Global CIO Quick Take: IBM Joins UPMC To Fight Bioterrorism
The joint effort also includes Merck and Battelle and intends to set up a rapid-response vaccine-development and production facility.
Joining UPMC's effort to "address a critical gap in the nation's defenses against bioterrorism and infectious diseases," IBM has signed on to provide not only IT infrastructure but also R&D consulting in life-sciences and pharmaceuticals. IBM joins Merck and Battelle in UPMC's effort to create a facility that can rapidly develop and produce vaccines in the wake of a bioterrorist attack.
This latest effort would expand the extensive partnership between IBM and UPMC, which is a $7 billion healthcare and medical-research organization affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh. A few years ago, IBM and UPMC forged an unprecedented partnership that included IBM becoming UPMC's exclusive hardware provider as well as a 50-50 partner in a $100 million venture-capital fund.
Calling its new initiative 21st Century Biodefense, UPMC says the effort will address some of the biosecurity concerns raised by President Obama about biosecurity:
Partnering with leading companies in the fields of biopharmaceutical development, biomanufacturing technologies, information technology, and research that supports vaccine development, 21CB proposes the formation of a public-private partnership to leverage the domain expertise of private industry in a nonprofit environment.
IBM described in a statement its role in the project as a supplier of both technology and R&D expertise:
IBM will provide . . . information technology, such as IBM's new Power7 systems, to create the infrastructure that will support 21CB manufacturing processes and operations. This infrastructure will be able to handle extreme volumes of data and scale quickly to adapt to changing demand. "IBM brings . . . access to teams of life sciences researchers at each of our eight research labs around the world," said Dan Pelino, general manager, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences. "We're pleased to bring our deep skills and pharmaceutical industry consulting expertise to support 21CB and its important mission."
A key UPMC player behind these plans is CIO Dan Drawbaugh, widely recognized as one of the world's top business-technology leaders and a former InformationWeek Chief of the Year. Drawbaugh was intimately involved in crafting UPMC's initial partnership with IBM and has also been a strong voice within UPMC for leveraging its technology expertise to branch out into new areas such as telemedicine, bioengineering, and biosecurity.
Now that UPMC has pulled together its impressive list of partners, next steps include the federal government approving the funding for the project and then the competitive review to see which plan best meets the needs for this biosecurity initiative.
IBM and UPMC say they expect the project to create 1,000 jobs directly and up to 6,000 indirectly, and that UPMC would "own and operate the facility under the direction of the federal government as a public-private partnership."