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Merck's Informatics Mission:  Martin Leach and Ingrid Akerblom
  bring a wealth of complementary expertise to their new roles, leading - and integrating - basic research and clinical IT.

Merck's Informatics Mission
By Kevin Davies

After five years at the helm of Merck's basic research IT group, Ingrid Akerblom calls her move to the clinical side "quite an eye opening experience." Akerblom has a Ph.D. in biology from University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute, and later joined Incyte Pharmaceuticals as its 50th employee and "annotation guru," eventually leading informatics. She was then recruited by Merck - ironically the only pharma not to buy the Incyte database. She joined Merck in November 2002 - just over a year after the acquisition of Rosetta Inpharmatics. Akerblom worked extensively with the Rosetta IT leaders, helping to integrate systems around target identification and chemistry systems.

Assuming her former role is Martin Leach, a Brit who spent nine years leading IT and informatics at Curagen, spanning corporate IT, basic, pre-clinical, and regulatory informatics. But he also brings experience in regulatory and clinical IT areas gained during a two-year stint at Booz Allen prior to joining Merck last year. That clinical insight could prove useful even as he refocuses on basic research, and complements Akerblom's background in basic research as she transitions to the clinical side.

Kevin Davies spoke to Akerblom and Leach about their complementary roles and mutual understanding of the needs of both basic research and clinical teams, which could pay big dividends for Merck.

Bio-IT World: Ingrid, how did your move to clinical IT
come about?

Ingrid: After five years in [research IT], with the last few years including leadership of Merck's Biomarker IT, it made sense to bring some of this expertise into the Clinical IT areas in order to meet the growing need to marry up clinical and discovery research information. In terms of how we operate, there has also been a significant evolution of the IT teams and operating model. At that time it was fully vertical, integrated. I had all the developers on my team; we had all the support on my team. Now, Martin and I really lead more of a client services team, where we have account managers, program managers, and business analysts, people with business expertise and technology expertise. Most of the delivery is done through shared services in the corporate area. And even within the Merck research labs IT, for some of the more innovative types of things that go on in research that aren't found in the other divisions like manufacturing and marketing. But we're evolving to a fully shared services model, which has its benefits, especially in clinical, with large projects.

Martin: For my groups, I have scientific computing, which is predominantly in the bio space, some cheminformatics, biomarker IT, of which there's a lot of collaboration with Ingrid. And drug discovery services, focused on lab automation, capture and management of biologic and chemical data and information, all of the things that make the basic research lab tick.

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How useful will your mutual cross training prove, do you think?

Martin: One thing important to note is the new head at [Merck subsidiary] Rosetta. Kathleen Metters, the worldwide head of basic research, recently appointed Rupert Vessey to be the new head of Rosetta ... Rupert is a former clinical therapeutic area head, [so] basically we have a clinical leader heading up Rosetta, which is predominantly working on genomics, proteomics, genetics, and causal networks. So it's not just the IT with that cross-pollination - we've got two people from IT, from a clinical point of view and a basic research point of view, interacting with a former clinical person who is heading up the genomics space.

Ingrid: We've invested a lot in some core platforms; we need to start translating that into results in the clinic at some point. And so having people who have an understanding of what does that really take to help inform the earlier research directions, the platform directions, is a key theme... When I was in Martin's position, it was very difficult to get the clinical IT teams to focus on longer term strategic projects, even short-term partnerships that weren't about a late-stage trial. Because at the end of the day, that's what they work for, right? They've got to get those trials filed. But when we think about the future, we want to have our data more integrated, and we weren't really getting a lot of traction. So one of the attractions for me moving to this position was someone who has that background will keep their eye on that ball and it won't be all about late stage. That's already proving true - there were a couple of times this year where there were scheduling conflicts between critical projects on both sides. And in the past, I know which one would have gotten dropped - it would have been the basic research project. Read more.



Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research - Part of the Novartis Research Foundation
Basel, Switzerland is looking for a Head of IT Systems & Infrastructure. You will manage a cutting-edge core server and network infrastructure, comprising Linux and Solaris, as well as a robust Windows and Macintosh environment. We look forward to receiving your application: click for more information

Lilly Singapore Center for Drug Discovery (LSCDD) - Associate Director of Informatics,
Lead and mentor a strong team for the Bioinformatics group at the Integrative Computational Sciences (ICS) department at LSCDD towards the development of novel algorithms, data analysis methods and software tools for drug discovery. Work closely with the Software Engineering group at ICS, and collaborate with the Discovery IT organization in Europe and USA. For additional information, or to apply visit:

Lilly Singapore Center for Drug Discovery (LSCDD)- Senior Bioinformatics Scientist,
Contribute to the development of novel algorithms, data analysis methods and software tools for drug discovery as part of the Integrative Computational Sciences (ICS) department at LSCDD.  Work closely with informatics and software engineering peers at ICS, and collaborate with the Discovery IT organization in Europe and USA. The successful candidate will offer hands-on insight and expertise in tailored therapeutic informatics and statistical analyses at the post-genomic era. For additional information, or to apply visit:

Lilly Singapore Center for Drug Discovery (LSCDD) - Manager, Software Engineering (Integrative Computational Sciences)
Join the Integrative Computational Sciences (ICS) department at Lilly Singapore Centre for Drug Discovery (LSCDD),as Manager Software Engineering.  Lead the development of integrated applications to process and visualize data from cutting edge technologies used by scientists at Lilly Research Labs (LRL) and the Drug Discovery Research (DDR) teams. Masters in Computer Science/Engineering or related discipline, 10+ years post graduation experience , 2 years management experience needed. For a complete job description and requirements or to apply visit:

Lilly Singapore Center for Drug Discovery(LSCDD) -Senior Software Engineer,
Join a strong team of software engineers in our Integrative Computational Sciences (ICS) at LSCDD. Collaborate with, and help develop integrated applications to process and visualize data from cutting-edge technologies used by scientists at Lilly Research Labs (LRL) and the Drug Discovery Research (DDR) teams. The Software Engineering team provides computational tools and tailored software solutions that enable the global effort of Tailored Therapeutics; ‘The Right Drug, at The Right Dose for The Right Patient at The Right Time'. For additional information, or to apply visit: LSCDD  

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center - Application Analyst
MSKCC Genomics Core seeks an Application Analyst to configure UNIX and Windows systems, maintain LIMS server and install analysis software. Requires a Master’s degree, UNIX experience, and knowledge of a language besides PERL beyond the beginning level. Email or #015563. EOE/AA

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center - Bioinformatics Engineer MSKCC Bioinformatics Core in Manhattan seeks Bioinformatics Engineer. Design and develop bioinformatics
processing and analysis pipelines for traditional and next-gen sequence data. Consult with, train, and analyze data for researchers. Master's degree and 5 years experience in Bioinformatics software development, sequence assembly, SQL, Perl, Python. Email or #015415. EOE/AA

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center - Linux Systems Administrator - MSKCC Bioinformatics Core in Manhattan seeks Linux Systems Administrator. Install, configure and update OS, databases, software. Monitor and troubleshoot HPC cluster, email and web servers. Master's degree and 5 years experience with HPC, network security, Postfix, Apache, Tomcat, Grid Engine. Email or #015429. EOE/AA

Paradigm-Sales/Business Development – IT Solutions and Services
Paradigm ( is a global IT services and solutions provider. Paradigm has over 1000 employees and is the recipient INC. 500 and D&T Fast 50 consistently.  Paradigm is looking for SALES / BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PEOPLE.  Experience: 2-3 years Direct sales experience in Software Solutions or Services including Application development or support and preferably selling to Pharmaceutical, CROs or Health care industries. Location:Columbia, MD,Contact:  Erin Lowman,, 410-872-1008 x 100

Unilever - Mathematical Modeller (Research Scientist)
This research is leading to the requirement for integration of both biological and chemical data that may not be amenable to analysis through traditionally used techniques. The ability to work in multidisciplinary teams alongside biologists, chemists and statisticians plus enthusiasm for learning new science is critical for the role.   For a complete job description and to apply, please visit: 

More Life Science Jobs ~ Add a Job Listing



Computing Short Courses at MIT - June / July - Cambridge, MA 
2nd Label-Free Protein Array- Latest Advances in Analysis of Macromolecular Interactions,July 3-4th 2008 -Paris- France


Barnett Educational Services, 2008 Schedule

To have your event featured here, contact Lynn Cloonan for more information. 

