CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Compaq Computer will open a new bioinformatics solutions center here within six to nine months, Ben Rosen, Compaq's chairman, announced last month. Compaq hired Nat Goodman, who was until recently a senior scientist at the Jackson Laboratory, to direct the center. The facility, which Goodman predicted will house a "formidable-sized" staff, will be operational around January, the company said. An exact location has not yet been chosen.
Before joining the Jackson Lab, in Bar Harbor, Maine, where he conducted research and development of computing techniques and systems for molecular biology since 1996, Goodman spent five years at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research here. As senior research scientist and associate director of Whitehead's Center for Genome Research, Goodman explored computing techniques for the Human Genome Project.
Richard Fly, Compaq's director of executive communications, said bioinformatics has been "an area of focus for the company for a long time." He said the new center will focus on optimizing public domain code for Compaq's platform, running benchmarks on Compaq systems, and helping customers configure systems for correct driver storage.
Goodman told BioInform that one of the center's objectives will be to demonstrate the performance of Compaq machines and develop benchmarks by running tests on bioinformatics programs--both standard programs and those developed by its customers. For example, Goodman explained, "Take something like Blast. When we go out and try to sell computers to people, they want to know how big a computer they need to run 10 or 100 Blasts a minute." Goodman said Compaq representatives create test programs to help customers determine the level of computational power they need, but, he added, "it would be good if there were an agreed-upon set of test data that everyone could run to compare the performance of their respective machines." To help customers get a better sense of different products' performance, Goodman said Compaq's bioinformatics solutions center could help the industry develop a set of queries and test data that represent an agreed-upon typical workload. He added, "It's technically difficult to come up with good benchmarks, so it's going to take awhile, but I think it's something that has good value in it."
Current Compaq bioinformatics customers include Celera Genomics, Incyte Pharmaceuticals, and centers associated with the Human Genome Project. "Bioinformatics is an area that is just mushrooming right now," Fly added.
--Amy E. Nevala