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IBM gives away tool for DNA searches

Big Blue offers free trial software for speeding queries of public biotechnology databases. Plus, the company and partner Proteome Systems win a new life sciences deal.

IBM is giving away free Web services technology to help scientists track down DNA, as the company continues its push into the promising life sciences arena.

Big Blue also announced this week that it and partner Proteome Systems landed a multi-million dollar deal to provide Charles River Laboratories International with technology related to proteomics, which is the study of protein structure and function.

In its Web services offer, IBM said it is making available free trial software designed to improve searches for information stored by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The center hosts public databases PubMed, which contains biomedical journal citations, and GenBank, which contains genetic sequences. According to IBM, searching for information at the center is becoming difficult as its databases grow to a colossal size. GenBank, for example, contains more than 22 million nucleotide sequences.

IBM said its Web services technology allows scientists to do such things as narrow the search for useful genes related to a particular diagnosis in PubMed and retrieve the nucleotide sequences in GenBank.

Web services is the name given to many Web-based standards and protocols designed to let organizations connect disparate applications and share data. IBM's Web Services for Life Sciences software is available for download through its AlphaWorks Web site.

The life sciences field is seen as a fertile one for information technology providers. Market research firm IDC estimates that IT spending for biosciences will jump from $12 billion in 2001 to $30 billion in 2006. IBM says its life sciences division is its fastest-growing unit. Formed in 2000, the division enjoyed triple-digit growth last year.

Charles River Laboratories, which provides products and services related to drug research and development, is using technology from IBM and Proteome Systems in its Charles River Proteomics Services unit, IBM said. The technology, called ProteomIQ, relies on IBM technology, including IBM DB2 Universal Database, Tivoli storage and access management software, and IBM p690 pSeries servers.