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Digital Science, SciBite Partnership to Explore Data Mining and Combined Product Development

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Macmillan subsidiary Digital Science has signed a two-year partnership with SciBite, a scientific news and alerts service, that will allow the companies to access each other's content and text-mining technologies in order to improve their existing products and explore the possibility of developing new products that combine their respective functionalities.

Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will consider co-marketing two products from their respective portfolios that provide direct data access to chemistry and biological content — Digital Science's SureChem Direct and SciBite's application programming interface.

These two offerings will enable customers in the drug discovery market to connect patent-mined chemistry information from SureChem with biological data and competitor trends provided by SciBite, Nicko Goncharoff, head of Digital Science's knowledge discovery business unit, explained to BioInform this week

The partners will also explore ways of using text-mining technology to integrate and link other products in their respective product portfolios in order to support drug discovery and other life science areas.

In a statement, Timo Hannay, Digital Science's managing director, said that the partnership gives his company "the opportunity to correlate information from both chemical and biological data sources to speed up scientific research. This supports our goal of developing products that focus on the intersection of chemistry and biology."

Furthermore, "the social media aspect of SciBite, providing views of the top articles being read by scientific peers, also complements other Digital Science products and services," he said.

Macmillan, which also owns the Nature Publishing Group, launched Digital Science in 2010 to provide software tools and services to scientists, managers, and funders (BI 12/10/2010).

Goncharoff explained that Macmillan launched the subsidiary in response to requests from life science researchers for tools that they could use to manage and support their research activities — for example, tools that would make it easier to access research information online.

Digital Science develops some of its software internally. For example, it is responsible for developing products from SureChem, a text-mining company acquired by Macmillan in 2009 that extracts and annotates chemistry information from large content collections. Also, Macmillan invests in third-party companies that have already developed and currently market software that support the life science industry.

To that end, the firm has invested in several startups including BioData, which markets Labguru, a web-based system for planning and managing laboratory protocols, experiments, projects, personnel, inventories and data; Labtiva, the developers of ReadCube, which provides tools for managing and accessing academic research articles; and 1degreeBio, an online site for purchasing antibodies and reagents.

For its part, SciBite uses its text-mining technology to extract and collate biological information related to drug discovery in real time from multiple content sources such as news articles, clinical trials, grants data, patents, and literature, according to Lee Harland, the company's founder.

Harland told BioInform in an email that his firm offers a series of products and services including the SciBite API, which lets users access and mine its content database.

"The 'Twitter-like' information stream provided by SciBite allows users to discover and keep track of the latest emerging relationships between biomedical entities such as genes, proteins, diseases, drugs [and] pathways," Harland explained. "In addition, the underlying database provides a rich hunting ground for data mining and understanding the drug discovery landscape."

The partnership with Digital Science, Harland said, offers a way to connect SureChem's chemistry content to biomedical data thus providing customers a "unique view of drug discovery and other life science research areas."

Goncharoff said that during the two-year partnership the companies will also explore the possibility of combining their chemistry and biological text-mining products into a single solution but they haven't made any definite decisions on that front. For now, the agreement will allow Digital Science's sales team to potentially market the SciBite API, he said

If they do so, the SciBite API would have to compete with offerings from companies like Thomson Reuters, which offers products such as Cortellis for Informatics, a set of APIs that let drug discovery companies access and integrate data on investigational drugs, drug targets, ontologies, and analytics (BI 3/2/2012).

However, there are significant differences, Goncharoff said. "SciBite is unique with its 'real time' processing over an extremely wide range of sources [such as] patents, grants, literature, news, social media," he said. Furthermore, "its data-as-a-service model, combined with some of the open, free tools, enables access to this type of data to a much wider community — [for example] non-profits, biotech, [and] small pharma — than is currently the case."

The partners will also explore other possible applications of their text-mining and annotation technologies to other software tools in the Digital Science portfolio, Goncharoff said.

As an example, Goncharoff said that the partners could develop a workflow that would include Digital Science portfolio products such as BioData's LabGuru, ReadCube, and 1degreeBio.

They could use text mining to annotate antibodies and reagents cited in protocols stored in LabGuru, which could be linked to literature in ReadCube or product reviews in 1degreeBio, he explained. This would enable researchers to quickly explore other experiments that used the same reagents and protocols, and where they could be purchased.

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