IBM, Hitachi to offer gene information service

A Hitachi Ltd. subsidiary and IBM Corp.’s Japanese unit will tie up to start a new online information delivery service to help pharmaceutical companies to quickly collect necessary genetic information, the two companies announced Friday.

For the new GeneIndex Delivery service, Hitachi Software Engineering Co. Ltd. has been collecting and updating databases which disseminate genetic information, such as gene arrangements, amino acid arrangements and chromosome positions, and collating them at its centre, said Issei Shino, a spokesman at Hitachi Software.

The company has developed software that is able to find out which of these databases hold the designated genetic information and creates an index of the located databases, Shino said.

Hitachi Software will offer its clients, such as pharmaceutical companies, an information system incorporating software from IBM Japan that allows various formatted databases to be searched at once, Shino said.

When a client is investigating a gene arrangement in its laboratory, it can send the relevant data to Hitachi Software’s centre, which will search and find the matched databases, create an index of them and send it back to the client via the Internet.

In this way it is possible to find out whether that gene arrangement already exists in the public domain, or how it behaves, by getting information on similar gene arrangements that have already been clarified by other laboratories.

Databases on genetics are separately administrated by each laboratory and institution around the world. So until now, it has been a time-consuming and complex process for researchers to get hold of necessary genetic information for their development work, the two companies said in a statement.

The GeneIndex Delivery service is expected to be launched next month for a monthly subscription of about 1 million yen (CDN$13,000) in Japan, Shino said. Hitachi Software and IBM hopes to make sales of 1 billion yen in the first year from the service.