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Microsoft Expands Life Sciences Effort

Microsoft cut deals with several life sciences and software companies for software that helps researchers visualize molecules and run tests of the efficacy of potential drug compounds.
Microsoft said Thursday it has struck agreements with several life sciences and software companies to develop and distribute software to help researchers create new drugs.

Microsoft said it reached a deal with IO Informatics, a maker of software for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, to commercialize prototype software for visualizing molecules and appending notes and data to the images. The software, called "Collaborative Molecular Environment," was written by InterKnowlogy, a contract software developer that builds products and prototypes for Microsoft. The app lets scientists annotate molecular images with notes, spreadsheets, or links to published research. Scientists can access the system over the Web and search their annotations for key phrases.

The software takes advantage of graphics technology in Windows Vista and the SharePoint Server collaboration software.

Microsoft also launched a project with Agilent Technologies, Applied Biosystems, and Illumina, which make laboratory equipment for analysis of DNA, to integrate data that's output from the machinery with clinical trial data on the efficacy of potential drug compounds. Microsoft plans to let its Excel spreadsheet and business intelligence software import the married data using Web services.

Microsoft hopes the work will act as a catalyst for other software development, eventually helping biotechnology researchers more quickly validate hypotheses, says Don Rule, a platform strategy advisor in Microsoft's developer evangelist group. "We're not a science company," he says. "We want to specify the interfaces" between sample and clinical data, in many cases writing Web services that incorporate already defined standards.