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Data mining boosts drug research at AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca has seen a marked improvement in the standard of its medical research since implementing data mining software across...

AstraZeneca has seen a marked improvement in the standard of its medical research since implementing data mining software across its discovery informatics department, the pharmaceutical giant revealed last week.

The discovery informatics department, which provides scientific information aiding the development of new medical drugs within AstraZeneca, rolled out the Lexiquest Mine application from software firm SPSS last year.

The department extracts information from repositories containing thousands of documents every day and it needed to improve its processes, explained Bryn Roberts, the firm's associate director of informatics.

"We were using traditional text word searches, but with thousands of documents to look through it could be a time-consuming process," he said. "The new system saves time but the main benefit is that it provides the ability to extract more information from the repositories."

Lexiquest, which is capable of analysing more than 250,000 pages of text per hour according to SPSS, provides researchers with the means to extract key concepts from thousands of documents and discovers the links between concepts.

Although return on investment is difficult to measure on research-based projects, AstraZeneca was convinced of the overall benefits of the software, Roberts said.

"It was not hard to sell to the management because it addresses a specific set of needs and it was relatively cheap to purchase," he said.

Looking ahead, AstraZeneca may deploy the software in other areas of the business and the company is interested in implementing image-based mining applications, Roberts said.

"Image-based mining will enable faster results and more information from each decision," he said.

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