One of the questions I'm frequently asked by people unfamiliar with Microsoft's efforts in Life Sciences is: "What type of solutions does Microsoft have to offer to Life Sciences companies?"

The answer to that question is usually: "Name the part of the value chain you're interested in, and we can talk about the particular solutions".  Yes - it is that wide of an offering.  If you look at our Life Sciences page (http://www.microsoft.com/lifesciences) you get an idea.

But today I thought I'd touch on a couple focus areas for Microsoft.  While we have solutions outside of these areas, the following are solutions that are getting particular focus and traction in the marketplace:

* Compliant Collaboration - This is a combination of regulated document management and collaboration.  Traditionally these have been thought of as separate processes, if only because of the limits of the tools people used to either collaborate or manage regulated documents.  With Office 2007, SharePoint, Web Services and OpenXML as the underlying platform - including the ability to leverage open standards such as OpenXML and CDISC and industry standards such as SAFE - you have the ability to have a completely compliant environment, while still having an end-user friendly authoring and collaboration environment.  A couple examples of this initiative come from the whitepaper we published on Configuring SharePoint for Part 11 compliance, the announcement of FirstPoint by FCG (First Consulting Group), and the NextDocs suite of products.  Watch this space for more configuration information (for those who want to implement it themselves) and information on 3rd party products that enable Compliant Collaboration.

* Scientist Workbench - One of the least integrated areas of the Life Sciences value chain is Drug Discovery.  It is also an area where there is lots of ad hoc collaboration, mountains of prior art and information to be searched, and more systems to learn than a single person can get their head around.  In answer to this, Microsoft has been working with a few pharmaceutical companies and partners in development of something called the Scientist Workbench.  I'll go into more detail in a future blog (expect a whitepaper on the subject in the next few weeks), but the Scientist Workbench is focused on five areas:

1) Finding Information - call it search if you will, but this is about finding information - both public info and corporate info - in the context of how you are working.  Imagine typing a document in Microsoft Word: you type in a compound name, a SmartTag recognizes the term and underlines it, giving you the ability to do a contextual search for that compound across public and internal sources - or even do a look up of that compound in your compound database!

2) Equipment and Data Integration - The vision is to integrate all the information from all the laboratory equipment and provide the data in one place.  See the recent recent Thermo Fisher announcement for an example of this type of integration.

3) Data Visualization and Analysis - utilizing the Windows Presentation Foundation, tools such as SilverLight, and products such as PerformancePoint, to be able to easily visualize the results of experiments, to do meta-analysis, or even to look into a compound, molecule, gene, etc.

4) Compliant Collaboration - as described above, but focused on collaboration around scientific projects, and including external researchers - be they from a university or from a licensing partner (who happens to compete in other areas, so security is essential!)

5) Reporting and Portfolio Management - this deserves it's own blog topic, but this is focused on taking the results from all the experiments, integrating information on resource allocation from your HR system, and the result is a Decision Science support system that allows Decision Science managers to visualize which compounds have the greatest chance of survival to production.  Integrate the results of clinical trials, FDA submissions, and pilot production, and you have a comprehensive dashboard for executives to see the status of their drug pipeline. 

There are more, many more - including solutions in Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing, Supply Chain, and Manufacturing, Physician Portals and Patient Portals for Medical Device Manufacturers, and - of course - basic infrastructure tools for managing your environment in a compliant way (yes, using SMS and MOM for compliance audit reports) - but I'll deal with those in a future blog. 

If you are interested in the architectures behind these, then please do send me an e-mail (ljordan@microsoft.com).  If you are interested in seeing these applications in action, then let me know that too!

Next article: An in-depth discussion on our solutions in Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing along with solutions in Supply Chain, and Manufacturing.