The Allotrope Foundation is a consortium of large pharmaceutical companies that are driving standardization amongst analytical data. As a member of the partner network, we've had the fortune of presenting our vision for lab informatics and business models that support the R&D ecosystem.
Data from scientific instruments spans many flavors and formats: spectra, images, time-series data, etc. The challenge, historically, has been that there is no easily interpretable data format to access, analyze, and visualize the independent data sets. Enter the Allotrope Foundation.
The problem with scientific data
Science is like any other business process. Data is produced, managed, and analyzed, ultimately, to make a decision. However, if the data is difficult to interpret, requires manual steps to manipulate, or is incompatible with your downstream processes, you will be unable to make decisions quickly or accurately. This is the current state in science.
There are over 4000 suppliers of scientific instrumentation, each with different file formats and nomenclatures. Furthermore, since these instruments are used for 10 years (or more), there exists a legacy installed base that has it’s own format. Imagine the complexity! Some pharmaceutical companies estimate that data inhomogeneity costs their organization more than $250MM per year.
Current Allotrope Foundation members include: AbbVie, Amgen, Baxter, Bayer, Biogen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Genentech/Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co, and Pfizer.
The data standardization solution
Allotrope aims to solve this problem: they are creating a framework for data standardization (called the Allotrope Data Format - ADF) with a prescribed set of ontologies. The framework being constructed aggregates critical components of data in to a single file: instrument information, sample metadata, and experimental data. By creating a single data standard for individual types of experiments, scientist are able to associate critical metadata with experimental data, and perform broad-based analyses independent of instrument.
What do we think?
Liberating data from unnecessary, proprietary formats is needed. By doing so, we can accelerate the time to complete projects and provide broader visibility in to R&D processes. However, a key component to ensuring success is building a community of customers, manufacturers, and service providers to support the framework.
The Allotrope Foundation has done a phenomenal job building that ecosystem. We are proud to participate in this endeavor and are keen to see how data, science, and cloud software can make an impact.