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Bioinformatics Briefs: Feb 4, 2002


Stingy, Stingy…


Turns out commercial organizations aren’t the only ones hoarding their data. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that data, materials, and information are often kept secret in academic genetics.

The report, co-authored by Eric Campbell of the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, surveyed 1,240 geneticists and 600 non-geneticists in the 100 US universities that received the most funding from the National Institutes of Health in 1998.

The survey found that 47 percent of geneticists who asked other faculty for additional information, data, or materials relating to published scientific findings had been denied their request at least once in the past three years.

Overall, 10 percent of all post-publication requests for additional information in genetics were denied; 28 percent of geneticists said they had been unable to replicate published research results because of a lack of access, and a quarter had to delay their own publications because of data withholding by their peers.

Geneticists who admitted withholding information from other researchers cited several reasons, including a lack of money and time and the competitive pressure to protect their own and their colleagues’ ability to publish future research findings.

The study authors noted that additional resources for researchers and new policies and procedures supporting data sharing could help address this issue.


Integration Eats up the Bulk of Big Pharma’s IT Budget


A recent report from Boston-based consulting firm AMR Research found that 58 percent of the pharmaceutical industry’s IT budget goes toward application implementation, maintenance, and custom development. Around half of that — 30 percent of the total IT budget — is going toward the “astronomical cost of data and business process integration across multi-vendor products,” according to the report’s author, John Bermudez.

The report holds software vendors to blame for this situation. Wrote Bermudez, “Most packaged applications are delivered with little or no recognition that they must be plugged into a unique corporate system to be effective.”

While many software companies are blaming the recession for slowing sales, Bermudez noted that total IT spending has not decreased — a fact that should send a message to vendors that pharma is simply not buying additional software because it has “a stockpile of unused software waiting for [the] IT staff to assemble into [the] corporate systems.”

Bermudez posited two possible outcomes for the software side: Either it matures to mirror the hardware industry, “in which components and peripherals from different suppliers self-configure themselves and interoperate with minimal fuss,” or else the industry resists maturity “and continues to resemble the high-rise construction industry — every project is custom and major upgrades happen every 20 to 30 years.”

The full report, “Enterprise Applications: Are They the Solution or Part of the Problem?” addresses IT spending in a range of vertical markets and is available at the AMR website,


Scimagix To Make Software FDA-Compliant


Scimagix, a San Mateo, Calif.-based provider of image informatics software, said last week that it is making its SIMS (Scientific Image Management System) compliant with GxP (good laboratory practice, good manufacturing practice, etc.) standards as well as the US FDA’s regulations for electronic submissions of data according to 21 CFR Part 11.

In line with this move, the company has hired Janet Smith, formerly vice president of database and development solutions at MDL Information Systems, as director of regulatory affairs to ensure that the company’s products meet these standards. According to Scimagix, this initiative will result in “the first GxP- and 21 CFR Part 11-enabled image informatics solutions.”


RLX Teams with Platform on Bioinformatics Clusterware


High-density blade computing platform vendor RLX Technologies and Platform Computing have agreed to offer Platform Clusterware as part of the RLX Blast Cluster Solution, a compute cluster kit to enable processing of Blast jobs for bioinformatics customers.

RLX said the Blast Cluster Solution would include all of the components to build a compute cluster for performing Blast searches and other large-scale biological compute problems. The system will be based on RLX’s ServerBlade 667 with Red Hat 7.2 installed, and will comprise one 10 GB disk drive and a choice of 512 MB or 1 GB of RAM.


Compugen Goes Green


Tel Aviv, Israel-based Compugen said last week that it has launched Agro-LEADS, a majority-owned subsidiary focusing on agricultural biotechnology and plant genomics. The subsidiary will be based in Rehovot, Israel.

Compugen said that Agro-LEADS is the product of agricultural research that it has been conducting in-house since 1999. Agro-LEADS will “integrat[e] computational biology and plant genomics with classical breeding approaches into high-throughput platforms for the purpose of accelerating, directing and mimicking the natural evolution process,” according to the company. Its core product focus will be the development of seeds with improved traits.

Agro-LEADS also plans to carry out collaborative initiatives with other organizations in areas such as crop protection products, nutritionally enhanced crops, nutraceuticals, and industrial and therapeutic products.

Details on Agro-LEADS bioinformatics capabilities and staff were not yet available at press time.


Lion Locks up NetGenics Acquisition


Lion Bioscience of Heidelberg, Germany, said last week that it had completed the acquisition of all of the equity of Cleveland-based NetGenics in exchange for Lion American Depository Shares (ADS), effective January 30, 2002.

Lion will issue an aggregate of 1,116,175 ADS in the transaction, with each ADS representing one Lion ordinary share coming from authorized capital.

Manuel Glynias, who acted as NetGenics’ president and CEO, will serve as senior vice president for strategic planning of Lion’s US subsidiary Lion Bioscience Inc., while former CTO Michael Dickson will become senior principal architect of Lion’s US development team. The two NetGenics founders will initially focus on the integration of NetGenics’ DiscoveryCenter software into Lion’s product portfolio.

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