While it’s still early days for Microsoft’s BioIT Alliance, the group is steadily making good on its promise of developing innovative data management and sharing technology to help make personalized medicine a reality.
The BioIT Alliance, which kicked off in April of last year, is a consortium of more than 40 software and hardware vendors, pharmaceutical companies, and life sciences companies intent upon getting the fruits of their collaborations into labs and clinics as quickly as possible. Founding members of the alliance include Affymetrix, Accelrys, and Applied Biosystems, among others. Thermo Fisher, Gene-IT, and CLC Bio have all signed on this year as well.
“We’re growing rapidly and we are getting a very good response from the companies that are in the alliance — a general idea of working together to make the problem of personalized medicine tractable over time,” says Don Rule, platform strategy advisor at Microsoft. “That’s the thing that unites us.”
Late last year, the alliance unveiled a demo version of its maiden project, the Collaborative Molecular Environment, at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. While Scripps was not at a loss for sophisticated imaging and analysis tools, what the organization didn’t have was a way for investigators and their collaborators to seamlessly annotate, archive, and share the terabytes of cell and protein structure data that exist across the institute’s different networks. Microsoft worked in conjunction with alliance partner and custom software design outfit Interknowlogy to use existing Microsoft technology, including the Vista operating system, to build a user-friendly interface that enables researchers to share and access data in real time using a dedicated server. The result is that investigator collaboration is greatly improved and each user is able to organize and share data according to their own needs.
“We won’t have fulfilled the dream of the human genome until we can really make it useful in our lives,” says Rule. “[Companies] recognize that none of us can do this alone; that by sharing data, sharing techniques, and sharing information with each other, we can work together to provide end users with a more powerful solution than if we worked individually.”