An Icelandic volcano didn't slow down the biggest Expo yet.
By Kevin Davies
May 18, 2010 | First Base | Two years ago, walking around the exhibit hall at Bio-IT World Expo, an occasional contributor to this publication came up to me and said, “It feels like this event is finally coming of age.” If I didn’t entirely believe him then, I do now. The palpable energy throughout the conference, from the 100+ exhibitors to the packed conference sessions and a magnificent annual awards dinner (which we’ll cover in our next issue), was ample testimony to the growing buy-in from organizations that are struggling to manage and leverage biological, chemical, clinical, and health care data.
Thanks to the remarkable efforts of producers, meeting planners, and our many colleagues at Cambridge Healthtech Institute, which produces the Expo, the Icelandic ash cloud wreaked minimal damage to this year’s conference program.
Naturally, we were disappointed not to host some two dozen European speakers, particularly Alex Bateman (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute), who was unable to accept his 2010 Benjamin Franklin Award from Bioinformatics Organization president Jeff Bizzaro. Many speakers were still able to participate via Web conference, phone, or video. Ironically, perhaps the only European speaker who made it across the pond was deCODE Genetics founder Kari Stefansson, who reported clear skies west of Reykjavik.
Elsewhere in this issue, we present coverage of the keynotes and other noted speakers at this year’s conference (see, "Four Secrets to Success", "Harnessing (and Securing) Meaningful Data", and "Clouds and More Clouds in Seattle"). The only problem with a conference growing as fast as this is it makes it impossible to hear half the speakers one would like. But a few select highlights were as follows:
- Speaking of clouds, opening day saw the official launch of DNAnexus, a Stanford spin-off led by Andreas Sundquist, which supplies cost-effective next-generation sequence data management capabilities in the Cloud (see, "Cloud Convergence"). It will be interesting to monitor how this offering appeals to the next-gen user community.
- Alex Bateman received the 2010 Benjamin Franklin Award via a pre-recorded video. Bateman discussed his goal of creating “a periodic table for biology,” focusing on the accurate classification of all proteins (some 15 million) and RNA. Bateman said he was still looking for another 20-30,000 protein domain families, which should just about take him up to retirement age.
- Les Jordan (Microsoft) laid out the future of the BioIT Alliance, the community that Microsoft launched at Bio-IT World Expo in 2006. Microsoft is spinning off the Alliance as an independent standards organization, incorporated in the state of Oregon, focusing on translational medicine. Microsoft will remain involved as a sponsor but Jordan declared, “We’re trying to make it more open, include other voices, so this does not have the appearance of being a Microsoft-centric group. We want to play nice in the sandbox!” A recruitment drive for sponsors (up to 11) and members is ongoing.
- Taking a leaf out of Stephen Friend’s (Sage Bionetworks) playbook, Pfizer’s Matteo Tomasso and Merck’s Martin Leach delivered an excellent joint presentation on how big pharma can take a more altruistic point-of-view with regard to deploying open-source tools, even divesting some of the legacy software tools and custom code the companies have amassed and written over the years. Alternatively, there is value to selling off assets (such as Rosetta) and licensing back with additional capabilities.
- The BioTeam’s Chris Dagdigian delivered his annual “trends in the trenches” review of hardware and software do’s and don’ts. On the hardware side, he was seeing a slower adoption of 10-GB ethernet than expected, but a spike in Sun (now Oracle) Grid Engine. “Private Clouds are crap,” he said, calling the area overhyped and making him very cynical of marketing people slapping “the ‘C’ word” on old products.
As for the public Cloud, he said, “We’ve gone from cutting-edge cool to mainstream/boring really quickly!” However, “You won’t be throwing away data centers in next two years.” Dagdigian also praised Amylin for performing a meticulous appraisal of IT costs across the organization, which led them to pursue on-demand solutions (see, “Amazon, Amylin, and the Cloud,” Bio•IT World, Nov 2009).
We are very excited to be taking the show on the road again this October for the second annual Bio-IT World Europe conference, which will be held from October 5-7, 2010, in conjunction with BioTechnica in Hannover, Germany. See the full program at: http://www.bio-itworldexpo.com/europe