We believe RDF/OWL and LSID can help Pharma out from the InfoMaze!

Position paper for, W3C Workshop on Semantic Web for Life Sciences
Kerstin Forsberg and Bo Andersson, AstraZeneca R&D


One Challenge


It’s a well known fact that pharmaceutical industry are facing huge challenges in bringing new complex drug candidates to the market. The break through in genome technology have resulted in many new potential drug targets, however our knowledge about these new opportunities and the system biology behind them are limited. We have a knowledge gap to fill, however available tools are from the pre genome era.


Pharma need a new toolbox addressing these challenges, where short sighted fixes are replaced by long term foundations!


What we want to do


We want to establish an innovative and collaborative environment where scientists from discovery and development navigates between different information sources needed, utilizing appropriate tools to give them the ability to take informed decisions.


The toolbox shall provide not only the tools to access, analyse and visualise, but also the protocols and models giving the ability to discover, combine and interpret the information from heterogeneous sources. Information sources necessary to handle through this “plug & play” alike foundation are both internal and external including information from the health care environment. The toolbox shall address needs in both the submission process and for explorative research.


In this vision we can imagine;

§         Clinical documents being semantically annotated both for regulatory purpose and from different scientific perspectives thus being made easily exploitable. This will open up the huge source of knowledge within existing document management systems for both scientific questions and best practice advances.

§         Clinical study data being readily available for scientific inference and reasoning anywhere and at any time as needed. Clinical data sources would feed the explorative environments with data required for analysis and reporting as well as facilitating hypothesis generation throughout the drug development process.


Where W3C fit in


Pharma need a foundation based on technologies to organise data and documents in prospective structures to improve submission process and open up for evolutionary knowledge creation based on enrich information with the concept of assertions.


Semantic interoperability is a key driver for this foundation to enable a “plug & play” interface to information; to be useful cross contexts and time, to be machine interpretable and human understandable.


We believe the power of Semantic Web, and the standards, RDF, OWL as well as the LSID approach and the ISO11179 model for metadata registries, lies in the principle of minimalist design based on a common model of great generality. Only when the common model is general can any prospective application be mapped onto the model. Therefore we foresee these standards being core both for health care and clinical domain specific standards as their representation format.




We imagine the challenge, the idea how to address it and how we believe W3C play a role are uncontroversial.

However, how can we make sure that the health care environment and the pharmaceutical industry adopt this thinking about filling existing gaps in our toolbox.

To discuss at the workshop;

§         Do we have the standards we need.

§         How do we secure interoperability cross contexts and time.

§         How can we get a global adoption of these standards.

§         How can we secure available tools for handling data according to these standards, i.e. open not proprietary.

§         Etc.