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By John Russell

May 19, 2004 | The importance of new products as enablers in life science was evident from the considerable interest shown in the Best of Show competition. Winners were selected in four bio-IT categories drawn from a total of 44 entries. Three Editors’ Recognition awards were also made in the health-IT category, which was added this year.

Best of Show winners included:

  • Apple Computer’s Apple Workgroup Cluster for Bioinformatics (IT Infrastructure)
  • Waters Corp.’s eLab Notebook (Knowledge Management and Collaboration)
  • Gene Logic’s ASCENTA system (Informatics Tools and Data)
  • Nextrials’ Prism EDC & Inventory Management (Clinical Trials and Research)

Show organizers sought to strengthen the competition by relying more on outside experts as judges in the final round. This year’s outside judges included Lincoln Stein, professor and researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Stu Jackson, director of bioinformatics, Incyte; Jim Hall, president of life science practice, Wood Mackenzie; Bernard Wess, president of ProtonCare International; and Judy Hanover, senior analyst for Life Science Insights. Four Bio-IT World magazine editors also participated.

Getting to the winning round was a two-step process. All entries were read and scored by a screening panel of judges a few weeks before the conference. The top three scorers in each category became finalists, and final judging took place on the show floor. Judging criteria included technical innovation and the importance of the problem addressed. Some weight was also given to how life-science-specific the entry was.

The winning Apple entry scored high in all areas. This turnkey combination of hardware and software permits small to medium-sized labs to get a cluster up and running very quickly. An extensive suite of open-source bioinformatics software tools is also included. It’s basically designed for researchers who don’t wish to be distracted by IT.

Other finalists in the IT category included Oracle’s Database 10g and SGI’s Altix 350 servers. The latest release of Oracle’s massive database product embeds many new “application” functions, such as BLAST, to help researchers. SGI’s Altix 350 server can provide NUMA-based computing at cluster prices and should do well in environments requiring heavy-duty number crunching.

Knowledge management winner Water’s eLab Notebook tackles both cultural and technical hurdles. It’s an enterprisewide solution with hooks to many widely used scientific software packages. The hope is that its ease of use and compatibility with existing products will help break down traditional resistance by scientists to switch from paper notebooks.

IBM and BioDiscovery were the other finalists in knowledge management. IBM’s entry, InsightLink, is a potent general-purpose annotation tool, which can be used with virtually any other software tool. InsightLink sets up a separate annotation space linked to the target application. It wouldn’t be surprising to see third-party software developers incorporate InsightLink directly into their products or prepare hooks to make it easier for users to tie InsightLink into them. BioDiscovery’s GeneDirector 2.6 is a comprehensive microarray data management system.

Clinical trials winner Nextrial’s Prism supply-chain management software tackles an area ripe for cost savings. The company says wastage for short-lived biologicals can run as high as 300 percent because of poor inventory management. Effective management of the supply could dramatically cut costs. Although implementing the software isn’t trivial, it doesn’t require substantially changing the behavior of clinical investigators -- long an obstacle to efforts to automate clinical trials. It is necessary, however, to integrate with compound manufacturers’ IT systems.

Finalist PHT’s LogPad tackles a different problem: accuracy of patient-reported outcomes. Its customized patient e-diaries are designed for ease of use and long battery life, and they use a low-power proprietary wireless architecture to automatically upload data from selected medical devices. Oracle’s clinical trial RDBC 4.5 was the other clinical trials finalist.

Informatics winner Gene Logic’s ASCENTA system combines an extensive database of information on tissue samples with informatics tools to mine the data. Researchers can compare their own results with those in Gene Logic’s archives, and seek associations with other genes. Finalist Netezza’s Performance Server is a highly scalable database that permits researchers to grow at their own pace. It is optimized for general parallelized searches, and comes bundled with an optimized version of NCI BLAST. Finalist Biomax Solutions Core Analysis has a suite of powerful analysis tools.

The Health-IT track was a new addition to Best of Show. It drew three entries, including BlueSocket’s WG-5000 Wireless Gateway, Motion Computing’s View Anywhere Display, and Dimensional Insight’s HospitalAnalysis.

SIDEBAR: Best of Show Awards

IT Infrastructure
Apple Computer (Bioinformatics Cluster) -- winner
Oracle (Database 10g) -- finalist
SGI (Altix 350) -- finalist

Knowledge Management and Collaboration
Waters Corp. (eLab Notebook) -- winner
BioDiscovery (GeneDirector) -- finalist
IBM (InsightLink) -- finalist

Informatics Tools and Data
Gene Logic (ASCENTA System) -- winner
Biomax Solutions (Biomax Core Analysis) -- finalist
Netezza (Netezza Performance Server) -- finalist

Clinical Trials and Research
Nextrials (Prism EDC and Inventory Management) -- winner
Oracle (Clinical RDC 4.5) -- finalist
PHT (LogPad Sensors e-diary) -- finalist

Health-IT Editor’s Recognition Awards
BlueSocket (WG-5000 Wireless Gateway)
Motion Computing (View Anywhere Display)
Dimensional Insight (HospitalAnalysis)


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