SAS Spins Off Data Firm Targeting Drug Companies

SAS Institute Inc. is spinning off its life-sciences technology into a wholly owned subsidiary targeting the biomedical industry. The new operation, called iBiomatics, will develop and market software used to collect and analyze clinical trial data during the development of new drugs.

Pharmaceutical companies are searching for ways to reduce the escalating expense of drug research and development. The cost of bringing a new drug to market is estimated at $500 million. Clinical trials of new drugs are conducted at medical facilities scattered across the world. And the results of those trials must be reviewed and analyzed by scientists who are equally dispersed. But the data is frequently unstructured and in multiple formats, which slows the entire process.

"There is no unified framework for bringing all this together," says Lee Evans, previously executive director of SAS's PharmaHealth Technologies business unit and president of the new subsidiary. "One of the reasons drugs are so expensive is because this process is so slow." With the right use of appropriate information technology, the cost of developing a new drug can be reduced by as much as $200 million, according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The iBiomatics subsidiary will incorporate the staff and technologies of PharmaHealth, including the unit's biomedical data warehouse system, software for analyzing statistical medical data, and software for linking clinical trial databases with the SAS data warehouse. Already two unidentified pharmaceutical companies are trying out a prototype iBiomatics system, using portal technology and common data models, that makes it easier for researchers to access clinical trial data, according to the company. That product is expected to be available in six months.

Evans says iBiomatics was created to allow the new unit to move more quickly in the rapidly changing biomedical market. The subsidiary will initially have 50 employees. SAS expects it to have sales initially of about $10 million.

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