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First Base 

January 13, 2003 | Imagine the conductor of a world-class symphony orchestra sitting on the panel of the hit television show "American Idol," or the latest prepubescent pop star being asked to judge the best classical recording of the year. There might be a bit of a disconnect.

At the (slight) risk of exaggeration, is there a similar problem in attempting to identify "best practices" in the realm of bio-IT-based R&D — particularly when the fields of bioinformatics, in silico drug discovery, and drug approval have all experienced their share of disharmony? In fact, much has been made in some quarters about the alleged failure of bio-IT (notably, a withering column by Scott Kirsner two months ago in The Boston Globe), including its informatics and software components, to accelerate drug discovery or lower its burgeoning R&D costs.

This assertion contains a kernel of truth, but only if one takes an exceptionally myopic view of the situation. In reality, bio-IT is less than 10 years into what will inevitably be a protracted effort, spanning several decades to expand our basic knowledge of cellular processes and metabolic pathways, elucidate meaningful networks of gene expression and protein function, and determine target areas for effective intervention by exquisitely tailored biopharmaceuticals. All of this will stem from the effective integration and analysis of genomic, proteomic, and expression data, as well as depend upon new scientific insights we can barely imagine.

On a positive note, the impressive arsenal of existing bio-IT tools and technologies is being used to actively test numerous scientific strategies, in the hope that viable drug discovery business models will emerge. Even in the short term, numerous discrete targets that are clinically and financially successful will undoubtedly be developed, to the benefit of countless patients worldwide.

As in any important scientific or technological enterprise, however, the proof of the pudding is in the empirical results. Moreover, the efficient communication of these results has a twofold significance: first, to help establish the objective value of specific research methodologies; and second, to make the information available to other R&D professionals so that they can adopt and further refine productive techniques.


Best Practices Program 
It is in this spirit that Bio·IT World is pleased to announce the launch of our Best Practices Awards Program. The program's charter is to identify and share innovative uses of technology in drug discovery, development, and clinical trials. Full details on the entry criteria can be found at www.bio-itworld.com/bestpractices.

The key point is that the value of the program to the bio-IT community grows with the square of the number of participants, much like the power law for any useful network. Our goal is not to divulge proprietary information or compromise confidentiality. Rather, it is to illuminate and share fruitful methodologies, as well as to recognize those innovations that have produced the most significant and tangible results. The winners will receive the well-deserved recognition of hard work and ingenuity that may, dare one say, aid future professional development.

But of far greater importance, you, our readers, at long last have a chance to do your bit to serve the entire bio-IT community. We speak often of the problems besieging the industry; here is a chance, finally, to do something positive about it.

The entire bio-IT community has the opportunity to contribute and to benefit from this process. We, therefore, strongly urge all of you — our readers and your organizations — to participate. We will also do our part by directly reaching out to as many of you as possible to facilitate your participation and entry. May the best practices win!


New Year's Innovations 
As we mark the first issue of the New Year, we are pleased to introduce no fewer than three regular columns in the magazine. Collectively, these new columns will further expand and cement Bio·IT World's coverage in the key areas of life science equipment, business, and venture capital.

"Nothing Ventured ..." is an inside look at the venture capital industry and its criteria for life science investments, written by our colleague Michael Greeley, a managing partner at IDG Ventures.

"Fully Equipped" turns a critical eye toward technology application in the life sciences, with particular emphasis on data-generating equipment (see page 66). Writing responsibilities will be shared between contributors Julia Boguslavsky and Robert Frederickson.

And we are also pleased to launch "Market Compass", a quarterly roundup of business trends and market performance compiled by our senior informatics editor Malorye Branca.

Last, but not least, it is our honor to introduce the inaugural Bio·IT World editorial advisory board, a group of distinguished individuals who will provide invaluable tactical and strategic advice to the editors in the months and years ahead.

Kevin Davies, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief 

Morris R. Levitt, Ph.D.
President & CEO 

PHOTO CREDIT: WEBB CHAPPELL 



The entire bio-IT community has the opportunity to benefit from this Best Practices process.




For reprints and/or copyright permission, please contact  Jay Mulhern, (781) 972-1359, jmulhern@healthtech.com.