[Biodevelopers] question on the business side of development

A.J. Rossini rossini at blindglobe.net
Fri May 24 12:41:37 EDT 2002

>>>>> "joe" == Joe Landman <landman at scientificappliance.com> writes:

    joe> What I am really getting after is whether or not there are real
    joe> possibilities for building a business out of providing software and
    joe> service for informatics computing.  It seems to me that there are many
    joe> business models that simply do not work here (ASP is a great example). 
    joe> I am wondering if being an independent bioinformatics software vendor is
    joe> a workable scenario.

I think there are, especially with respect to helping to support
open-source projects.  I'll point out 2 examples which are very real,
and while not "molecular sequence analysis" (which is what most people
here seem to think of), are somewhat relevant (one being
bioinformatics, the other being "general tools").

#1 - A project which I'm helping with as developer and release
manager, BioConductor (http://www.bioconductor.org/), which is a open
source package to analyze expression arrays, consists of packages from
a number of (computational) statisticians working on statistical
issues (normalization, differentiation, classification/clustering of
profiles and expression phenotypes).  The lead coordinator is
currently trying to find commercial entities looking at providing
support (because of the reputation of the individuals involved, there
are groups interested in the software, and would be willing to pay for
support -- which we don't really want to provide, except in that it
helps us extend/fix/improve the tools we are working on).  

#2 - the core developers for the language at the base, R
(www.r-project.org) are very interested in helping people to provide
training and support.  After all, while the software itself is GPL'd,
there are a large number of companies (about half the major pharmas)
who use it in one way or another.

    joe> Another way to put the question is, where is the value that a company or
    joe> a group would be willing to pay for.  Is it in the software side?  The
    joe> services?  The implementation?  The management?  Where is the value, and
    joe> are people willing to pay for it.

I think the value is in the consulting and training.  Tasks which are
truly simple for me to accomplish, require this for others.  As with
all powerful software, training is a serious issue (if you've ever
attempted to use Rosetta Resolver, for example :-)...  And I would
suggest that there is a market if the costs can be made manageable --
i.e. a group I work with has established that given the cost of a
simple piece of commercial expression array software is on the order
of $3k-$6k, and labs will be willing to consider a service model to
get the science done.

If the software is free, the training is an issue.  Even if the
software is not free, training is STILL an issue.  


A.J. Rossini				Rsrch. Asst. Prof. of Biostatistics
U. of Washington Biostatistics		rossini at u.washington.edu	
FHCRC/SCHARP/HIV Vaccine Trials Net	rossini at scharp.org
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