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Quertle Launches Improved Biomedical Search Engine

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Biomedical and health IT solution developer Quertle recently released Quetzal Search and Communication, a new iteration of its biomedical literature search system that it claims outperforms existing search solutions and delivers contextually relevant results for life science and healthcare professionals.

Jeffrey Saffer, the company's president, told GenomeWeb this week that the new product shares some of the same DNA as the company's preceding system — also called Quertle —but expands on that earlier system with new features and capabilities that help researchers in industry and academia get to relevant results faster and capture information that other search systems miss, and access a broad range of valuable content for research.

Unique features in this release include automated key concept extraction, filtering options, and instant searches for entire classes of entities. Moreover, the tool uses optimized ontologies to eliminate reliance on Boolean searches, and uses separate author, journal, and affiliation entries to avoid providing conflicting results.

Quetzal's so-called power term functionality lets users search, for example, all members of a category such as 'diseases' and get results that exclude false hits from general terms like disease or syndrome, the company said. Quetzal accesses content from a host of resources including PubMed, PubMed Central full text, patent grants and applications, AHRQ Treatment Protocols, NIH grants, TOXLINE, and relevant news sources. These documents — some 35 million of them so far — are stored in a local database hosted on Quertle's servers. Users have access to tools that they can use to annotate documents and they can conduct private discussions with their peers within the system.

Quetzel uses the same patented Quantum Logic Linguistic (QLL) technology as its predecessor? to identify and return relevant results faster and more effectively than existing methods. Rather than search for all possible responses to a search query, the company's QLL-based system searches documents for concepts and also looks for relationships between concepts and input search terms, he explained. This way, it pares down the list of all possible documents that could be returned in response to a user's query to only the most relevant ones, saving time and ensuring that no critical documents are missed, he said.

It's different from searching PubMed directly or leveraging resources such as Google Scholar and Thomson Reuters' Web of Science, which simply scan documents for input terms and return all instances where the terms are mentioned whether they are relevant or not, Saffer said. Quetzal, on the other hand, with its emphasis on concepts and relationships between them, is able to provide a more focused set of results. Quetzal also covers more ground in terms of content than PubMed including not just the content contained in that database but also patent grants and applications, NIH grants, toxicology information from the National Library of Medicine, and more.

Quertle offers free and priced versions of Quetzal. With the basic version, users can search PubMed for free and receive relevant results filtered by publication data and type — this option is best suited for undergraduates or occasional consumers of biomedical papers and resources. Meanwhile Quetzal professional and Quetzal advanced offer more comprehensive search capabilities and access to a broader content than PubMed alone. The company charges $9.90 per subscription per month for Quetzal professional and $99 per annum for yearly subscriptions. A subscription to Quetzal advanced costs $99 a month and $990 per annum. Also, customers that purchase annual subscriptions for both Quetzal advanced and Quetzal professional will receive two months of free access and use of the search engine.

Quertle also offers site licenses to its search engine for larger organizations such as pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions, Saffer said. Pricing operates on a sliding scale with the largest for-profit customers paying on the order of $75,000 for a site license with smaller for-profit customers being charged much less. The company also offers deep discounts for site license for non-profits and educational institutions, Saffer said. A small university, for example, could be charged as low as $5,000 for a license. The company also offers discount pricing to members of library consortia and is currently inking agreements with some such groups.

Besides targeting clients in pharma, biotech, academia, as well as hospitals, Quertle also hopes to draw interest from solution providers who might be interested in linking their applications to the Quetzal database and search engine, Saffer said.  The company offers an application programming interface that those vendors could use to link to Quetzal, and Quertle will work with these vendors to customize the content that their products have access to as well as the functionality available within those tools. The API is also available to customers seeking to deploy Quetzal within existing in-house applications, he said. Saffer said that some current customers begun using the API for this purpose but have signed non-disclosure agreements with Quertle so he is unable to discuss how the API is being used. He did say however that the company has received requests from physicians who want to use the API to make Quetzal content and functionality available within their electronic health records.

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