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BioTeam Spinout, Vast Scientific, to Focus On Proteome Informatics, Microsoft Platform

Bioinformatics consulting firm The BioTeam has spun out a new consultancy called Vast Scientific that will focus on proteome informatics and the use of Microsoft technology in life science informatics.
Stan Gloss, managing director of the BioTeam, told BioInform that the decision to create a separate consultancy to focus on those capabilities resulted from a rapidly growing client list with an expanding set of requirements, which sometimes made it difficult for the six-person firm to properly prioritize its projects.
The BioTeam was founded in 2002 by veterans from IT consulting shop Blackstone Computing [BioInform 07-01-02], and has historically specialized in high-performance computing for life science research. 
More recently, however, Gloss said that the firm has been working with customers on more application-specific tasks, particularly in proteomics, as well as with the BioIT Alliance spearheaded by Microsoft. It therefore made sense for Michael Athanas, The BioTeam principal working on these efforts, to found a new firm with a new mission.
“The application is the core focus, and that’s what we’re doing at Vast,” Athanas said. “We’re focusing on the application and the data, rather than focusing on computers and computer deployment.” 
Gloss noted that BioTeam’s strategy has been to “focus on best practices,” and that the recent evolution in its project portfolio created a “clear divide in terms of where to put our attention. Now we’re taking a whole grouping of best practices together and giving it a tremendous amount of focus.”
He said that BioTeam will continue to specialize in high-performance computing, with a particular emphasis on HPC infrastructure for next-generation sequencing. In addition, the company will continue to support its iNquiry software package.
“The two companies are absolutely complementary. We are not competing,” Gloss said.

“We’re focusing on the application and the data, rather than focusing on computers and computer deployment.”

Athanas said that Vast, which employs three people, is working on several projects, including a collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific to help develop its SIEVE software for differential mass-spectrometry analysis, and a project to develop a “scalable infrastructure” for Jarrod Marto’s lab at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Athanas noted that the market dynamics are very different for proteomics informatics than genome informatics. In genomics, he said, “everything grew out of open source,” and many of the commercial firms in the field are based around enhanced versions of freely available tools. In proteomics, on the other hand, many of the core applications like Mascot and Sequest are commercial.
“I think it’s driven by industry, principally the instrumentation manufacturers,” Athanas said.
In addition, he said, many researchers in the proteomics field have instruments from several different vendors, making data integration a top priority.
Athanas said that Vast is forming a “tight partnership” with Microsoft, and plans to work on “various projects” within the BioIT Alliance. However, he noted, the company doesn’t have an “exclusive” relationship with the software giant when it comes to advising its customers.

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