Linux Foundation Collaboration Gets Biological

Can the development model that is used to build Linux be extended for the life sciences? A new collaborative project will aim to answer that question.

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The Linux Foundation is growing its roster of collaboration projects by expanding from the physical into the biological realm with the OpenBEL (Biological Expression Language). The Linux Foundation, best known as the organization that helps bring Linux vendors and developers together, is also growing its expertise as a facilitator for collaborative development projects.

"Companies in the biotech sector want to take advantage of the Linux Foundation's services and knowledge to accelerate development of OpenBEL," Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at the Linux Foundation told eWEEK.

OpenBEL got its start in June 2012 after being open-sourced by biotech firm Selventa. The effort now includes the participation of Foundation Medicine, AstraZeneca,The Fraunhofer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Novartis, Pfizer and the University of California at San Diego.

BEL offers researchers a language to clearly express scientific findings from the life sciences in a format that can be understood by computing infrastructure.

"The foremost leaders in life sciences know they can learn and benefit from the Linux Foundation’s neutral expertise in open development and governance, while focusing on what they know best—science," McPherson said.

The Linux Foundation will provide back office and administrative services for OpenBEL, as well as guidance on open-source best practices and collaborative development, McPherson explained. The goal is to help OpenBEL engage within the life sciences community, educating companies and organizations on the benefits of this type of collaborative development to accelerate innovation and scientific breakthroughs.

Collaboration Project

The Linux Foundation currently hosts a number of different collaboration projects, including the Xen virtualization project, the OpenDaylight software-defined networking effort, Tizen for mobile phone development, and OpenMAMA for financial services information, among others.

The OpenBEL project will be similar to existing collaboration projects in that the contributors to the project want to accelerate their work through collaborative development, McPherson explained.

"They know the open-source model works, but need guidance on collaborative governance and administration functions handled by the Linux Foundation so they can focus on innovation," McPherson said. "It's certainly different from existing collaborative projects in that it represents a new industry taking advantage of this development model and harnessing the experience of how Linux is built."

The Linux Foundation is also home to Linux kernel development, which is one of the largest collaborative open-source efforts in the world of IT today. As is the case with Linux kernel development, participants in the OpenBEL project do not need to be members of the Linux Foundation.

"All Linux Foundation collaborative projects are self-funded by members of the respective projects," McPherson said.

Overall, the focus for the Linux Foundation is to continue to demonstrate that the open-source model that helps build Linux has broader use than for just Linux development.

"We want to extend the collaborative DNA and success of Linux to new industries to solve hard problems and innovate faster than ever before," McPherson said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.