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I3C Adds Merck to Member List; First Trial LSID Implementation Begins at PDB

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The Interoperable Informatics Infrastructure Consortium has added a key player to its member list. I3C officials said last week that Merck has now joined Biogen and Millennium to round out the biopharmaceutical population of the previously IT and vendor-heavy group.

Participation by more large pharmaceutical companies will be critical for the future of the organization, said Jill Mesirov, CIO at the Whitehead Institute and an I3C board member. “All pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, and research centers should be members,” she said. While the feedback from large pharma about the group’s efforts to date has been positive, that’s not enough, she said. “Some people are waiting for us to do all the work — they’ll just sit back and use what we develop.”

Rainer Fuchs, vice president of research informatics at Biogen and an I3C board member, added that the risk of sitting back and watching what happens “is that nothing happens.” Active participation gives members “more collective bargaining power with vendors,” he said.

Board member Sia Zadeh added that non-members are welcome to sit in on I3C meetings for the time being as guests, “but by this time next year, there will only be members allowed.” Fuchs noted that the next year would be crucial for the group, and will determine whether the effort has staying power or “goes down like other standards efforts.” The key to success, he said is getting the user community to adopt the I3C’s solutions.

And things are moving ahead on those solutions. A “pretty solid” draft of the LSID (Life Science Identifier) specification is now being drawn up, according to Philip Werner, vice president of product management at Avaki and a member of the I3C’s technical architecture working group.

In addition, a trial implementation of the specification has just begun at the Protein Data Bank - PDB entries will be tagged with the LSID identifier as the first test case on a public data source.

In addition to the technical architecture working group, which is responsible for the LSID spec, the I3C now supports working groups to explore interoperability in more specialized areas, such as genomics/expression/proteomics, pharmacogenomics, pathways/systems biology, images, LIMS, and publications.

The most recent meeting of the I3C’s technical architecture working group took place Nov. 6-8 in San Diego, and over 50 people — both members and guests — participated, according to I3C officials.

The I3C has also launched a recruiting drive to fill spots on its newly created Science and Technology Board. STB members are expected to have a strong background in either science or technology solutions and will be responsible for reviewing the work of the various I3C task forces before they are submitted to the board of directors for recommendation. Mesirov is chair of the STB task force and is taking submissions through Nov. 30.

Further information is available at the I3C’s website: www.i3c.org.

— BT

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