Unified data model to facilitate data sharing and accelerate life science research

Published: 11-Oct-2017

Elsevier will donate its unified data model (UDM) to The Pistoia Alliance, ensuring data is a common language in the research community, removing research bottlenecks and barriers to collaboration

Elsevier is an information analytics business specialising in science and health, it will donate its UDM to The Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance that works to lower barriers to innovation in life sciences R&D.

The UDM is an XML file format originally developed by Elsevier to improve the upload of external data sets into its database. It will now be developed and extended under the stewardship of The Pistoia Alliance, with the ultimate aim of publishing an open and freely available format for the storage and exchange of drug discovery data.

The UDM will become a common model allowing data to be easily shared and integrated between parties. This will greatly accelerate drug discovery research and provide a shared platform to aid collaboration.

Dr Steve Arlington, President of The Pistoia Alliance, said: “The absence of universal data standards hurts everybody involved in life science research and development and is a huge inefficiency that impedes drug discovery.”

“Life science companies have traditionally developed their own internal infrastructures, which results in a duplication of efforts and in systems that are not interoperable. Collaboration between stakeholders will underpin the future of the life science industry and overcoming these kinds of barriers is why The Pistoia Alliance was formed.

“This project will contribute to reducing the time it takes the industry to develop new therapeutics; we encourage our members to become involved in the development of the UDM and create a standard that helps move research forward.”

A lack of well-defined data definitions hampers research efforts and collaboration initiatives, within and between organisations. The complexity of integrating data between horizontal systems (e.g. in-house Electronic Lab Notebook) and vertical systems (e.g. ELN used by a CRO or academic partner), also significantly adds to the cost of research projects.

The Pistoia Alliance’s UDM steering committee, which includes Elsevier representatives, will address these issues by creating open data standards for experimental information about compound synthesis and biological testing. Currently, converting this type of reaction data for a single data source can take considerable time.

Tim Hoctor, VP of Professional Services at Elsevier, said: “Data is the lifeblood of life science research today and removing the hurdles to sharing and using data is critical in supporting the industry to deliver innovative and life-saving therapies.

“Elsevier’s tools are designed to accelerate research and development in the life sciences and contributing to open source standards is fundamental in unleashing the full potential of technology to enable innovation. We are therefore very pleased to donate the UDM model in support of this cause.

The Pistoia Alliance’s members represent all the major pharmaceutical companies and service providers, which made it a perfect choice to further develop the work that Elsevier initiated on the UDM.

In 2013, Elsevier co-developed the UDM with Roche, which was integrating proprietary reaction information in Reaxys, Elsevier’s premier chemistry database.

The UDM is based on a well-documented domain model, which provides a minimum information model for the implemented experiment types. No single organisation can create an industry standard by itself; the UDM model can instead be used a ‘starting point’ for informatics systems that are developed by both life sciences companies and software vendors, providing a standard platform for implementing experimental business rules and protocols.

The Pistoia Alliance, supported by Elsevier, will publish the first version of the extended UDM in Q1 2018. The Pistoia Alliance will then further develop the model in response to members’ feedback.

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