By Kevin Davies
June 19, 2009 | Microsoft has appointed Les Jordan, industry chief technology strategist for Microsoft’s life sciences team, as the new director of the BioIT Alliance. He succeeds Rudy Potenzone, who recently left Microsoft, leaving some momentary uncertainty in his wake as to the fate of the three-year-old industry consortium.
Since joining Microsoft five years ago, Jordan, who is based in Boston, has provided architectural and technical guidance to internal product teams, partners and pharmaceutical companies, and was involved in the original concept and launch of the BioIT Alliance in 2006. Most of his prior experience was in the clinical space, including spells as a solution architect with Webridge and the IT director of a small CRO building electronic data capture systems.
Bio-IT World Editor-in-Chief Kevin Davies spoke with Jordan immediately following his new appointment. “We’re going to make some changes,” Jordan said. “We’re going to keep some things going. We’re looking forward to it.”
Bio-IT World: Les, congratulations. How does this new appointment impact your current responsibilities at Microsoft?
Les Jordan: This is in addition to my existing activities. They go hand-in-hand… I serve as the CTO or chief architect of the life sciences team. I work with customers and partners and our own internal product teams to bridge the gap between the two. I help them understand Microsoft technology and how it applies to the life sciences space. Conversely, I bring life sciences needs to our products team… For instance, we have recently put in digital signature capability into Dynamics AX, our ERT application, which would allow us to be Part 11 compliant. We’ve made changes, and we’ve published white papers, on configuring SharePoint for Part 11 compliance. We’re also looking at how to use Geneva, our identity management application, in the cloud – how do we use that for things like clinical trial management or EDC?
Did you have much engagement with Rudy Potenzone and the Alliance?
Yes, Rudy was my counterpart on the worldwide [life sciences] side. I was focused on the US. I assumed a number of his responsibilities [related to the BioIT Alliance].
I was in on the original forming of the BioIT Alliance. It was started back in 2006. Don Rule and I had lengthy conversations about its vision, its mission, how it was going to accomplish that. I was involved in its creation and formation from the beginning. I’ve got pretty deep knowledge of how it came to where it is.
Are you – and Microsoft -- pleased with the way the BioIT Alliance has evolved in the past three years? Have you exploited it to the degree you would like?
It’s a combination of both. We’ve been extremely pleased with the adoption of the vision, as evidenced by the number of companies that have signed up to be participants. We’ve been very pleased with the ad hoc collaborations between companies that have happened as a result of the alliance – we’ve seen a lot of things happen behind the scenes. But there’s always room for growth. We’d like to see an even more rapid adoption of integration and interoperability methodology between the member companies of the BioIT Alliance. If you think about the early stages of discovery space in pharma and biotech and research, there’s just a dearth of standards and interoperability. Clinical trials has CDISC, hospitals have HL7. There really isn’t anything that bridges that space in the bio-IT early-stage discovery [space].
The original vision of the BioIT Alliance was to drive that, to enable that collaboration, to make our scientific life easier and to drive towards the vision of personalized medicine. The only way we’re going to get there is with seamless integration of laboratory equipment, diagnostics, the hospitals, EMR. The only way we’ll get there is if there’s integration in this space.
Are you trying to expand the Alliance, make it more cohesive? What are your plans in the next 12-24 months?
There’s tremendous value in continuing to grow what the consortium and to grow what the consortium actually implements… In order for there to be a decent amount of integration and a drive towards standards, you have to have a structure in place. And so the first order of business is to appoint a board of directors that will help to guide and direct the BioIT Alliance. I’ve reached out to a few luminary members of the industry in the space. Becky Kush (president/CEO, CDISC) has agreed to participate on the initial board of directors, as has Dave Champagne (Thermo Fisher).
We’re also announcing we’ll be holding a call for nominations for two member-at-large positions on the board of directors. The elections will be held at the first face-to-face full meeting of the BioIT Alliance, to be held October 8-9 in Boston. We’ll run it much as we did the BioIT Alliance meeting at Bio-IT World Expo.
Do you have a relationship with Amalga Life Sciences?
Yes, we’re working with the Amalga Life Sciences team. I interact with them frequently and we anticipate that they’ll be participating in the October meeting.
We’re also reaching out to member companies and members of the industry in the standards area to ask them to participate and help guide the direction of the BioIT Alliance… There’s a pharmacogenomics group , there’s a group within CDISC, so CDISC and HL7 are looking at that [standards] area. There are clearly areas of overlap. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. We want to reach out to the existing standards that are there and help them be implemented. But also look at the whole range of things that aren’t touched on – integration between lab and LIMS, ELN vendors, it just doesn’t happen today.
Should life science organizations take a fresh look at the BioIT Alliance?
That’s a great question. What I would ask of other companies is to look at the current members and think about the possibilities for integration, and think about the things that would foster in the laboratory space, in the pharma development space, biotech development, the things that could enable if we could drive integration and interoperability between the member companies. And looking at that, want to join themselves. This is not just open to vendors and ISPs. We absolutely want to have participation from the major pharma and biotech companies as we drive this forward. We need to have their voice in this in order for it to be driven forward and legitimate.