SAS Spins Off iBiomatics

SAS has spun off iBiomatics LLC, its first business-to-business Internet company. iBiomatics, a wholly owned subsidiary of SAS, will enable researchers in the life sciences industry to better understand and predict the safety and effectiveness of drugs and medical devices. This spin-off takes on greater significance now that scientists have almost finished mapping the human genome. Biotech and pharmaceutical firms, already overburdened with research data, now must handle huge volumes of genetic information to develop new therapies.

By unifying anonymous data and knowledge about specific drug projects and making it available through secure Internet portals, iBiomatics will accelerate medical research. This will benefit patients by saving time and money in drug development. According to Kenneth Kaitin, Ph.D., Director of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development at Tufts University, it takes about 14 years and costs half a billion dollars to bring a single new drug to market. "Pharmaceutical companies need to shorten development times and reduce R&D costs to be successful in the current competitive marketplace," he says. "Using Internet technologies to leverage all of the data about a single drug development program will help them accomplish that."

"Packaging and delivering research information over the Internet changes the structure of biotechnology and drug development," says Lee Evans, President of iBiomatics and previous Executive Director of SAS PharmaHealth Technologies. "For the first time, research organizations of all sizes will have access to biomedical information through a Web browser. They can focus on scientific research, and iBiomatics will deliver, leverage and add value to their information."

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, industry sources suggest the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries worldwide spent more than $43 billion on R&D in 1999. Information technology investments account for between 12 and 15 percent of that sum. The $500 million development price tag for each marketed drug continues to rise, and the main culprit is a research process that operates without an efficient, electronic system for managing, archiving and reviewing analysis-ready data. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that drug development companies can save $200 million per marketed drug by deploying what it calls "e-R&D," a term that describes the computerization of the R&D process.

"Since information is now the primary catalyst and currency of any marketplace, we believe that the growth of other markets will pale in comparison to that of bioinformatics over the next decade," says Doug Laney, Vice President of the META Group, an IT advisory services firm. "The forthcoming deluge of information from unraveling the genome, matched with the accessible analytic output from collaborative biomedical research ventures like iBiomatics, will enable unfathomable advances in life sciences and spawn countless ancillary industries."

iBiomatics includes the staff and technologies of the SAS PharmaHealth Technologies business unit, which will become a division of iBiomatics. The new subsidiary will remain part of the SAS family. In addition, SAS will provide iBiomatics access to its data warehousing and decision-support software and the R&D behind it.