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The Freedom To Ask, "What If?"


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-03-01-2002

Product developers - working in everything from discovery to quality control - have become so proficient at generating information that they're drowning in data. At the same time, the race to bring innovative pharmaceuticals to market is intensifying.

Product developers-working in everything from discovery to quality control-have become so proficient at generatinginformation that they're drowning in data. At the same time, the race to bring innovative pharmaceuticals to market is intensifying.

Genomic research identifies hundreds of thousands of new therapeutic targets each week. With those discoveries comes the need for new analytic applications that can deal with the flood of information. The biotech research sector of Procter & Gamble uses analytic software from Spotfire to speed up its experiment turn-around time in the face of mounting reams of highly specialized genomic data. Spotfire also helps P&G rule out dead ends early while opening avenues to more promising "what if" scenarios in three disease areas: cardiovascular, infectious, and musculoskeletal.

Data Overload

P&G Corporate Biotechnology Research (CBR) works extensively with the latest gene expression technologies. Senior researcher Suzanne Torontali prioritizes and manages the flow of experiments through the core facility by entering experiments into the database, designing experimental wet-lab protocols, and interpreting end-user data analysis. The lab needs quick experiment turn-around time and continues to generate more data through its gene expression databases. But the more data there is, the longer it takes to interpret the information.

"Our core facility focuses on fast experiment turn-around and on helping everyone rapidly understand their experimental results," Torontali says. For that to happen, P&G CBR must make accurate decisions while weighing the stress on its information systems against the speed of its experiment turn-around time. Efficient data processing and analysis cycles are critical for the company to remain competitive. Researchers need to know the implications of their experiments' results and the reasons for their success or failure and find ways to improve experimental design. To do all of that effectively requires fast and easy access to data.

P&G, which has stocked its labs with the latest gene expression analysis tools, wanted a unified application that would serve as an integrated data access point, an analytical platform, and a conduit for communicating and sharing results. The company chose Spotfire's DecisionSite for Functional Genomics application to fill that need. Torontali says, "I think of it as a 'here and now' application that allows us to immediately visualize and better understand our micro array processes and expression results."

Up to Speed

The DecisionSite application allows scientists to profile simultaneous compound and mining structured data, analyze micro array results, test gene expressions, and harness massive clinical databases through visual representations of scientific inquiries. The program boosts innovation and discovery by giving front-line researchers the skills to make rapid decisions that save money and improve the way pharmaceutical targets are developed and manufactured. The application sifts through deep and widely scattered databases to draw instant, multi-dimensional pictures that call out trends and patterns. By inspiring insight and streamlining the elimination process, the program can save the company millions of dollars and years of research and development time.

P&G's research teams use the application on their desktops to examine screening data stored in an Oracle database. Or they can select reagents and compounds from a commercial repository and search current literature and patent data for information on related compounds and therapeutic targets. Most important, the company uses the software to make instant visual sense of its data for quick, confident decision making. Scientists share their data and insights with everyone on the team through linked reporting and interactive networking. That gives researchers and scientists free rein to explore inspired hypotheses and to probe intriguing anomalies on the fly-to follow their intuition wherever it may lead.

Total Integration

Much of the software designed to handle the intense math and statistics involved in pharma research has been user-unfriendly and difficult to interface with other programs. It didn't allow researchers to ask questions of their data simply to see where the answers led them. Conversely, P&G uses DecisionSite software in place of static graphs and step-by-step queries. Adjusting variables on the fly to quickly test "what if" scenarios, the software generates revealing, interactive, multi-dimensional representations of the data in real time.

The application ties dynamic visual displays of large amounts of data from multiple sources into one interactive software environment-harvesting, combining, analyzing, combing through, and sharing data across teams, departments, and geographies. Through the software's browser, re- searchers have direct access to multiple databases, text files, spreadsheets, and Microsoft's PowerPoint and Word applications. DecisionSite brings analysis, data sources, and collaborative re- porting applications into a common en- vironment. Even cross-disciplinary team members dispersed across several organizations and time zones can in-stantly communicate findings and engage in the in-depth dialogues central to complex decision making.

The analytics software makes it easy for P&G researchers to see multidimensional images they can change in real time to quickly test "What if?" scenarios.

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