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Barcode-Free Strategizing at Sun


What does it take to become a life science business strategist for a big computing company? If Liz From — the woman who has held that title at Sun Microsystems for nearly a year — is your model, it would be a stint in computing journalism, time as a management consultant, some post-grad IT experience, and a little bit of healthcare industry software marketing experience. From, who reports to Howard Asher, director of global life sciences, is a member of Sun’s Global Life Sciences Strategy Team, which aims to drive strategic initiatives that can “have a major impact on the life sciences industry,” she says. (From’s counterpart addressing life sciences R&D, Loralyn Mears, is perhaps better known to the genomics community.)

Slipping into consultant speak, From says she gets involved in “technologies and techniques across the value chain” that could “improve pharma processes and outcomes.” Her current pet project is AutoID, a set of technologies that Sun is hawking for tracking and identifying a pharma’s products and assets without barcoding. AutoID uses radio frequency and the Internet to transmit information through a supply chain. While the most obvious and urgent use From sees for the technology is combating drug counterfeiting — a problem that she predicts will only grow worse as personalized medicines come to market — AutoID tags could also be applied to clinical trial documents, and used for tracking research compounds and monitoring lab equipment. “Most customers come from the consumer or supply chain or manufacturing point-of-view,” she says, “but the lab environment is generating interest.”

Radio frequency tagging is nothing new, of course. But From says the application to pharma is new, and that Sun is pioneering an initiative to create tagging standards that would enable all drug manufacturers to use compatible schema. She expects standards to be issued in September.

— Adrienne Burke


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