Enterprise-Wide Informatics Platform
Of all these programs, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development’s (J&JPRD; www.jnj.com) endeavor is the most ambitious. The company is developing an enterprise-wide, overarching framework for discovery informatics. Called ABCD for Advanced Biological and Chemical Discovery, it unites multiple data systems in various cultures and many continents, providing a common ontology as well as a common way to describe, store, and interact with data.
Decision support was the first phase. It included a data warehouse that gathered biological and chemical information from multiple sources. The team built the Third Dimension Explorer in-house to mine the data, says Edward P. Jaeger, Ph.D., director of information technology for the research and early development division at J&JPRD. “We had a sense of the commercial offerings and we had a fair amount of technological expertise.”
The benefit is cohesiveness on a number of levels including user interactions and data interpretation. For example, because the same underlying technology was used to render chemical structures and support deeper analysis, there were fewer inconsistencies. The Third Dimension Explorer component can handle millions of rows and hundreds of columns of data, Dr. Jaeger continues. “We haven’t explored the practical upper limits.”
Dr. Jaeger and his team are in the process of building out the registration and transactional tools to streamline how data is registered and made available to discovery scientists. Many of the initial elements are available now, and others will be rolled out during the next 12 to 18 months.
An informatics project of this scope wasn’t just a matter of implementing technology, it required business process change. “That was the biggest value for us,” Dr. Jaeger notes. “Once we started to pull together data from throughout the world, we were driven to make the data more consistent.”
At first, systems were developed to curate the information. Eventually, however, the biologists and managers decided to establish an editorial board to develop the standards to which data must adhere before it may be added to the data warehouse.
The result is more useable, coherent, and understandable data. “We’re moving toward the point where we don’t have to do a lot of active curating,” Dr. Jaeger explains. The system will be maintained to accommodate new technologies and ontologies and thus evolve along with the science.
ABCD is having a positive effect, according to Dr. Jaeger. A growing user base bears this out. “We weren’t replacing anyone’s technology with ABCD,” Dr. Jaeger explains. “We competed in the marketplace for users based on capabilities.” Right now, ABCD has attracted 1,300 scientists, a major percentage, he notes. The ultimate goal is to complete ABCD’s penetration in the discovery science realm, adding tools and capabilities and enhancing the sophistication of data analysis. Eventually, it may roll out to other areas within Johnson & Johnson.