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The Best of the Rest


Best Practices judges were impressed with more than just the winning entries.

By Kevin Davies

July 14, 2008 | We devote 12 pages in this special issue to a report on our 2008 Best Practices competition, which concluded in April with a lavish dinner and awards ceremony at the Bio-IT World Expo in Boston. Judging by the reaction of the more than 200 guests at the dinner, not to mention the whoops and back-slapping from the award winners themselves, the celebratory evening was a grand success. Our report contains profiles and interviews with all eight winning teams (see pages 18-29). The introduction to the report also carries some morsels of advice for those interested in entering next year’s competition—just to make the life of the judges even harder.

But the purpose of Best Practices is not merely to declare a few winners and ignore the merits of the other entries. Indeed, in several categories the final decisions were based on fairly slender margins. In all, we received a record 56 entries in this year’s competition, some of which we have covered in some form in previous issues of Bio-IT World. Others grabbed our attention and will likely be revisited in the coming 12 months. Here are some of the noteworthy submissions to this year’s contest:

Biomarkers and biobanking solutions dominated the Translational Medicine category. University of Washington researchers collaborated with Applied Biosystems (ABI) to identify proteomic biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease, while Spanish software firm Integromics presented its work with ABI on Real-Time StatMiner. IO Informatics discussed a promising application of correlation networks and canonical pathways for toxicity biomarker discovery. And a Finnish group drew plaudits from the judges for its use of advanced computational methods in assessing metabonomics profiles in diabetes (see Molec. Sys. Biol. 4, Feb. 2008.)

In the Clinical Trials category, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute described its success in migrating to EDC for its clinical trial data, reducing the time to access data from about a month to real time. The judges agreed that this was all the more impressive given the relatively limited budgets of an academic research center. Among the more impressive projects in the Clinical Research bracket were CLC bio’s MLST module for sequence data analysis, in use by the German National Reference Center for Streptococci; Perceptive Informatics and the University of Chicago’s MRI method to evaluate blood flow to tumors; and the adoption by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of Insightful’s clinical graphics solution.

The Drug Discovery and Development category proved especially competitive, with standout projects such as Johnson & Johnson’s ABCD (see “ABCD: The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection,Bio-IT World, November 2007), Xceleron’s work in microdosing for a novel antimicrobial (see “Exploratory INDs: a Trial Before the Trials,” Bio-IT World, January 2008), Medtronic’s patent dashboard, and GSK’s use of Lincoln Technologies’ drug safety system to minimize attrition all drawing acclaim. Entelos and Affymetrix presented the use of the ToxFX analysis suite, which is being used by pharmas including Roche and Eli Lilly to shave weeks off the time for toxicological screening.

From Google gadgets to social networking, the Knowledge Management grouping was very strong. Pfizer’s project management solution has been reported (see “Of Data Silos and Sacred Cows,” Bio-IT World, November 2007). Collexis’ BioMedExperts.com is a new online community connecting researchers and displaying their co-author networks. “Very trendy” deemed one judge, while hoping to see evidence of its successful use in the near future. BioTeam described one of the first installations of its WiKiLIMS for next-gen sequencing data with Tim Reed’s group at the Naval Medical Research Center (see “WiKiLIMS—Next-Gen Data Management,” Bio-IT World, April 2008). There was also praise for Dolcera’s Web 2.0 innovation dashboard, in use at Genentech, and Wyeth’s implementation of a submission management and regulatory tracking platform from Octagon Research Solutions, aimed at addressing what one judge called the “most monumental and difficult piece of drug submission.”

The IT Infrastructure category featured several important new products from TEMIS, Strand, Sage-N Research, InforSense, and Interactive Supercomputing. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reported impressive savings using EMC tiered storage. “Absolutely brilliant” raved one reviewed about River Road Bio’s SNPedia (see “SNPedia: A Wiki for Personal Genomics,” Bio-IT World, January 2008)—the first major use of a wiki in personalized medicine. “It will be great to see how this develops,” one researcher said.

We thank our judges, sponsors (Microsoft and Blue Arc), and the scores of entrants, their partners and nominators, for taking the time to support and validate this competition. And mark your calendars for October—when the 2009 contest officially kicks off.

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This article appeared in Bio-IT World Magazine.

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