Exchanging Drug Pipeline Data

The pharmaceutical R&D environment has always been collaborative in nature — never moreso today. Key to the success of those collaborations is the ability to share information about drug R&D programs with a wide variety of potential partners and investors. Traditionally pharmaceutical companies rely on expensive databases to identify potential partners. These databases usually do a good job of identifying programs inpipeline032415 other pharmaceutical companies, but their results vary widely when it comes to identifying programs in academic labs and small biotech companies. And it’s increasingly these types of organizations that pharmaceutical companies are turning to in an effort to reduce R&D costs, and gain specialist expertise in certain indications.

In the past, small biotech companies have relied upon events like BIO and EBD (and the previously mentioned commercial databases) to get on the radar of pharmaceutical companies. However, these events occur only once a year and a year can be a long wait for a startup company.  In addition, any discrepancies in the project information in a commercial database can take months to resolve, which can lead to more lost opportunities.

A cursory survey of pharmaceutical company web sites reveals that despite the dazzling variety of ways that pharmaceutical pipelines are represented, the data is by-and-large the same across all of the sites — Target, therapeutic area and class, indication, and project status are a part of every pipeline page. However, because the webpage and the data are tightly bound together, it’s impossible to scrape the data programmatically, and search across all of the organizations.

But suppose for a moment, that every drug pipeline, at every company involved in pharmaceutical discovery was just a Google search away.  Suppose, that regardless of the size of your company, the work that you’re doing was instantly discoverable by potential partners and investors.

The first step in such an effort would be to make drug project information accessible by search engines. Two years ago, Google (along with Yahoo and Bing) announced support for a new site metadata standard using JSON-LD at their Google IO developers conference. This new data format makes it possible for companies to describe themselves and their products (albeit in very generic terms). Google, Yahoo and Bing display this information in a summary to the right of your search results.

Recently, we proposed a pre-competitive collaborative project with the Pistoia Alliance (an industry-wide organization with representatives from numerous pharmaceutical companies) to define a new standard for representing pharmaceutical project information.

Our goal is to create a level playing field that ultimately helps the members of the pharmaceutical R&D ecosystem (academic labs, biotech companies, research foundations, and pharmaceutical companies) identify new collaborative opportunities and answer the following types of questions:

  • Which organizations currently have drug programs for indication X?
  • Which organizations are currently working on complementary drug programs in pathway Y?
  • Which organizations have a drug program that targets gene Z?
  • I have a drug program for indication X, the target also plays a role in indication Y.  Who has expertise in that area that I can leverage?
  • Which potential partners are best suited for my drug program?
  • Who do I contact at company X about my cancer drug program?
  • Who is currently conducting clinical trials for indication X?

To learn more about this project and how you can help, please join the conversation at the Pistoia Alliance.


About aspenbio

I write software for scientists. I'm interested in Java/Groovy/Grails, the Semantic Web and Cancer Biology.
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