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InfoQ Homepage News Microsoft Enters the Biotech Market with a Truly Open Source Project

Microsoft Enters the Biotech Market with a Truly Open Source Project

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Microsoft Biology Foundation, or MFB, is a bioinformatics toolkit built atop the .NET framework. This toolkit is based on the de facto standards established in the bioinformatics community through years of open development, code sharing, and cross-platform support. Keeping with the spirit of this tradition, MFB will be released under the Microsoft Public License.

With support for bioinformatics file formats, MFB should prove to be a huge time saver right out of the box. Microsoft is also offering “range of algorithms for manipulating DNA, RNA, and protein sequences; and a set of connectors to biological Web services such as NCBI BLAST.”

Microsoft is well known for building extension points into the frameworks; with their long tradition of closed-source software their tools would be useless without them. While MFB is no different in this regard, Microsoft’s attitude towards extensions has changed. They are soliciting third-party developers to contribute their code back to the Biology Foundation framework, though the exact details are no yet available.

In order to take advantage of the multiple CPUs and cores now widely available in both server and consumer grade hardware, there is also a “Dev10” preview. This builds upon the Parallel Extensions library that is being added in .NET 4.0 and Visual Studio 2010.

In addition to the Beta of Microsoft Biology Foundation, Microsoft Research is working on two related projects.

  • Microsoft Biology Tools are “are a collection of computational biology tools built in Microsoft Research; they are either built upon the MBF framework or have historically significant value in the same domain and may eventually be ported to integrate with the framework.”
  • Microsoft Research Biology Extension for Excel is, as the name suggests, is an Office add-in that allows you to leverage MFB from Excel.

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