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ABI opens up its code
FOSTER CITY, Calif.—To encourage innovation in life science research software applications, Applied Biosystems (ABI), an Applera Corp. business, has decided to provide life scientists and independent software vendors (ISVs) open access to its genetic analysis data file format and a data file converter and launch a new software development community.
The idea of creating such a community, ABI says, is to facilitate the development of next-generation bioinformatics applications that can advance productivity and data sharing on ABI's genetic analyzers and real-time PCR sequence detection systems.
"The basic idea behind it is the realization that we've really got to get out of the way of the customers and let them choose how they want to handle their data and analyses," says John Oakley, chief architect for ABI. "In the past, we've decided how the instruments would be used based on software we would provide.
"But we realized that more companies—in life sciences and other industries—were releasing formats for their data and companies were coming up with ideas that wouldn't have been thought of otherwise or would have been shunted to a back burner because they didn't seem important enough."
In the end, he says, the goal is to help improve cycle times by giving researchers more flexibility to make decisions about the discovery work that they are doing.
"Applied Biosystems understands that in order for the life sciences community to ultimately achieve its goal of targeted medicine, an environment of collaboration and innovation is required," says Dr. Dennis A. Gilbert, CSO for ABI. "Our mission is to create a more collaborative environment that provides an open and widely accessible pool of resources."
ABI has already initiated a number of new collaborations with leading ISVs directly and through organizations such as the BioIT Alliance, a cross-industry working group spearheaded by Microsoft Corp. that brings together pharmaceutical, biotech, hardware and software companies to explore new ways to share complex biomedical data and speed the pace of discovery in the life sciences.
Geospiza, a developer of IT solutions to automate genetic testing, analysis and data production, is one of the first companies to join the ABI software development community, having developed a tool that improves data analysis workflow and provides better sharing of research and discovery project data across workgroups. The new solution uses the Geospiza Finch Suite, a software platform that facilities clinical and preclinical genetic testing based on DNA sequence analysis.
"Historically, Applied Bio has been more of a closed shop," notes Dr. Kevin Banks, VP of business development at Geospiza. "By creating this software development community, the company is really allowing software companies to do what they do best and create a larger ecosystem of providers to serve the needs of drug discovery researchers. "
ABI isn't the first company to recognize the value of opening up some of its code to developers, Banks admits, noting that Affymetrix was one of the first to do so. But ABI is coming to the table early enough to make a difference in the community and stay ahead of the curve, he says.