Microsoft Biology Foundation: An Open-Source Library of Re-usable Bioinformatics Functions and Algorithms Built on the .NET Platform


October 11, 2010


Beatriz Díaz Acosta, Mark Smith, and Simon Mercer


JulMar Technology


The Microsoft Biology Initiative (MBI) is an effort in Microsoft Research to bring new technology and tools to the area of bioinformatics and biology. This initiative is comprised of two primary components, the Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) and the Microsoft Biology Tools (MBT).

The Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) is a language-neutral bioinformatics toolkit built as an extension to the Microsoft .NET Framework, initially aimed at the area of Genomics research. Currently, it implements a range of parsers for common bioinformatics file formats; a range of algorithms for manipulating DNA, RNA, and protein sequences; and a set of connectors to biological web services such as NCBI BLAST. MBF is available under an open source license, and executables, source code, demo applications, and documentation are freely downloadable.

The Microsoft Biology Tools (MBT) are a collection of tools targeted at helping the biology and bioinformatics researcher be more productive in making scientific discoveries. The tools provided here take advantage of the capabilities provided in the Microsoft Biology Foundation, and are good examples of how MBF can be used to create other tools.

This tutorial will provide an overview of the library, details about how to extend and re-use the library, and demonstrations of the tools released that use the library: The MSR Biology Extension for Excel and the MSR Sequence Assembler.


Beatriz Díaz Acosta, Mark Smith, and Simon Mercer

Dr. Mercer has a background in zoology and has worked in various aspects of bioinformatics over the years. Having managed the development of the Canadian Bioinformatics Resource, a national life science service-provision network in Canada, he worked as Director of Software Engineering at Gene Codes Corporation before moving to the External Research team of Microsoft Research. In his current role as Director of Health and Wellbeing, he manages collaborations between Microsoft and academia in the area of healthcare research. Dr. Mercer’s interests include bioinformatics, translational medicine, and the management of scientific data.