Microsoft Alliance To Focus on Bioinformatics
Microsoft this month launched the BioIT Alliance, an effort to develop information technology systems that can manage health data used in personalized medicine, the Seattle Times reports.
Through the alliance, Microsoft is collaborating with researchers, diagnostics manufacturers and software companies to address problems presented "where biology and computing intersect," a developing field that is sometimes referred to as bioinformatics, computational biology or digital bio.
BioIT Alliance collaborators hope to market products that will allow physicians to make personalized diagnostic decisions based on "millions of measurements of each patient" that "delv[e] deep into genetic variations that make us unique and indicate our risk of specific diseases," the Times reports. However, the field is in the early stages of development, and collaborators currently are working to develop data-gathering programs that could be used in specialized laboratories or clinical trials.
Don Rule, a Microsoft platform strategy adviser for the BioIT Alliance, said scientists already are using powerful computers to allow more efficient development of new drugs. "That is one of the earliest areas of commercialization, and we think that will be an important use of the high-performance computing product that will ship later this year," Rule said.
Microsoft's first product in the category is the Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, which is designed for computers that work in unison to perform complex tasks.
Cherly North, director of pharmaceutical and life sciences business strategy at Microsoft, said one of the company's goals for the next three years is to "build an infrastructure of people inside Microsoft who ... have deep knowledge of the biopharma industry." Ultimately, Microsoft hopes the collaboration will "establish the company's products at the foundation of a field that could see explosive growth in the next decade," the Times reports (Romano, Seattle Times, 4/24).