Ivan’s private site

March 17, 2007

Infotech for Pharma & Biotech

Filed under: Semantic Web,Work Related — Ivan Herman @ 13:50

I spent a few days in London, UK, at the Infotech for Pharma & Biotech conference. I must admit that, sometimes, I felt like being at the University again, and trying (in vain…) to understand what the talk was all about. After all, this is not really my world… Nevertheless, one of the things I saw (again!) is that this community has indeed immense data integration problems. Immense both in terms of the amount of data as well as the amount of money… Hence their real interest in Semantic Web technologies, too (witness the very active Interest Group on Health Care and Life Sciences at W3C). And that is also why I was invited, ie, to make a small introduction on Semantic Web. It was pretty well received, by the way, I had a series of nice discussions with people afterwards.

It was really good that my talk was followed by a presentation of Giles Day, from Pfizer. He talked about an annotation system they are working on that would provide common annotations on all kinds of data formats (internal wikis, Word documents, web sites, specialized drug discovery tools, etc). The annotations are then collected in an RDF triple store, queried and analyzed by semantic agents and mining tools. The goal is to make the lifecycle of drug discovery more efficient. One of his interesting remarks was: “without ontologies we are doomed to failure”, ie, just using some general tagging mechanism would not be appropriate. This reminded me of something I said earlier, ie, that the Web today is really a collection of very different communities; what may work very well for one community (loose tagging in this case) does not necessarily work for others…

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