A new extension for Microsoft

Software giant to acquire assets of Rosetta Biosoftware from Merck, boosting Amalga Life Sciences platform

Lloyd Dunlap
REDMOND, Wash.—Microsoft Corp. has signed an agreement with Merck & Co. Inc. to acquire the assets of Rosetta Biosoftware, a business unit of Rosetta Inpharmatics LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck. The assets include the patents, software, branding and key employees. Concerning the latter, the company says it is "filling specific roles that are deemed critical to the smooth transition of incorporating Rosetta technologies into Amalga Life Sciences."

The deal enables Microsoft to incorporate genetic, genomic, metabolomic and proteomics data management software into the Microsoft Amalga Life Sciences platform for enhanced translational research capabilities. The platform was introduced April 28 at the Bio-IT World Conference & Expo and shortly thereafter adopted by the nearby Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The key drivers behind the deal were significant synergies between Amalga Life Sciences and Rosetta's technologies. According to the company's Jim Karkanias, senior director of applied research and technology, Microsoft Health Solutions Group, Microsoft realized that "combining them would allow us to provide a full-featured platform for accelerating personalized medicine. Acquiring Rosetta Biosoftware assets will allow for genetic, genomic, metabolomic and proteomics data management software to be incorporated into Amalga Life Sciences, improving management and analysis of genomic, biological and research data. Ultimately, this will help to bring life-saving drugs and therapies to market faster."

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft is entering into a long-term strategic relationship with Merck and the two companies will collaborate on the direction, evolution and development of Amalga Life Sciences. Merck will become a Microsoft customer and Microsoft will provide Merck with updates on early releases of the technology for product testing purposes. "This is part of our previously announced strategy designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our basic research operations to ensure long-term pipeline productivity," said Rupert Vessey, vice president of Merck Research Laboratories.

Microsoft is blunt in stating its rationale for creating Amalga: "Shifting consumer behaviors, low research productivity and a failing drug business model have caused pharmaceutical and biotech companies to pursue personalized medicine more than ever before," Karkanias states. "But while the current offering of healthcare and life sciences solutions provides storage and sharing capabilities, they are doing little to enable the discovery of new, personalized treatments. To address this, Microsoft developed Amalga Life Sciences, a new software system designed to transform health and life sciences research data into the critical knowledge needed for the discovery of new personalized treatments. This new technology manages data as a network of facts, giving organizations the freedom to explore and optimize the use of their data to respond to new information, ask questions and reduce the time it takes to act upon the information. From this, researchers gain new insights into the data they already have, and organizations that use Amalga Life Sciences to capture new types of data elements and support changing experimental results, discoveries and technologies can rapidly respond to emerging and future research requirements."

Asked about the five-year goals for Amalga, Karkanias sets the bar very high. "We are working toward connecting data across the entire health ecosystem, from scientific research to caregivers to the patients themselves. As more scientists use Amalga and create more robust data stores, we'd like to see, for example, a physician look at the genetics of a breast cancer patient and make an informed decision about care based on the latest research, all by connecting the data through Amalga," he says.

The deal between Microsoft and Merck was expected to close at the end of June, and the new Amalga Life Sciences platform incorporating Rosetta Biosoftware technologies is slated to be available in early 2010. Until the deal is closed, Rosetta Biosoftware will continue to operate as a business unit of Rosetta Inpharmatics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck.

Over the past 12 years, Microsoft has steadily increased its investments in health, with a focus on addressing the challenges of health providers, health and social services organizations, payers, consumers and life sciences companies worldwide. Microsoft collaborates with a broad array of partners, as well as developing its own health solutions, such as Amalga and HealthVault.
 

Lloyd Dunlap

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