March 7, 2002
Caroline Kovac, Ph.D.
General Manager, IBM Life Sciences Solutions
IT and Life Sciences Will Transform the Millennium
What is the history of your organization’s involvement in life sciences?
Kovac: IBM saw the business opportunity and formed its life sciences business unit in 2000 (the announcement was in August of that year). The objective of the business unit is to serve as a catalyst, bringing together IBM resources—from research, services and e-business expertise to data and storage management and high-performance computing—to speed the delivery of new solutions for the life sciences market, often with business partners.
IBM has been involved in life sciences, from research and technology perspectives, for more than 10 years. For example, we announced the Blue Gene project at the end of 1999. This is a grand challenge to build the fastest and most parallel computer system the world has ever seen, for large-scale simulations such as protein folding. We formed a Computational Biology Center in our Research organization some years ago, and this group has been working on search programs, pattern algorithms, and other research projects in life sciences.
What is your vision for the development of the life sciences market?
Kovac: Our chairman, Lou Gerstner, likes to ask, “What’s the next big thing?” I became convinced many years ago that the Next Big Thing was the whole area of life sciences. In the last two years, the pace of development has accelerated—in proteomics, in the application of genomics to the development of medicine. The life sciences revolution is going to build out on the last revolution, the one in computer science. You’re not going to be able to do biology without high-performance computing, without the massive amounts of data from discovery-based research.
Personally, I feel like I’m sitting at the conjunction of two worlds that are the most transforming technologies of the entire millennium.
What organizational assets have you developed to serve this community?
Kovac: When we started this division 18 months ago, the thing we recognized was the need for integrated solutions—not just points of technology. Who but IBM is better positioned to deliver integrated solutions across the high-performance computing spectrum? The data management, the scaleable and hierarchical storage requirements, the collaboration and knowledge management. The one piece we lacked internally, however, was the domain-driven applications. For that, we’ve been creating business partnerships.
So from an organizational standpoint, we’ve created an extended team across IBM: high-performance computing, middleware software components, database and data management. We also have dedicated practices in our Global Services Group that focus on biotech and pharmaceutical companies. The most important concept is that we are set up to serve life sciences companies whether they’re a global pharmaceutical giant or a 20-person startup in San Diego.
What products and services does your company provide to the life sciences market?
Kovac: No other company can match the depth and breadth of offerings IBM provides to meet the IT needs of the life sciences community. Among IBM offerings are high-performance computing, data management, and data integration software; high-performance storage management systems; global consulting and strategic outsourcing and implementation services; knowledge management and collaborative technologies; and e-business solutions.
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