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Bio-IT bubbles out of the lab

[MARCH 19, 2002] - At a time when most IT sectors are either reeling or remaining soft, research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), Framingham, Mass., has identified a new market that it claims will support dramatic growth "over the next 20 to 30 years."

The new market has been created by the convergence of biological sciences and IT, and is referred to as "bio-IT." According to IDC, the fundamentals driving growth in the bio-IT arena are strong, particularly R&D investment in the pharmaceutical industry, which remains robust.

Experimental data is at the heart of new IT-intensive bio-sciences. According to IDC, the IT sectors that will benefit most from this revolution are not the technologies that collect the data but those able to extract meaning and insight from that data.

"For at least the next 10 years, we see this market driving incremental revenue into IT, particularly high-performance computers and servers, storage and data and knowledge management, database technologies and tools, visualization and application software," said Debra Goldfarb, group vice president of worldwide systems and life sciences research at IDC.

IDC predicts that the IT sectors benefiting from bio-sciences will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 24%, reaching nearly $38 billion globally by 2006. The research firm says that software, which in 2001 accounted for $2.5 billion of that market, will account for $7.5 billion in 2006.

The categories of software that will benefit most include databases, analytic software and tools, middleware software and tools, data management and data integration tools, application servers and knowledge management software and tools. Vendors are already adapted their text mining tools to deal with the large volume of biological data contained in semi-structured or unstructured text formats.

While much of IDC's near-term focus is on the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, the research firm has extended its view to include other areas of bioscience, such as chemical and agriscience. "We are embarking on a scientific and technological revolution in life sciences that could match the transportation, mass manufacturing, electronics and computer revolutions of the previous century," Goldfarb said.

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