BioIT Alliance targets biomarkers

BioIT Alliance begins the Biomarker Project and recruits Agilent.

Chris Anderson
REDMOND, Wash.—The BioIT Alliance announced it was begin­ning its second phase of work—the Biomarker Project—and with it had recruited a number of new companies to the effort including Agilent Technologies which will take a lead role in this next phase of work.
 
"There is a parallel to what is happening with the BioIT Alliance right now," says François Mandeville, bioin­formatics business manager with Agilent. "The networking industry was facing the same challenges as we are facing now when they needed to build all the gear that allows all of us to use the Internet. To pave that brave new world, vendors needed to cooperate and that same effort is required right now in the life sci­ences to enable interoperability."
 
For Microsoft, the alliance provides a way for the company to have a window on the pro­cess, work with leading compa­nies long active in areas where Microsoft has only recently dipped its toe in the water.
 
"Our long-term goal with the BioIT Alliance is to create the tools necessary to make per­sonalized medicine a reality," says Don Rule, platform strat­egy advisor within the Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft. "As a company, if Microsoft wants to address the challenges of healthcare in general, where we can be most effective is in areas that have the potential to become disruptive."
 
And when it comes to the potential of personalized medi­cine, working with biomarkers and understanding the implica­tions is one such area.
 
"When you look at discovering biomarkers, it is an ideal micro­cosm of the interoperability chal­lenges researchers face across the life science space, of all the differ­ent instruments and different tools used to conduct this research," says Mandeville.
 
Rule notes that Agilent is an attractive partner and is one of the leads in the project because it has a well-established product called GeneSpring that integrates genomic, proteomic and biomark­er screening data.
 
"We've been talking with Agilent for some time about join­ing, and the Biomarkers Project is something that made alliance more compelling for them," Rule notes.
 
But it is also a question of the alliance meshing with a strate­gic direction already ingrained at Agilent and the other 35 mem­bers of the alliance—that of find­ing ways to provide open access to data formats to both increase busi­ness prospects, but also the speed and ease at which researchers do their work.
 
"Agilent is committed to enabling treatments for disease and discov­ery of new drugs at an accelerated pace," says Mandeville. "At the core of this is making the multiple sources where researchers gener­ate their data interoperable."

Chris Anderson

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