Microsoft forms BioIT Alliance to push forward personalized medicine

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Microsoft Corp. recently announced the formation of the BioIT Alliance, a cross-industry group working to further integrate science and technology for more personalized medicine. The alliance – representing the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, hardware and software industries – includes members from Accelrys Software Inc., Affymetrix Inc., Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Applied Biosystems and The Scripps Research Institute, and others. The alliance’s first project will be the Collaborative Molecular Environment, a data management system designed to help make research more efficient, according to a release.

“Advances in our understanding of the human genome promise to revolutionize medicine and open the door to therapies that are tailored to individuals,” said Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect, Microsoft. “By 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’s data into knowledge and improve the quality of millions of lives.”

The Collaborative Molecular Environment will provide a means for data capture, visualization, annotation and archiving using Microsoft Office, Windows Presentation Foundation and SharePoint Technologies. Microsoft is partnering with alliance member company InterKnowlogy LLC on the project, which is being tested by several other alliance members.

“Bringing research results to the bedside and patients’ 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,” said Peter Kuhn, professor of cell biology, The Scripps Research Institute. “The Collaborative Molecular Environment developed with InterKnowlogy 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.”

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.

“Affymetrix is committed to facilitating translational medicine by providing tools which deliver high information content and data quality into basic research, clinical research and diagnostic applications,” said Steve Lincoln, vice president of informatics, Affymetrix. “We are pleased to work with Microsoft and others in the BioIT Alliance to explore new ways to further integrate these data into emerging biomedical research and development work flows.”
Applied Biosystems said that it is “working closely with Microsoft to increase data access across our instrument systems and data analysis software tools using Ecma Open Office XML,” according to Catherine M. Burzik, the company’s president. “This 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.”

The BioIT Alliance also will provide independent software vendors (ISVs) with industry knowledge that helps them commercialize informatics systems more quickly with less risk.

Most efforts to unite the life science and IT industries are focused on developing technology to enable the early-stage drug discovery process. By addressing the technology issues that companies face throughout development, the alliance hopes to help the industry move closer to making personalized medicine a reality.