On the road to production: Semantic integration cases indicate successful adoption to improve knowledge-based decisions in Pharma and healthcare




Application of semantic technologies in life sciences and healthcare has been mostly confined to Proof-of-Concept or Pilot studies and has been looked at with skepticism for production-readiness for quite awhile. Overhyped expectations about Linked Open Data and unreliable SPARQL endpoints have been detrimental to practical adoption. Recently, improved data resource quality, attention to provenance, public ontology availability and maturing software have all contributed to successful projects and changing perceptions. Semantic technology is successfully transitioning into production environments providing decision support systems with large economic benefits and societal implications. 

Several examples from Pharma (excipient influence on drug stability and efficacy, drug safety and adverse effect assessment, pre-clinical toxicity risk evaluation), government (FDA species-independent biomarker initiative to reduce animal studies; microbial pathogen characterization and classification) and biomarker-based applications in research hospitals (pre-symptomatic organ transplant rejection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease decision support, comparative effectiveness of combination treatments for prostate cancer, plaque rupture indication in arteriosclerosis) will be explored. These business cases will map where we are today, what has been achieved, how it was done and what still needs to be accomplished on the road ahead to keep the momentum in adoption making semantic integration the model of choice for life sciences.



Dr. Erich Gombocz has 35+ years experience in Life Science research, laboratory automation and data management in distributed environments, and 35+ years programming experience in instrument control, user interface, database design, scientific analysis, on-line laboratory automation, and innovative software architecture. Over a decade at the Federal Institute of Food Analysis & Research, Vienna, Austria, leading the early development of computational analysis and automation procedures in a complex distributed environment, Erich’s contribution was pivotal during the Chernobyl crisis in 1986, where Austria's early warning system delivered real-time information critical to international decision-making. His post-doctoral research at the NIH (1985, 1988), on techniques and computer models for separations led him to build an automated real-time instrument and to found venture-backed Lab Intelligence, Inc. in 1989. From 2000-2003, as Chief Science Officer of Biosentients, he contributed substantially to design and implementation of the company's informatics technology, including its systems architecture and analytical modules. Focusing on semantic data integration and knowledge management in life sciences, he cofounded IO Informatics in 2003 with Bob Stanley to apply systems biology approaches to contextualize knowledge for pharmaceutical and clinical decision-making. 

Dr. Gombocz has published over 60 scientific publications and holds currently more than 40 biotechnology- and software-related US and international patents. He is an international expert in separation science and bioinformatics, a member of several professional organizations, and serves on the editorial board of a number of scientific journals. His participation in the W3C HCLS, the Pistoia Alliance Standards Initiative and as Chair of Working Group for Best Practices in Data Sharing is testimonial for his role at the forefront of technology.