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Open PHACTS: semantic technologies and drug discovery

26 Apr, 13 | by BMJ

Research and discovery in the life sciences is a pretty complicated business. The complexity of the modern scientific process seems to be a reflection of the intricacies of life and the processes associated with disease and its treatment. Furthermore, as technologies become more advanced, so too does the problem of managing the ever expanding quantity of data being generated.

Currently, pharmaceutical companies expend significant and duplicated efforts aligning and integrating their internal information with public data sources. This process is largely incompatible with large-scale computational approaches and the vast majority of drug discovery sources find it difficult to complicate with eachother.

The typical scientific process produces vast amounts of information that is dispersed and hidden in various data sources (e.g. literature and curated databases). Data-driven life science research, including drug discovery, will increasingly rely on a community of collaborating partners to extract knowledge from these sources to solve complex questions. (1)

Open PHACTS is just such a partnership between academia, publishers, small and medium sized enterprises and pharmaceutical companies. The goal of the project is to deliver and sustain an ‘open pharmacological space’ (OPS) by using and enhancing cutting edge semantic web standards and technologies.  The Open PHACTS Community Workshop, held this week in London, launched the project’s API at Coverage of the event was tweeted under #opslaunch and there’s a lively transcript of the event on Storify.

The Open PHACTS discovery platform delivers a single view across available data resources and is both open access and open source. Scientific text, traditionally difficult to analyse by computer, has factual assertions extracted as semantic triples (the building blocks of semantic technology), allowing for the first time the ability to query textual and database data together to give the answers needed to identify new drug targets and pharmacological interactions.

The project is focused on practical and robust applications to solve specific questions in drug discovery research. OPS is intended to facilitate improvements in drug discovery in academia and industry and to support open innovation and in-house non-public drug discovery research.

Open PHACTS already has a wide community of potential data sources, data consumers, and service providers. However, if you’d like to get involved, there are full details of how to do this on their website.

Here are the current partners:



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