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IBM Dives into the Life Sciences

Executive Summary

IBM thinks that the life sciences industry, where it has had little presence to date, is now big enough and ripe enough to be worth pursuing. It aims to get in at the start of the value chain via bioinformatics. The computing giant has bigger plans than smaller players that moved earlier to focus on bioinformatics-and it has the means to see them through. Pioneers got stuck doing fee-for-service work, but IBM can sell Big Pharmas hardware, software and most importantly, all sorts of services. IBM's debut product in life sciences is DiscoveryLink, which lets data from disparate sources be queried as though they were all in one, giant database. It's also meant to broadly support software created by specialized applications developers. Installations will have to be custom jobs-ideally, part of bigger IT contracts. Other computing concerns also perceive opportunity in life sciences; indeed it's clear a battle is brewing between big hardware suppliers. But they're cooperating to a degree: calling for data standards, so they can compete on products not technology. IBM has credibility from other sectors, but it's uncertain how applicable it expertise will be in life sciences, even if it can find and train enough people. Also unclear: whether drugmakers actually want and will pay big money for integrated solutions. Though a newcomer to life sciences, IBM may be uniquely suited to serve the industry-not only because of its own deep and ongoing research into computational biology, but because it can offer drugmakers one-stop shopping.

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