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Microsoft Dives Into Life Sciences; Enlists ABI, Affy, Accelrys, Others for BioIT Alliance

BOSTON, April 4 (GenomeWeb News) - Microsoft said today that Accelrys, Affymetrix, Applied Biosystems, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, and the Scripps Research Institute are among the founding members of its BioIT Alliance, an effort the software giant is spearheading to improve data management in life science research.


The goal of the alliance, which Microsoft announced here today at the Bio-IT World Life Sciences Conference and Expo, is to bring together representatives of 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," the company said in a statement.


Microsoft is collaborating with Scripps and software firm InterKnowlogy on the initiative's first project, called the Collaborative Molecular Environment, which aims to streamline data capture, visualization, annotation, and archiving using Microsoft Office, Windows Presentation Foundation, and SharePoint Technologies.


Don Rule, platform strategy advisor at Microsoft, told GenomeWeb News' sister publication BioInform that a beta version of the Collaborative Molecular Environment is expected to be released in May.


Rule said that Microsoft has identified "a transformation going on" in the life sciences, where there is a "strong need for software that will speed the process of discovery."


Because many scientists already use Microsoft's software, Rule said, "We recognize that we have an important role to play" in the market. The BioIT Alliance is designed to ensure that Microsoft's productivity tools can handle the complex challenges of biological research, he said.


Likewise, these challenges serve as an effective "proof point" for features that would be of use across the company's suite of tools, he said.


In addition to the Collaborative Molecular Environment project, tool vendors like Affy and ABI are working on ways to ensure that data from their instruments can be accessed easily via Microsoft tools. Cathy Burzik, president of ABI, said in a statement that the company is using Microsoft's Ecma Open Office XML to increase data access across its instrument systems and data-analysis software tools. The format enables users to easily access data using Excel, she added.


Other founding members of the BioIT alliance include the BioTeam, Digipede Technologies, Discovery Biosciences, Geospiza, HP, Sun Microsystems, and VizX Labs.


Additional information is available here.

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