Crunching Digits for Drugs

Computer giants smell an opportunity in biotechnology

Investor dollars are not the only things flowing out of digital technology and into biotech; plenty of high-end hardware and software are following the money. The pursuit of new drugs through genomics and proteomics requires the gathering and sifting of oceanic volumes of data about molecules and their reactions to one another. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, for example, simulates 47 billion reactions between drugs and proteins a day--nearly as many as the number of e-mails sent out in the world every week. This requires the massive deployment of supercomputers and highly sophisticated programming tools--all key elements of a booming field dubbed bioinformatics.

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