Monday, February 13, 2006

BIND in the news

There is another editorial in the last issue of Nature Biotech about database funding. It focuses on BIND, explaining the growth and later decline (due to lack of funding) of this well known interaction database. Last December, BIND and other Blueprint Initiative intellectual property was bought by Unleashed Informatics but as far as I can understand, this deal merely keeps the database available on the site and there will be no further updating for now. Knowing that both BIND and unleashed were created within the Blueprint Initiative led by principal investigator Christopher Hogue (also Chief Scientific Officer of Unleashed Informatics) then this deal was probably just symbolic and a way to increase the value of the company.

According to the Nature Biotech article BIND used up "$17.3 million in federal and Ontario government funding and another $7.8 million from the private sector" to create it's value. Without the details it looks strange that so much value, mostly built with public money, ends up in a private company. Unleashed had to agreed to maintain the access to the existing value free for all and I guess it will use BIND to attract possible buyers to their tools.

Christopher Hogue posted a pessimistic comment here sometime ago about the future of databases in general. This editorial in Nature Biotech argues that it would take two important steps to allow for more permanent databases. The first step would be for the major funding agencies to accept and discuss the need for longer lived databases. The second step would be to create mechanism to decide what databases should be recognized as matured standards.

I thought that with examples like pubmed, the sequence databases and the PDB that the need for long lived databases was obvious by know to the funding bodies. The second step is a bit more tricky. Creating a minimal and stable standard for a type of data is a complicated process and it is not obvious when a database supports such a community of researchers that it would make sense to give it maintenance funding.

Some toughts from Neil, Spitshine

A similar discussion in Nodalpoint