans to focus on the development of technologies that allow researchers to gain a precise, comprehensive picture of the information contained in genetic and other biological material.
The main types of service and R&D activities in which NovusGene plans to be involved are as follows:
1.  DNA sequence design services
NovusGene will design DNA probes and primer DNA (see Note 5) that are used in the analysis of nucleotide polymorphisms and gene expression profiling.
2.  Development of SNP typing analysis technologies; provision of related analytical services
  NovusGene will develop SNP typing (see Note 7) analytical expertise based on single molecule detection techniques that use fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (see Note 6), together with technologies based on biomolecular computing technology. The joint venture also plans to offer related analytical services, including the statistical analysis of the hereditary characteristics of diseases (see Note 8).
3.  Development of gene expression profiling technologies; provision of related analytical services
  NovusGene will develop gene expression profiling technologies based on biomolecular computing techniques, and will also offer related analytical services. These will include cluster analysis (see Note 9) and other types of array informatics (see Note 10).
4.  Joint R&D programs to develop biomolecular computing technology
  Through joint collaboration with researchers from universities and other research institutions, NovusGene plans to develop new technologies that will create the future of biomolecular computing.

NovusGene located in Hachioji in western Tokyo will conduct all the analytical services mentioned above in accordance with GLP (see Note 11).
NovusGene plans to form a scientific advisory board composed of leading academic researchers from the fields of information science, biophysics, medicine and biology to support its R&D functions. The board will provide research and technical expertise to guide the joint venture in the development and commercialization of new technologies that are globally applicable. Currently, the joint venture plans to invite Professor Masatomo Hagiya (information sciences) and Assistant Professor Akira Suyama (biophysics) to join the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Both of these academic researchers work at the Graduate School of Science and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo respectively.
Outline of the planned joint venture:
(1) Company name: NovusGene Inc.
(2) President and Representative Director: Toshio Sofuni (currently Head of Life Science Technology Research Center, Olympus Optical Co., Ltd.)
(3) Head office: 2-3, Kuboyama-cho, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo
(4) Main businesses: 1. Provision of analytical services of genomic information
2. Research and development of biomolecular computing technology
(5) Paid-in capital: 400 million Yen
(6) Capital ratios: Olympus Optical Co., Ltd.: 204 million Yen(51%)
Mitsui Knowledge Industry Co., Ltd.: 196 million Yen(49%)
(7) Projected sales: 1 billion Yen (fiscal year ending March 2004),
6 billion Yen(fiscal year ending March 2006)
(8) Establishment: March 1, 2001
(9) Commencement of business: March 1, 2001
(10) Number of employees: 12 (projected to rise to 20 by 2004)
Technical Notes:
1.  Biomolecular computing technology
Biomolecular computing technology takes advantage of the special physicochemical properties of biomacromolecules such as DNA, specifically the ability of complementary sequences to bind tightly to each other. It applies this to produce a biological equivalent to the process of electronic logical computation. These properties enable DNA mixtures to act as massively parallel computers. The almost infinite variety of possible base-pair sequences in DNA also confers on biological systems an inherently huge potential memory capacity when used in this way. By using such mixtures as input and output data for logical computational processes, it is possible to conduct highly precise genetic diagnostic and gene expression profiling analyses of actual cell and tissue samples. These kinds of applications are expected to prove immensely valuable in future in the fields of medical and health care.
2.  SNP
  The phenomenon of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) refers to differences of a single base pair within a genomic DNA sequence of 300-500 base pairs; the study of such differences within the human population is expected to yield genetic markers that could signal a person's susceptibility to a certain disease, or else provide clues as to the likely response to a drug and its possible side-effect profile.
3.  Gene expression profiling
  This kind of analysis measures the quantity and variety of messenger RNA (mRNA: this kind of nucleic acid transmits the genetic information from DNA within cells so that it can be translated, or "expressed," as proteins) within a cell as part of trying to elucidate the function and role of the various genes expressed.
4.  Biomacromolecules
  Biomolecules containing large numbers of molecules, including proteins, nucleic acids and polysaccharides. Nucleic acid molecules are now the prime focus of research into biomolecular computing, a field where substantial progress is being made.
5. Primer DNA
  Primer DNA consists of oligonucleotide DNA sequences containing short stretches of deoxyribonucleic acid with hydroxyl groups at the 3'-position. These are necessary to allow the DNA to form its natural helical structure. The sequence of the primer DNA is designed to be complementary to that of specific template DNA strand.
6. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy
  This is a type of spectroscopy that measures the fluorescent properties of individual molecules directly, thereby making detection much more precise while eliminating unwanted signals.
7. SNP typing analysis
  Based on knowledge of the location of certain SNPs on the human genome, this kind of analysis determines the distribution of SNPs in certain genes and the parts of the genome surrounding them, using genetic specimens taken from the samples of patients with a specified disease or the physically unimpaired. SNP typing can be used in this way to identify the genes associated with certain diseases.
8. Statistical hereditary analysis
  By examining patterns of heredity in major diseases like diabetes, hypertension and asthma, this kind of analysis aims to identify the so-called "disease susceptibility genes," which are implicated in illnesses where there are thought to be multiple genetic influences. Such analyses provide the basic data that is required in the evolving fields of genome-related drug discovery and genetic medicine.
9. Cluster analysis
  Based on data relating to the expression of individual genes, this kind of analysis is one statistical technique for dividing genes into groups. This can be helpful in trying to work out their function and distribution within the human population.
10. Array informatics
  Array informatics, a branch of information sciences, uses statistical methods to analyze the function and distribution of genes based on masses of raw gene expression profiling data obtained from DNA chips and DNA microarrays. These data show the degree to which individual genes are expressed relative to other genes.
11. GLP (Good Laboratory Practice)
  GLP is a set of internationally accepted standards designed to ensure high quality, accuracy and safety in pre-clinical testing of drugs and other laboratory testing.
Business diagram for the new joint venture
Business diagram for the new joint venture
*Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. was changed to OLYMPUS CORPORATION as of October 1, 2003.
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