The emergence of bioinformatics tools, which integrate molecular biology and genomics with computer-based information technology, is bringing about a revolution in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying normal and dysfunctional biological processes.
The microarray is one such tool that caused a paradigm shift in how researchers collect and analyze genetic data. Microarrays allow researchers to monitor the whole genome in a single experiment, thus enabling researchers to obtain a picture of the complex and orchestrated interactions that exist among thousands of genes simultaneously.
Since many biologists are not trained in computer programming and statistical analysis, they often have difficulty translating microarray data into meaningful biological conclusions. To address this need, a team at the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Biometric Research Branch (BRB) invented a comprehensive desktop software package. The software performs sophisticated and powerful calculations that allow scientists to analyze their microarray data by discovering biologically significant patterns in gene expression data. The package, known as BRB-Array Tools, is widely recognized as the most statistically sound package available for the analysis of microarray data.
The software performs sophisticated and powerful calculations that allow scientists to analyze their microarray data by discovering biologically significant patterns in gene expression data.
BRB-Array Tools has been transferred using mechanisms designed to facilitate broad dissemination of the software to a variety of users. To accomplish this goal in the most effective manner, a model for distribution was developed and implemented whereby the software could be downloaded from the BRB site at no cost to users from academic and nonprofit institutions, and to commercial users for a reasonable, onetime fee.
This technology transfer effort represents a successful experiment in providing researchers with powerful tools to analyze complex information in the most efficient manner possible. BRBArray Tools has been the subject of over 13,000 Software Transfer Agreements to government agencies, universities, and research institutions in 66 countries, as well as 35 nonexclusive licenses to commercial entities.