Many of the names behind the emerging biotechnology business are familiar to those who follow the hardware trade. Moreover, some analysts believe that the merger of the two tech sectors will provide the next great growth industry. There is more than one reason that the two are developing together. Biochips, that fuse silicon with DNA to create sensors able to detect specific diseases, require much of the same fabrication expertise developed building microprocessors for PCs. There is also a symbiosis between the computer industry and biotech research, projected to need more pure computing power than any application yet.
IBM is leading the effort to decode DNA proteins, starting with a five-year plan to build Blue Gene, a supercomputer that will have to be at least a hundred times more powerful than ASCI White to do the job. Compaq Computer has put $100 million in a biotech venture capital fund aimed, in part, at converting genetic code to software. Motorola and Corning both manufacture biochips and, similarly, the H-P spin-off, Agilent, uses its inkjet technology to make biochips.
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