Stalking Technical Terms
By decreasing the volume of document iteration, semantic intelligence makes information gathering faster and more efficient,
saving time and money at the front end of R&D. For example, it can:
» Ease access to new information in scientific studies There's a hierarchy among words, and semantics can make precise use of this hierarchy. For example, one study may refer to
the antibacterial methenamine, while another mentions a different antibacterial, nitrofurtoin; neither study mentions the
other, and a researcher is unaware that both are used for urinary tract infections. Semantic intelligence can make this connection
because it tracks the hierarchy of both.
» Accelerate the earliest phase of drug development by recognizing new chemical formulas All candidate compounds start with a literature review to match them with indications. Often there are more degrees of freedom,
or steps that make a connection, between compounds and indications than can be discovered by researchers. Semantic intelligence
can capture all of this knowledge.
» Help protect the intellectual property of a patented drug Many patents are a fog of claims and descriptions. Semantic intelligence can draw out the overlap between two patents no
matter how densely they are written.
Desperately Seeking Data
It's common knowledge that health is one of the most frequently searched categories online. A recent report from iCrossing
on how Americans search for health questions found that in the last year, patients turned first to the Internet 59 percent
of the time. Knowing what consumers are asking and saying about drugs, disease, symptoms, side effects, and other issues can
help inform new approaches to medical and marketing communications.
A central concern is, of course, the opinions and other expressions circulated about the company and its drugs through so-called
consumer-generated media (CGM): Internet forums, blogs, wikis, social networks, and Twitter (see "Today's New Words!"). Pharma
faces unique hurdles with CGM in the following areas:
» Misinformation: Consumer-to-consumer communication can promote inaccurate perceptions of the use of drugs. Semantic intelligence can be used
to find misinformation about issues such as dosing, side effects, and "natural" alternatives. Pinpointed "back-messaging"
(targeting responses to negative comments) can then help correct the misinformation.
» Off-label Use: CGM can make it appear as if a drugmaker is promoting a product for unapproved uses—and committing fraud. Finding, tracking,
and recording the source using semantic intelligence is a form of legal protection.
» Mandated Reporting: A drugmaker is responsible for informing FDA of all reports, including Web-based, of a drug's side effects and interactions
with other drugs. Semantic intelligence can understand unstructured content, and uncover data in the far corners of the Web;
companies can report blog comments and online discussions about side effects and other issues.
Whether in the executive suite, the laboratory, or the field, employees at pharmaceutical companies are simultaneously drowning
in information and starved for knowledge. Finding new ways to negotiate the proliferating universe of unstructured data can
help focus even drug giants on their most important goal: developing new drugs to target challenging diseases.
J. Brooke Aker is the CEO of Expert System USA, a semantic technologies company. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org