SAS eyes vertical markets with B2B spin-off

Statistical analysis and data ware-housing software vendor SAS Institute has taken the first step in its refocus away from products and services with a B2B (business-to-business) Internet operation.

To be known as iBiomatics LLC, the new spin-off will become a wholly owned subsidiary of SAS and concentrate on biomedical research, said Brian Wood, CEO of SAS Australia.

"SAS is now focused on creating independent groups in vertical markets," Wood told Computerworld.

Hinting at future alliances, he said: "We will be buying technology or partnering with companies who can assist us in ‘go-to-market' strategies."

Wood cited as evidence of this shift SAS Australia's partnership with Dun & Bradstreet to provide supplier relationship management.

The subsidiary will use Internet portals to facilitate the exchange of data between life sciences researchers, particularly in relation to the safety and effectiveness of drugs and medical devices.

SAS hopes that by using Internet technologies and pooling knowledge, researchers will be able to more rapidly develop and market new medical drugs. Currently, it takes around 14 years and $US500 million to bring a new drug to market, SAS said.

And according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), industry sources suggest the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries worldwide spent more than $US43 billion on R&D in 1999. PwC estimates that drug development companies can save $US200 million per marketed drug by deploying computerised R&D processes, such as iBiomatics.

One of the spin-off's divisions will be the SAS PharmaHealth Technologies business unit.

Parent company SAS will give iBiomatics access to SAS data warehousing and DSS (decision support software) and the research and development supporting those products.

And although Wood said there would be no similar offering in Australia unless the company felt there was sufficient demand, he added that iBiomatics delivers benefits to the Australian market.

"If the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approves a drug for the US market, information sent to Australian pharmaceutical companies via iBiomatics will speed up the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] application," Wood explained.

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