April 15, 2006 (Vol. 26, No. 8)

Goal Is to Help Accelerate Pace of Drug Discovery and Development

Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) has formed the BioIT Alliance (www.bioitalliance.org), a cross-industry group that will focus on further integrating science and technology with the goal of making personalized medicine a reality. The alliance brings together companies from the pharmaceutical, biotech, hardware, and software industries to explore new ways to share complex biomedical data and collaborate among multidisciplinary teams to ultimately speed the pace of drug discovery and development.

Founding members of the alliance include Accelrys Software (www.accelrys.com), Affymetrix (www.affymetrix.com), Amylin Pharmaceuticals (www.amylin.com), Applied Biosystems (www.appliedbiosystems.com), and The Scripps Research Institute (www.scripps.com). The alliance also announced its first project, the Collaborative Molecular Environment, a data-management solution to help make research more efficient.

&#8220Advances in our understanding of the human genome promise to revolutionize medicine and open the door to therapies that are tailored to individuals,&#8220 says Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft. &#8220By bringing together people from innovative life sciences organizations that span the biomedical industry, the BioIT Alliance will play an important role in the development of solutions that transform today&#180s data into knowledge and improve the quality of millions of lives.&#8220

Data Is the Key

The Collaborative Molecular Environment is intended to provide a means for data capture, visualization, annotation, and archiving using Microsoft Office, Windows Presentation Found-ation, and SharePoint Tech-nologies. Microsoft is partnering with alliance member company InterKnowlogy (www.interknowlogy.com) on the project, which is being tested by several other alliance members.

&#8220Bringing research results to the bedside and patients&#180 responses to the research bench is at the core of translational medicine. Our focus on cancer diagnostic and structure-based drug development demonstrates how basic research directly impacts human health,&#8220 says Peter Kuhn, professor of cell biology at The Scripps Research Institute. &#8220The Collaborative Molecular Environ-ment developed with Inter-Knowlogy and Microsoft through the BioIT Alliance is a response to the critical need for productivity tools at the laboratory bench that connect experimental data, support decision-making on the spot, and communicate the data in context to other members of our research groups and our collaborators.&#8220

In addition to making data easier to manage, early efforts of the alliance are focused on making data easier to share. Two member companies working on this are Affymetrix and Applied Biosystems. &#8220Affymetrix is committed to facilitating translational medicine by providing tools that deliver high information content and data quality into basic research, clinical research, and diagnostic applications,&#8220 explains Steve Lincoln, vp of informatics at Affymetrix.

&#8220Through the BioIT Alliance, we are working closely with Microsoft to increase data access across our instrument systems and data-analysis software tools using Ecma Open Office XML,&#8220 adds Catherine M. Burzik, president of Applied Biosystems. &#8220This format enables life science companies to access data using the familiar Microsoft Office Excel interface, providing them with the insight they need to make decisions more quickly.&#8220

&#8220A unique aspect of the BioIT Alliance is that it is focused on applying existing technologies and standards to solve data integration challenges rather than developing new bioinformatics software. As part of our work with the BioIT Alliance, we are looking at how using the Open Office XML standard will make data generated by our Applied Biosystems&#180 instruments more easily integrated with applications, such as Excel. If together we can make existing tools more open and user-friendly using data interchange standards, then we will have made a big step toward reaching the Alliance&#180s goals,&#8220 explains Tony Kerlavage, senior director, Applied Biosystems.

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