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IBM Makes Life Science Push

If "The Graduate" were filmed today, the one-word advice given to Dustin Hoffman's character just might be "bio-tech."

That's because in an otherwise moribund market, companies mapping the human genome or analyzing clinical data to develop drugs for AIDS, diabetes and cancer are among the few making large hardware and software buys.

Cognizant of this, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM has invested $200 million over two years to produce and package products for this market.

At Drug Discovery Technology 2002 in Boston, the IT giant unveiled its storage, server, database and storage management software, and Internet collaboration offerings.

"The volume of life sciences data is doubling every nine months," said Kathleen Smith, an IBM vice president. "Research organizations can't afford to underutilize storage systems."

IBM said the sector's storage budget is $4.6 billion in 2002 and will mushroom to $6.9 billion by 2004.

Two of the new IBM configurations are aimed at small- and mid-sized research organizations. These companies, often with limited IT staffs and budgets, require systems that are easy to install and manage.

To prove its point, IBM trotted out Neurome, a firm researching neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, Parkinson's Disease, and schizophrenia.

Dr. Waren Young, president and CTO, said, "IBM . . allows us to scale up rapidly as the need arises, run compute-intenisve models more effectively, and reduce down-time associated with less costly and lower quality systems."

The life sciences opportunity is not lost on IBM's competitors. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard , which gained significant storage assets with the purchase of Compaq, is an exhibitor at Drug Discovery Technology 2002. And EMC , of Hopkinton, Mass., has highlighted several sector wins and sponsored life science Web casts and other events.