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Getting everyone’s heads in the cloud
June 2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


LONDON—April 25 saw British telecommunications network and service provider BT, which operates in more than 170 countries, make two separate announcements regarding life sciences and cloud computing that show the company is working toward end-to-end online solutions for life sciences, from the earliest stage of research and development to clinical trials.  
The first and more prominent of the two announcements puts BT together with San Diego-based Accelrys, a scientific enterprise R&D software and services company, and Middleton, Mass.-based BioTeam, which provides consulting to life-science researchers with an eye toward technology-agnostic solutions. In that effort, the collaborators are working to boost the fledgling BT for Life Sciences R&D platform, which BT trumpets as the first cloud-based service designed to enable collaboration within the life-sciences industry for increased R&D productivity.  
According to BT, the new service is designed as a "secure and segregated platform for scientists in pharmaceutical, biotech, devices and diagnostics companies as well as in academia and government" to allow customers "to comply with the industry's stringent security, regulatory and compliance requirements in a way that is suitable for many regulated applications a company may wish to deploy."   Reportedly, BT for Life Sciences R&D will allow users to construct and orchestrate in-silico workflows and data pipelines to identify new pharmaceutical targets and drug candidates and make predictive simulations. In addition, this platform is intended to enable research scientists to create global project groups and collaborate using social media tools.  
This ecosystem will allow the group to securely upload documents, share results and communicate via IM, voice, video or chat to analyze results in an environment that segments data and uses qualified hardware components and workflows specific to the pharmaceutical industry," BT explains.  
Added to this is the fact that the BT for Life Sciences R&D platform is supported by the BT Assure portfolio of security services, which assists customers in designing data encryption, anonymization, risk management and resilience to meet quality and regulatory requirements for the cloud environment. BT for Life Sciences R&D also leverages other aspects of the BT portfolio, such as BT One for collaboration and unified communications and BT Connect to provide a high-capacity secure network that allows for private, hybrid and public clouds interoperability. Customers are also expected to benefit from BT Advise 's professional services capabilities for application selection and migration to the cloud, orchestration support, Bioteam's consulting services and design of cloud environment elements.  
The new cloud platform for life sciences initially builds on BT's On Demand Compute service, but also required BT to team up with Accelrys and BioTeam for additional life science and technical know-how to further advance and improve the platform. Accelrys' role is key, in that it is to bring additional features to the platform, including  use of Accelrys scientific applications in BT for Life Sciences R&D and providing on-demand services for Accelrys customers.  
"A secure cloud platform from a trusted supplier like BT is an important step in addressing the externalization, collaboration and cost pressures faced by many of our pharmaceutical and biotech customers today," noted Dr. Matt Hahn, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Accelrys. "Combining the scientifically aware Accelrys Enterprise Platform and BT's robust cloud offering enables our customers to quickly analyze and share data using Pipeline Pilot, Symyx Notebook by Accelrys, Isentris and other Accelrys software to improve collaboration, lower costs and accelerate time to market." 

The Accelrys Enterprise Platform is said to "enable scientific innovation and lowers total cost of ownership" by delivering flexible, configurable service-oriented architecture; data management, analysis and reporting on complex data types including chemical structures, sequences, image, numeric and text; integration with third- party applications, databases and existing scientific infrastructure; and an open architecture that provides the ability to access third-party data sources that are ODBC compliant.  
"The pharmaceutical industry is facing an extremely challenging environment where patent-protected revenues are at risk and R&D productivity are declining, resulting in lower revenues and continued rise in the cost of bringing new drugs to market," according to Bas Burger, president of global commerce for BT Global Services. "Now, companies can potentially reduce research costs and accelerate time to market by collaborating with third parties in a secure and compliant environment, and bring innovative solutions to market faster through computer simulation and modeling. This aims at helping them develop new products faster, with lower costs and increased revenues."  
With the official BT announcement, apparently BioTeam was able to reveal a part of its work with the collaboration that it has been impatiently keeping close to the vest, as the company posted this exuberant message on its website April 25: "BioTeam has had this cooking in the lab for a while now, but now we can discuss it publicly. We've been working with our partners Accelrys and BT to demonstrate what we think is a really cool concept: using Apple Siri on iOS devices to interact directly with a cloud platform (BT Compute) and scientific analysis software (Accelrys Pipeline Pilot)."  
The second announcement from BT on April 25 was more focused but also involved the new cloud-based platform and shows that BT has it eyes on the far end of the R&D spectrum, too—clinical trials—with an effort to get Berg Pharma into the cloud to "optimize results for clinical trials and management of the patient ecosystem."
Reportedly, Berg Pharma and BT Global Services will be working together to accelerate the process of drug discovery and development, using resources and technology from both companies. The joint effort will focus on the use of innovative approaches to target identification and validation and on lead optimization of novel drug candidates and will support the use of cloud-based, high-throughput molecular profiling techniques to select patients for clinical trials.  
As part of this, Berg Pharma will use the BT for Life Sciences R&D cloud service as the de-facto standard for running Berg's Interrogative Biology platform.  
"Berg Pharma's novel approaches to drug discovery and development will integrate well with BT's new cloud services offering," says Niven R. Narain, president and chief technology officer of the company. "This approach will enable us to gain insight to underlying disease mechanisms and pathophysiology, provide a template for expedient proof-of-principle IND enabling testing and allow for higher clinical trial success based on much deeper disease understanding. Medicine of the future must be data-driven to address the multifactorial nature of disease onset and allow for astute clinical and economic modeling. Big data is important, but actionable data is invaluable."
Code: E061211



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