When Dragons Speak

The Dragons’ Den session at the Pistoia Alliance Conference last April gave us a chance to socialize some of our embryonic portfolio projects. Many of these initiatives were spawned at the Information Ecosystem workshop that we held last October in Hannover, Germany, and a key challenge now is to select those projects in which the Pistoia Alliance should invest its time and resources as it develops its new project portfolio.

Six projects were showcased during the Dragons’ Den and then discussed during a “speed dating” session in which the dragons had the chance to grill the project pitchers.

  • Biomarker Exchange Standards would focus on molecular data interchange as an ontological and data standard and develop rules around assay data integration. Goals would be to define how different endpoints would be handled and reduce data handling cycles between providers and customers. Sandor Szalma pitched this project, and the project has also been discussed on the Pistoia Alliance blog. Dragons raised questions about how this initiative would relate to the other standards proposed and what data and metadata to track.
  • Screening Data Exchange Standards would devise standards defining common assay result formats and data definitions for “routine” primary and secondary in vitro pharmacology assays increasingly commonly outsourced by large pharmas to CROs. David Kniaz pitched this project, and there was a blog entry on it as well. Dragons wanted more specifics on the focus for this project, particularly what type of “assays would initially be addressed,” how quality would be determined, and exactly what type of collaborations would be supported.
  • NMR Automatic Structure Verification would support the development of reliable algorithms for verifying structures from NMR spectra and establish a cross-pharma data collection of chemical structures and associated NMR spectra with wide chemical diversity that could be used to develop and test the algorithms. Alex Drijver pitched this project. Dragons were curious about what the financial model would be to ensure pharma participation and what dataset size and diversity would be needed to ensure a viable test case.
  • Compound Data Exchange Standards would create a third-party, hosted service to reliably identify the regulations associated with and the procedures necessary for shipping compounds, especially controlled compounds. Ramesh Durvasula pitched this project. Dragons were primarily concerned about clear allocation of responsibility and how this project might synergize with other industry efforts in this area.
  • Open Drug Discovery Teams offers a functional app for mobile devices (iOS) that aggregates open, distributed biomedical data to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing. The app has already been developed by Sean Ekins, who pitched the project. Dragons wondered about how such an app would ultimately be used in actual projects and what the priority would be (if any) for including information from social media sources in the app.
  • Canonical Models for Large Molecules would establish a standard to unambiguously describe large molecules for registration and information exchange. A notation (HELM) has already been developed at Pfizer and is in the process of being published. David Klatte pitched this project and alsopublished a blog entry outlining the project. Dragons acknowledged that there would be a lot of coordination and encouragement necessary to get this project going to encourage industry to adopt this notation and thereby define the standard.

Following the pitches and speed dating, attendees were asked in which projects they would invest. Two votes were taken: a general vote of interest in the projects, and another that asked which projects they would choose if they could only invest in one project. Here are the results:

Dragons’ Den Pitch Interest If you can only choose 1
Canonical Models for Large Molecules 22 13
Biomarker Exchange Standards 14 10
ODDT 12 4
NMR ASV 10 4
Compound Exchange Standards 10 4
Screening Data Exchange Standards 11 1

Based on these results and other feedback, we are working with the various interested parties to determine the next steps for these work streams. In many cases, progress on the working groups will necessitate hiring part-time project analysts to help drive the work. We’ve posted a job description for project analysts and would appreciate any inquiries from qualified personnel interested in this work.

So which projects interest you and how should we prioritize them? I’m happy to field comments here or privately.


Posted in Pistoia Alliance Blog.

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