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Microsoft Spins off BioIT Alliance as Translational Medicine Standards Organization

By Kevin Davies

April 21, 2010

BOSTON | EXCLUSIVE – Four years after launching the BioIT Alliance, Microsoft will announce today that it is spinning off the community of more than 100 users and vendors in the bio-IT arena.

“The BioIT Alliance is now a fully independent organization incorporated in the State of Washington,” said Les Jordan, industry chief technology strategist for Microsoft's life sciences team, in a preview of his announcement scheduled for the Bio-IT World Conference & Expo. “It has been incorporated as a standards development organization, with Microsoft providing seed funding and the necessary work to get that done.” Jordan has served as the Alliance director for the past ten months following the departure of Rudy Potenzone in 2009.

Jordan said it made sense for the BioIT Alliance to stand on its own at last, along the lines of a true standards development organization focused on translational medicine, rather than be seen as a Microsoft co-marketing alliance.

“Our mission statement is: how do we enable translational medicine? How do we take information from the clinic and get it back to the bench, and vice versa? Right now, there are no other standards groups looking at this holistically. We felt this was the right approach for this organization. It’s very exciting news.”

Jordan said that two big names – Thermo Fisher and HP – have agreed to join the Alliance, joining the more than 100 current members. “We’re in conversation with most of the current members of the advisory board, who will also join,” said Jordan.

During his announcement, Jordan plans to announce a membership drive for the BioIT Alliance, seeking new sponsors to help guide the alliance and associate members, who will be focused on specific working groups being planned.

Jordan stressed that Microsoft is not stepping away from the Alliance, but hinted that there would be some changes in some areas. “We’re renewing our commitment,” he said. “In the bylaws, someone from Microsoft needs to be involved. I’ll remain as chair of the Alliance until elections in November [2010]. I may stand or may not. That decision will be up to the board of directors. 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!”

As a new independent organization, the BioIT Alliance will begin to charge an annual membership fee. A maximum of 11 sponsors will have a seat on the board of directors, determining the direction the Alliance will take. Associates will pay a lesser fee, and will be able to vote on working groups.

Asked what standards were necessary in translational medicine, Jordan replied: “Today, you can’t take information from an electronic medical record and get it back into a scientist’s bench so they can start to develop treatments specific for the individual. Those sorts of things don’t exist. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking in a hospital or inside a pharma company -- those capabilities don’t exist. That’s the area where we’re trying to focus.

“In the stimulus package passed by the Obama Administration, one of the tenets was a focus on comparative effectiveness. That cannot be separated from the individual. To understand what that means on an individual basis, standards become vitally important.”

The BioIT Alliance was originally established by Microsoft in 2006 and announced by Don Rule at the Bio-IT World Conference & Expo that year.


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