It's All in the Genes

For more than a decade, scientists have been attempting to map the human genome, the full set of genes that make up humans. Figure out the order of genes, and you can identify variations in the genetic code that cause disease. You can then develop medicine that fights genetic diseases.

Human Genome Sciences (HGS) is one of the biotechnology firms looking to crack the genetic code.

Macs have played a major role at HGS since the Rockville, Maryland-based company opened its doors in 1992, says Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mike Fannon. HGS started with 50 Mac-controlled DNA-sequencing instruments, and it built custom applications to store and ana-lyze data and transfer it to Unix databases. "If you went with something else, you were rowing upstream," Fannon says.

The Mac handled TCP/IP in "a very natural way" and proved to be "a very good client machine for the kind of applications we were writing," Fannon adds. Most of HGS's molecular biologists were used to working on Macs, making the decision to go with the platform even easier.

As HGS has grown-it now has five drugs in human clinical trials-it has moved beyond the Mac. The company now writes browser-based proprietary applica-tions that work on multiple platforms.

But HGS has hardly turned its back on the Mac: with about 400 Macs among the computers at its facilities, the company remains a pre-dominantly Mac operation.

Power Mac G4s and PowerBooks make up the bulk of HGS's Mac arsenal, Fannon says, "but we have quite a spectrum, since we've been buying them for eight and a half years."

The oldest Mac on the premises? A handful of pre-PowerPC machines-or at least that's what Fannon thinks. "Who knows what's lurking back there?" he laughs.

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