The Microsoft development team is asking the scientific community to submit research scenarios that will help the company develop new capabilities for version 2.0 of its MBF toolkit, scheduled for release next summer.
"It might not necessarily be an in vitro diagnostic that's going to hit the market," a Merck researcher said of the company's mass spec-based biomarker assays, "but it can certainly help us make decisions as we move a drug to market."
The technique could be used to diagnose diseases such as mental retardation, where copy number variation is a key characteristic, and as a screening tool to look for cancer biomarkers and assess drug effectiveness, the researchers said.
A Microsoft official said that bioinformatics vendors should not see the software giant's entry in the market as a threat, but an opportunity to focus on their "specialized functionality for the science" and "let Microsoft focus on the infrastructure."
The Microsoft Biology Foundation includes parsers for common bioinformatics file formats; various algorithms for manipulating DNA, RNA, and protein sequences; and a set of connectors to key bioinformatics web services such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information's Blast.
The new employees will be critical for a contract Ceiba recently signed with Merck that made it the sole provider of software maintenance and support for Rosetta Biosoftware products. The company also plans to develop its own bioinformatics products in the area of translational research.
Christopher Raymond, Dennis Ausiello, David Baltimore, Eli Broad, Drew Gilpin Faust, Jeffrey Flier, Susan Hockfield, Seth Klarman, Eric Lander, William Lee, Arthur Levinson, Phillip Sharp, Patty Stonesifer, Ratan Tata, Diana Chapman Walsh