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Drug Companies on Speed

Drug Companies on Speed

Sharing the knowledge gleaned from these new informatics tools is as important as integrating the technologies themselves. With their geographically dispersed personnel, most large pharmaceutical companies have found that the Web is the best tool for that data dissemination, and they are housing most of their informatics tools and data on intranets.

Merck & Company, which first took advantage of the Web and its intranet in 1995 to begin sharing bioinformatics data across its four research facilities located in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Canada and the UK, now inputs changes to 150 genomics- and proteomics-related databases every night. The company shares 10 terabytes of data among 1000 scientists around the globe. "We have to make sure they're up to date and that wherever you are at Merck, you see the same data,"Blevins explains. "That's something."

New York City-based Bristol-Myers Squibb also uses its intranet to house most of its bioinformatics applications. IT professionals and scientists there have created a portal called GeneTracker on its intranet that makes it possible to share gene sequence, gene expression, scientific literature and links to more sources of bioinformatics data among the company's four US research locations.

And New York City-based Pfizer and UK-based GlaxoSmithKline are experimenting with grid computing, a new initiative that involves harnessing extra computer processing power in order to share huge database files and applications across high-speed networks. Grid computing, some say, will give pharmaceutical companies even more computing power than is currently available.

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