As the perennial nuisance of the life science informatics sector, data integration has inspired a host of solutions — some more effective than others, but none innovative enough to declare the problem solved. IO Informatics, a newcomer to the field, is offering a new approach, however, that it claims can overcome some of the limitations of previous efforts. While most current integration schemes rely on middleware and “wrapper” programs that need to be written for different data types, IO Informatics claims that its technology does not require the time or programming skill of these methods.
The company takes an agent-based approach to integration that links data points with so-called Intelligent Multidimensional Objects (IMOs), which are small software entities that operate independently of file formats and applications. Patricia Rougeau, CEO of IO Informatics, said that unlike the “container-based model” of relational databases, in which the database structure describes the way in which data can be entered, stored, and retrieved, the IMOs describe each individual data point, “so it’s more of a network of objects than a physical structure that is telling you how to get in and out.” While middleware relies on wrappers to communicate different standards and formats between data sources, IMOs enable data points to communicate directly with one another.
IO Informatics was founded last year and is just beginning to roll out its product suite, called Sentient. The portfolio includes three products: Sentient Science Expert Query, Sentient Form Query, and Sentient Desktop. Scientific Expert Query is a web-based search tool that includes more than 100 pre-selected sources of scientific, regulatory, and patent data that IO has set up with IMOs. With Form Query, customers can customize the system to work with their own databases — a process that Rougeau described as a “configuration task” for an administrator that involves assigning metafields to be queried in different databases. “There’s no programming involved,” she said. Sentient Desktop can be used with the Science Expert or the Form query, or both, and acts as a unified interface for data acquisition, access controls, process management, and collaboration support.
Rougeau said that the Sentient system does not require customers to change their existing informatics infrastructures or processes — a feature that she anticipates will be of value to prospective users. For most integration systems, she said, “The cost of the software is trivial compared to the life cycle cost for the company — of replacing what they have today, of training everyone, of changing their existing processes, and of all the consulting that has to go along with it.”
Pricing for its web-based Science Expert Query is $500 for an annual subscription, while Sentient Form Query costs $3,000 per user for a three-year license, and Sentient Desktop is $12,000 per user for a three-year license.
Rougeau said that the company is currently “concluding a deal” with a medical records company with a large patient database that is interested in reselling IO’s Form Query to doctors’ offices so that they can query the database in new ways. IO is also in discussions with two other companies, Rougeau said — including “an instrument company interested in the Desktop.”