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Will Healthcare IT Trends Standardize?
A new wave of activities are driving transformation within the healthcare market. One solution is found in a guide to PDF Healthcare Best Practices. This “Best Practices Guide” describes Portable Document Format (PDF) attributes and use to facilitate the capture, exchange, preservation and protection of healthcare information. This webinar will focus on trends in today’s healthcare market, the challenges in overcoming these issues, and finally how to use best practices to improve patient care, enhance productivity and eliminate paperwork. It’s hosted by Adobe and moderated by Digital Healthcare & Productivity Executive Editor, John Russell. Click here... 

Spain’s Emerging Biotech Revolution
The biotechnology sector is growing 10 percent faster in Spain than it is in the U.S. Driven by a culture, government and private sector that are open-minded and optimistic, Spain-based companies are emerging as leaders in this dynamic field. Discover how your business can capitalize on creative solutions from Spain-based enterprises. Download Now


Automate Method SOPs for Greater Efficiency and Fewer Errors with Waters® NuGenesis® Intelligent Procedure Manager
The Waters® NuGenesis® SDMS Intelligent Procedure Manager is a workflow software package designed to guide the laboratory analyst through a routine, comprehensive method standard operating procedure (SOP) and integrate results with a chromatography data system. The Intelligent Procedure Manager addresses the predominately manual activities required to perform an analytical method or test, reducing cycle times up to 50-75% as compared to a traditional paper trail with fewer opportunities for human error.  From late-stage development to final product quality control and lot release, Intelligent Procedure Manager can be applied to any lab environment where rigorous adherence to approved test methods and SOPs must be followed, including compliance requirements for cGMP operations.Download Now      

This Bio•IT World Briefing On “Next-Generation Sequencing,”underwritten by GenomeQuest, Inc.,
presents a selection of feature stories, interviews,commentaries, conference reports, and editorials on the emergence, opportunities, and challenges posed by high-throughput sequencing. Covered in this collection: the launch of new platforms from Applied Biosystems and Helicos; new applications of nextgen sequencing; the rise of personal genomics; and informatics solutions to vexing problem of managing the vast volumes of next-gen data. Download now 

SGI's Meeting Today’s Computational Needs for Science
The quest to better understand disease mechanisms and find new treatments is driven by new laboratory technologies and ever-more sophisticated modeling and simulation efforts. As such, life sciences R&D investigations increasingly are relying on more powerful computing resources. The challenge is how to accommodate the broad mix of applications.
Addressing this issue, this paper produced by the Bio-IT World Custom Publishing Group discusses a new SGI Hybrid Computing Environment approach. It optimally uses shared memory systems, multi-processor clusters, and FPGAs to accelerate computational workflows. Download This Free Paper 

To have your white paper featured here, contact Lynn Cloonan for more information.


NEW! Life Science Webcasts from Bio-IT World and Cambridge Healthtech Media Group

Life Science Webcasts

Bio-IT World Expo
Video Highlights

Personalized Genetics: Advancements and Driving Change
Linda Avey, co-founder of 23andMe, delivers her keynote at the 2008 Bio-IT World Conference & Expo in Boston, April 30, 2008.
View the webcast.

The Future of Personal Genomics
A distinguished panel of personal genomics experts discuss the future of personal genomics at the 2008 Bio-IT World Conference & Expo in Boston, April 30, 2008.  They include Dietrich Stephan (co-founder, Navigenics); George Church (Harvard Medical School); Jeff Drazen (editor-in-chief, New England Journal Medicine); Fred Ledley (Bentley College); John Halamka (CIO, Harvard Medical School); and Linda Avey (23andMe). Bio-IT World Editor-in-Chief Kevin Davies moderates the discussion.
View the webcast.

Contact the Editor
We invite your comments and feedback for this edition of Inside IT.

Salvatore Salamone
Senior Contributing Editor

Salvatore Salamone is Bio-IT World's senior contributing editor for information technology. He has over 16 years' experience writing about networking technology and is the author of three books, including The Complete Guide to VPNs (published by InternetWeek, 1999), LAN Times Guide to Managing Remote Connectivity (Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1997), and Reducing the Cost of LAN Ownership (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1995, co-written with Greg Gianforte).

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