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André Mendes, Chief Information Officer, Pluvita

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AT A GLANCE

Prior to joining Pluvita, served as CIO at the Public Broadcasting System and as senior director of IT at MRL Pharmaceuticals.

Named by Computerworld Magazine as one of the “Premier 100 IT Leaders” in the US in May 2001.

Born and raised in Portugal, speaks five languages and is an avid collector of “high-end stereo equipment (old & analog) and low-end basketball injuries (ankles & knees).”

QWhere will bioinformatics be in two years? Five years?

AWe can look at how bioinformatics is going to evolve in two ways. One is within the tools themselves, where I believe we’re going to continue to see a perfecting of the tools within the specific discipline areas — in target discovery and validation and in lead identification and optimization.

One of most important things within that context is how those tools are incorporated into knowledge management within a company. It almost parallels what we have seen in all other areas of industry, where tools are developed vertically but then tend to be integrated horizontally. You see, for example, the growth of ERP and CRM systems, where after you have a very good tool in a discipline, you then incorporate it across the enterprise so you can leverage the knowledge that comes from one module into the next module. That’s one of the things that is still lacking in most bioinformatics environments — that integration, not only at the tool level, but also at the border between the tools and the humans.

QWhich databases do you use?

ABy and large we use the databases that are bundled with InforMax’s GenoMax suite, but one of the important things that differentiates us, especially in the early stages of the discovery process, is the heavy use of clinical information at the target identification and target validation stages. A lot of that is databases that we are building on a proprietary basis.

QWould you consider making those databases available to others at some point?

AIt depends. Some of our methods of integrating the two types of databases, yes, possibly. We would also use it in an ASP-type environment, but that is still yet to be defined. First and foremost we’re going to use it to leverage our discovery system.

QWhat bioinformatics software do you use?

AMostly the InforMax products. We’re also evaluating LIMS systems and looking at visualization tools such as Spotfire and a couple of others.

QHow do you integrate your data?

AWith difficulty, like everybody else! For our clinical data, we’re developing our own proprietary environment. We are trying to make sure that everything we’re developing is based on XML so that hopefully interoperability won’t be a problem.

Q How is your bioinformatics unit organized within the framework of Pluvita?

AThey report to me and, by virtue of my title of CIO, I guess that makes it part of the IT department. Although quite honestly I think that a lot of those nomenclatures are becoming obsolete: While discovery and research become a complete part of everybody else’s workload, the scientists in a way are informaticians and all of the people who are providing the bioinformatics are IT people. It really becomes a divisionless environment because everybody is so dependent on the automation.

QWhat projects are you working on now?

AA variety of projects, but most importantly the creation of this environment that we call KD3. It’s all-encompassing at the company, from our scientific expertise to our management expertise to our bioinformatics expertise, and especially our collaborative expertise, so that you can use our systems in a completely seamless way while being thousands of miles away. The integration of bioinformatics and knowledge management really is our main focus.

QWhen do you expect this to come on line?

AIt’s actually on line with certain functionality right now, but it’s one of those processes where it’s really never finished. That’s one of the reasons why building all these tools that are properly framed with XML technology becomes extremely important. We want to make sure that if a component becomes obsolete, either by scientific advance or by data processing advance, that we can just unplug it, plug the new one in, and continue on.

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