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alphaWorks expands BioIT offerings

In medical research, it's increasingly all about crunching the numbers -- especially when it comes to the mountain of information made available by the Human Genome Project. Problem is, making sense of it in the traditional way is too slow and labor-intensive for those researchers that need to keep up with the ever-growing volume of data. This has often been a recipe for turning a scientist into a programmer.

"The way it was before, each research lab would have somebody that writes code around each of the different tools to kind of pull them all together, or they'd just do them manually," said Mike Blocksome, a software developer in IBM's Life Sciences Division. "The manual aspect is the part that's challenging because it creates a lot of extra work.

"What we're trying to do is use the computer to maintain a thousand different jobs that you have running at once, and to then summarize for you at the end. Then the researchers can do what they're best at, which is interpreting the results and finding the relevant information'" continued Blocksome.

This effort has led to the release of two new analytical tools, as well as upgrades to three other tools, all available for free on IBM's alphaWorks site. New offerings include ClustalW, a DNA and protein sequence alignment program; and Phylogenic Tree, which generates visual representations of data. Also on the site are new versions of PubMed, GenBank and the every popular Blast (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), which are all designed to automate and accelerate the data analysis process.

"The idea is that by using Web services, you can put [application data] into this workflow technology and let the computer keep track of all that stuff for you," said Blocksome. "The idea is to show people how you would wrap an existing tool, or develop your own tool, in a Web service."

"We're fitting out a newer set of technologies for our developers and early adopters that haven't really been realized yet," said alphaWorks manager Marc Goubert. "This is one area where we can help to blend the developers and researchers in one research area." Goubert added that as new technologies that are Web services-related come up, developers and researchers can see how to extend them and perhaps get more information out of them.

Links:

ADT Briefing Book: IBM and BioIT
www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=7505

alphaWorks: Web Services for Life Sciences
http://alphaworks.ibm.com/tech/ws4LS

alphaWorks home
http://alphaworks.ibm.com/

For other Programmers Report articles, please go to www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6265

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