Lower drug costs and shorter medicine trials could be on the horizon. IBM said yesterday it will establish a life sciences consulting practice to help biotech and pharmaceutical organisations use IT in research and development.

IBM aims to use its technology, and that of the internet, to simplify data gathering and analysis, improve research and development cycles and lower drug development costs.

The computer industry has lately made several moves to capitalise on growing IT needs among biotech researchers, particularly the need of genomics and proteomics researchers for high-powered supercomputing technology.

IBM and genome research services company NuTec Sciences announced in December that they are building a powerful supercomputer to investigate genetic expression and disease.

One side effect of the project could well be greater crossover between IBM and biotech companies. Many futurologists and IT commentators think at least part of the future of computing lies in wetware – biological computing and human-computer interfaces.