Soon, thousands of researchers at Bristol-Myers Squibb will be able to access all their critical research data through a single interface, thanks to a project led by Ron Behling, director of drug discovery and exploratory development informatics at the company.
The system, called SMART-IDEA or Structure Modeling Analysis Research Tool Integrating Data for Experimental Analysis, is built upon the MetaLayer data integration system from Tripos, a multi-tiered architecture that merges data as well as applications (see diagram). Behling said that BMS originally built its own system called P-CRIS (Pre-Clinical Research Information System) that tied together chemical structure data, chemical property information, in vitro biological data, and high-throughput screening and inventory data.
However, he said, “We wanted to move to a new architecture that would allow us to integrate a much wider variety of data sources, as well as start to integrate our predictive modeling tools. The MetaLayer is the solution that we have for that architectural problem.”
The new and improved system now captures in vivo biological data, toxic- ology and metabolism data, pharmacokinetic data, 2D and 3D structural data, and in-house and third-party computational and modeling tools, Behling said.
SMART-IDEA is the fruit of information management and analysis (IM&A) projects that BMS launched several years ago to keep the company's information systems on track with the strategic demands of discovery, Behling said. In the IM&A area, enterprise-wide data integration was identified as a high priority.
In collaboration with Tripos, BMS developers created a user interface for SMART-IDEA so that scientists throughout the company can easily access all the chemical and biological data of interest to their project. This interface will replace the one developed for P-CRIS once the system is deployed —a process that will begin at the end of the year and is expected to continue through most of the first quarter of 2003.
Behling said his team opted to abandon its in-house integration project in favor of a commercially available solution for a simple reason: it was there. “Our basic philosophy is we never make anything we can buy. It’s always a lot cheaper to buy it.” At the time, he said, “Tripos was in the best position at the time to help deliver this product.”
Pulling From the Hubs
True to its name, MetaLayer will act as a meta-integration tool, bringing together data that originates in the company’s individual working groups, which each have their own data management systems. “There are local data systems and local processes that need to be supported in a local way,” Behling said, “What we are doing at various points in the organization is consolidating all those local systems into something bigger — whether it be a data mart or a federated system. Then, for each of those systems, you have to look at whether they need to pull in information from other systems. With the MetaLayer solution, what we’re expecting is that we’ll be able to start pulling information from other systems and providing information to those systems as necessary.”
Each group, such as bioinformatics or early clinical, “has some sort of a hub of information,” he continued, “so what we can use SMART-IDEA to pull information from all those hubs as appropriate.
Thus, several integration tools are able to work together to make up the whole system. The BMS bioinformatics group, for example, recently licensed the BLIS (Biotique Local Integration Solution) system from Biotique Systems to integrate its genomic data [BioInform 07-15-02]. The existing P-CRIS system will also be folded in as a subset of SMART-IDEA.
Behling said that the first case in which bioinformatics data will be integrated into the system might be in tying together small-molecule results with the genes that are affected in expression experiments. However, he said there are no definite plans for that yet.
One item on the to-do list is integrating protocol information, which Behling expects to take place next year. “[We’ve made] huge strides in standardizing our approach to biological protocols,” he said, noting that SMART-IDEA would have “the ability to look at those protocols so that scientists can understand what their experimental results really mean.”
Long term, the focus will be on making the interface more user friendly and intuitive, and keeping up to date with new data sources, applications, and integration opportunities.
“There are several different directions it can go and we haven’t had the discussions yet to determine the nexts steps to achieve the most business value.” Behling said.
Diagram courtesy of Tripos