In lowering costs, the electronic storage of clinical data is set to allow public health officials to easily analyse that data, identify emerging health trends and improve the overall effectiveness and quality of pharmaceutical care.
The lack of potential blockbuster drugs and the anticipated patent expires of existing drugs are forcing the pharmaceutical industry to develop tools that increase drug research productivity, accelerate the drug discovery process and reduce R&D expenditure.
The key problem, identified by Frost and Sullivan (F&S), are the complexities of using different formats whenever a researcher attempts to access data from approximately 800 databases on the Web, reinforcing the need for standard data formats and interfaces.
It is clear that the future of this sector hinges on the IT industry and its ability to harmonise research tools and technologies.
If data becomes accessible from multiple sources, researchers will be able to build cohesive networks from separate databases, share data and supplement each other's results far more easily.
"The key is to design user interfaces that are intuitive, easy to use and powerful," said Katherine Austin, Technical Insights research analyst.
"For example, a proteomics researcher should be able to cross-reference and study sequence databases, gene-expression data and structural data for a particular protein in one sitting."
Potential solutions include combining independent applications onto one standardised interface or designing a single package that provides cross-database search and analysis functionality.
F&S identified the need for value-added applications that could move from task to task and stage to stage, as a particular research project progressed.
Frost and Sullivan had previously identified the total European bioinformatics market will expand from nearly $310 million (€252.8 million) in 2004 to $720 million by 2011.
At an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4 per cent over 2004 to 2011, proteomics is expected to have the highest growth potential within the European bioinformatics market.
"The difficulty is defining the applications that will be most useful to researchers in the future and which data standards and operating systems will prevail and thus should be supported," commented Austin.
A raft of biotechnology and bioinformatic companies are currently developing such applications that communicate with each other, building bridges between disciplines.
Solexa of the UK, is working towards the commercialisation of a new platform for genetic analysis, based on sequencing-by-synthesis and molecular arrays to support various types of genetic analysis, including DNA sequencing, gene expression, genotyping and micro-RNA analysis.
In addition to the single molecule array system, a proprietary bioinformatics system aligns the 25-base sequencing output against a reference system.
This is not only expected to reduce the cost of human sequencing in the long term, but also be highly beneficial for scoring of polymorphisms, detection of rare somatic mutations in cancer genetics, target discovery, pharmacogenomics and personalised healthcare applications.
In clinical informatics, IBM has taken the initiative to build a test bed called the Interoperable Health Information Infrastructure (IHII). IHII is focused on developing a technology that will enable sharing of electronic health records across multiple regional health networks in an open standards environment.
Integration projects such as BioMOBY, funded by Genome Canada, and myGrid, funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council provide systems that enable scientists to browse, identify and access multiple bioinformatics services including databases.
Both groups agreed to merge the best of their tools into a unified registry system to support both the projects.
F&S also identified Compugen of Israel with its systematic identification of adenosine to inosine (A to I) RNA editing sites in the human transcriptome has increased the number of known (A to I) editing sites from approximately 100 to more than 10,000.
The company's predictive approach combines advanced mathematics, computer science and physics into life science.
This leads to a more sophisticated understanding of biological phenomena such as alternative splicing, naturally occurring sense/antisense pairs, and RNA editing.