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The Biodata Challenge


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-12-01-2001

In the United States, pharma companies spend an average of $240 million a year on clinical trials-and millions more for drugs that never make it through the full trial process. Commercializing the genome gives pharma companies the potential to dramatically improve their clinical development portfolios.

In the United States, pharma companies spend an average of $240 million a year on clinical trials-and millions more for drugs that never make it through the full trial process. Commercializing the genome gives pharma companies the potential to dramatically improve their clinical development portfolios.

Together, biology, chemistry, and information technology have revolutionized the way new therapies are developed. Companies now rely on a more detailed understanding of the biological and chemical structure of proteins as they test millions of chemical compounds.

With the increased generation of terabytes of test result information, life sciences companies can now pursue dozens of products to treat a range of diseases.

A biotech company moving toward proteomics can create up to seven terabytes of data per day once its application is fully implemented. Using such techniques, companies will create more data over the next three years than they did during the previous 40,000 years combined, according to a recent University of California at Berkeley study.

As a first step toward increasing the speed of the drug discovery pipeline, pharma and biotech companies have purchased the largest and fastest computer servers. Although there have been dramatic improvements in high-value servers, the sheer amount of data being calculated has forced companies to move beyond simple CPU (central processing unit) power.

To meet that information deluge, life sciences companies are building enterprise storage infrastructures to facilitate information sharing across their organizations. Market leadership will come from companies that can do the best job of storing, processing, and distributing complex bioscience, clinical trial, and market research data.

Pharma companies now ac-quire data from their own labs as well as commercial and public databases, and database subscriptions with genetic variation data from other pharma, biotech, diagnostic, and genomic companies. The key differentiator will be the successful integration of data from those disparate sources and the ability to protect, manage, and share that complex data within the context of a highly regulated industry.

Life sciences companies can leverage information from R&D data acquisition and clinical trials throughout the pharmaceutical value chain by building an infrastructure that promotes research collaboration. The most successful and best-positioned companies will invest in best-of-breed components such as servers, enterprise storage systems, database management systems, and bioinformatics applications.

Case in Point

Incyte Genomics (incytegeno mics.com) of Palo Alto, California, has such an infrastructure to help researchers explore complex illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cardiovascular disease. Its research information also is being used to develop powerful new treatments and to advance medicine in new ways.

Reliable and timely research and analysis provide a vital piece of the genomic puzzle to customers, partners, educational institutions, and the research community worldwide. Incyte's growing demand for increased information storage, and the space to accommodate it, were presenting barriers to future growth. So the company worked with EMC (emc.com) of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to implement a cost-effective information storage infrastructure that both consolidated its existing computer storage environment and boosted its information storage capacity, performance, availability, and manageability.

Rebecca Naughton, information systems architect for Incyte Genomics says,"The storage solution we chose is a make-or-break decision with respect to the database part of our business in terms of processing. If we don't do it right, it's extremely difficult to make the commitment we need in deliverables to our customers."

The high-performance information storage infrastructure delivers double the capacity of the previous configuration-from 28 to 56 terabytes-in less than half the physical space.

"The speed and dependability of the system contributes heavily to our ability to complete our processing schedules on time," says Naughton. "We need to process as swiftly and reliably as possible so our data is current. Like any other organization, when we are processing something, we can't afford downtime. Once we deploy, we need to be solid."

The new information storage infrastructure supports the production environment of the LifeSeq Foundation, Incyte's database for functional genomics. Because LifeSeq's process pipeline combines various operating systems-including SGI Irix, Sun Solaris, and Compaq Tru64-with leading-edge technology, such as Incyte's proprietary genomic analysis applications, the chosen storage infrastructure had to be flexible enough to easily integrate with the whole.

"Using those new systems, we can reallocate disks more efficiently, which makes operations much more flexible, and scalable on demand," says Greg McGrath, senior director of infrastructure services at Incyte Genomics.

The storage system's interoperability also gives the company the flexibility to meet the growing and changing IS/IT requirements of LifeSeq Foundation while conserving existing investments.

"It gives us an easy way to consolidate our storage and use it on various platforms," says McGrath. "With our new software, we'll get the trustworthiness and quickness we need-two major concerns we had with other storage vendors. We'll also gain a competitive advantage because of the ability to back up our databases."

With genomics research expanding to proteomics, the information infrastructure deployed by Incyte Genomics has improved the company's strategic position. As the data explosion continues, the company will be ready to provide its customers with fast, reliable access to the latest research and analytical results.

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