AT A GLANCE: Ph.D. in human anatomy & cell biology and an MBA in inter-national business from George-town University. Previously served as vice president, drug discovery & research, at EntreMed, a bio-therapeutic development company. Co-founder, of privately held TheraMed, Inc., a drug device and delivery company, and LabBook, Inc, a software & informatics company.
QWhere will bioinformatics be in two years? Five years?
AToday, bioinformatics is largely segmented into discrete areas such as genomics, expression, proteomics, functional analysis, pathways, and so forth. Each segment has its set of tools and databases and a small group of expert "bioinformaticians," typically outside the research lab, who can operate these. Yet, our customers are conducting research that cuts across these boundaries, suggesting that the segments are limitations of the bioinformatics providers, not the researchers.
In two years, we will begin to see bioinformatics platforms that are used easily and readily by all biologists in the course of their research to design experiments and interpret results. The computer ‘desktop’ will expand its reach to unify the daily activities of the researcher, from access to scientific content to management, analysis, and communication of all information. Use of well-designed informatics tools will become as routine, and necessary, as word processors and email.
Within five years, these platforms will begin to unify the continuum of biological systems from the molecular to the organismal level, and from the individual cell to clinical populations. Biology-smart tools will operate with clear and well-developed data models and classification systems, and these will open new avenues of research exploration. These tools will support good scientific methods to formulate and test hypotheses for the basic researcher out to the clinician.
QWhat are the biggest challenges the bioinformatics sector faces?
AAmong the biggest challenges are providing software tools for information access, management, and analysis that support the life scientist who is not trained as a bioinformatician. Bioinformatics must be seen as an essential part of the discovery process and a natural extension of the lab bench, and the sector must provide flexible tools that are biology-smart and easy to use. Making bioinformatics tools more robust to address larger scale and more complex problems is the simple part compared to guiding the convergence of biologists and bioinformatics to accelerate the pace of research. The continual need to reveal and understand biomolecular profiles and patterns in context of their underlying associations will always remain a challenge for life science researcher.
Data integration is an integral component of the drug discovery process: we need affordable bioinformatics solutions that enable drug researchers to integrate and deliver the ever changing and disparate data.
QWhat do you see as the most important task for bioinformatics to address beyond genome sequencing?
AThe most important task for bioinformatics to address is that of data integration and system interoperability. As long as it is difficult for researchers to manage their information, all problems will be harder to solve. Today’s researchers spend too much time working with research content delivered as HTML files and other formats that convey little biological meaning and are difficult to move through discovery pipelines. Once the community agrees on and supports common XML data standards and vocabularies the next challenges of bioinformatics will be readily approached. Information and application standards will also enhance the ability of academic and government efforts to provide the next generations of tools and databases that plug into accepted information platforms.
QWith what companies do you have partnerships?
AWe will continue to partner with like-minded companies that believe in the "enabling information at the desktop" for the researcher. Our ‘front-end’ applications, such as LabBook XML Genomic Browser will enable IBM’s discovery link/DB2 backend database solution. Our eLabBook will bring Wiley’s world-class Current Protocols and InterScience to the desktop in an alive and highly interactive environment for the researcher to access content. Other premier content partners include NERAC and Ohio State University Human Cancer Genetics Program.