IT vendors lead the way in genomics market

Related tags Bioinformatics

According to a recent survey, Apple, Cisco Systems, Dell, IBM and
Microsoft are best qualified to implement new technologies that
will advance genomics research.

Genomics is the study of genes and their function, an area of research that is revolutionising our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of disease and leading to the identification of thousands of new biological targets for the drug discovery programs of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

Scientists are acquiring genomics data through the use of techniques such as amplification, DNA microarray expression, real-time PCR and genotyping. Instrumentation, hardware and software are then required to analyse, integrate and transmit this vast amount of data, which has resulted in significant IT challenges for those in the field.

The IT vendors were singled out as the main players to lead the IT revolution for proteomics R&D, specifically high performance computing, collaborative software and storage area networks. Other vendors, including HP/Compaq, Sun Microsystems and Oracle, also fared well especially amongst the scientific community.

"The genomics market for IT solutions is still fragmented and many scientists are only now beginning to appreciate the powerful role IT will play in their research,"​ said Bill Kelly, president of BioInformatics​, a market research and consulting firm.

"It appears that many scientists are relying on brand associations formed in the consumer market when naming the IT vendors qualified to develop and install life science solutions."

Computing plays two fundamental roles in bioinformatics and computational biology. First, computers participate in data analysis, ranging from accessing high throughput data and sequencing single nucleotide polymorphisms to analysing microarrays and experiments in proteomics. The challenge is reducing the dimensionality of these data so that scientists can understand them. To do that, computing should combine data mining with biological insight.

Second, computers can run in-silico models that test biological theories. In silico modelling must capture homeostatic behaviour of cells, systems, and organisms. Then, scientists can explore what happens during disease or other perturbations. Reaching higher levels of modelling demands increased computing capabilities, and all the major information technology vendors offer solutions that address this market.

The results of the survey also reveal valuable insights into ways these companies can formulate future strategies. IT vendors need to understand that they can play a role at each stage in the genomics 'value chain.' The process begins with the acquisition of data from analytical instruments and progresses through data processing, analysis, distribution and storage. The challenge facing scientists is that this is a heterogeneous hardware and software environment, which makes it difficult to integrate multiple application tools and disparate data.

Life science instrumentation companies are also players in the genomics market for IT products and services and equally fared well in the survey. Instruments from Affymetrix, Agilent, Applied Biosystems, Beckman Coulter, Bio-Rad, GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences and Roche Applied Science incorporate software designed not only to operate the instrument but also to help scientists analyse and interpret the results.

"Some instrument vendors are also becoming full-fledged software developers,"​ commented Kelly.

Genomics software is one of the areas where the report highlights a possible market opportunity. A number of commercial independent software vendors such as Accelrys DNAStar, Gene Codes and Spotfire have developed targeted products for genomics, but scientists still rely on a confusing mix of internally developed software, freeware distributed throughout the scientific community, commercial packages from independent vendors and software embedded in analytical instruments.

DNAStar is the producer of the Lasergene suite, a new kind of software that performs tasks such as sequence assembly and finishing, primer design, gene discovery and annotation, sequence pair and family alignment with phylogeny, restriction site analysis and mapping, and protein structure analysis.

A variety of features makes this package so widely used. First, it works with most of the major file formats. An additional feature of this package lets a user drag-and-drop whole folders of sequences.

"A true 'whole product' solution has yet to emerge, which means that there are still opportunities to set the de facto standards that create customer lock-in and encourage other vendors to develop products to complement and enhance the leader's solution,"​ Kelly said.

Related topics Preclinical Research

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