Press Release

"Questions that used to take my team six months to answer... are now answered in six seconds."


Robert Stanley, CEO of IO Informatics ("IO",, the leader in applying Semantic technology for Healthcare and Life Sciences (HCLS), presented the results of IOI's continuing collaboration with AstraZeneca ("AZ",, one of the top pharmaceutical companies globally. The 14th Annual "International Semantic Web Conference is currently underway in Bethlehem, PA from October 11-15 (

"AstraZeneca's SIEVE system, building on IOI's Sentient software and services for data curation, integration and search has been successfully applied to improve retrieval and analysis of valuable but previously underutilized historical clinical trials data at AstraZeneca," stated Stanley. He added, "SIEVE provides a web- based environment suitable for cross-study analysis. The environment aligns data across clinical data including treatments, various molecular assessments and outcomes. The new SIEVE integrated datasets support over-arching goals for biomarker identification and qualification, trial design, concomitant medication analysis, translational and precision medicine".

IOI's Knowledge Explorer software was used by IOI's Knowledge Engineers in collaboration with AZ's Subject Matter Experts to explore the content of these records as linked data networks using formal Worldwide Web Consortium (w3c) semantic standards. The team has analysed and integrated over 42,000 trials records, identified by unique subjectIDs. Over 36,000 records contained valid data, each including a unique trial, patient, and at least one row of laboratory data. IO integrated this complex and widely diverse data under a semantic data model or "ontology", with automated import and curation functions to meet SIEVE requirements. The data was harmonized by the application of machine reasoning or "inference", with growing data integration and curation rules. The resulting dataset was aligned with AZ data dictionaries as well as with public ontologies and thesauri to ensure long-term interoperability with data from other sources within AZ. The integrated and curated data was then connected to IOI's "Web Query" software to support rich scientific searching, reporting and analysis.

The result is a web-based User Interface accessible to end users for cross-study searching, reporting, charting and sub-querying. Methods include "Quick Search" options, shared searches and query building containing nesting, inclusion / exclusion, ranges, etc. Advanced Queries are presented as filters for user entry to search subjects ("views" or "facets") including Clinical Assays, Therapy Areas, Adverse Events and Subject Demographics. Reports include exporting, charting, hyperlink mapping and results-list based searches. Overall results include reduced time to evaluate data from clinical trials and to facilitate forward looking decisions relevant to portfolios.

"Our semantic technology solves difficult integration and curation problems that were prohibitively time consuming and challenging using older methods," said Bill Hayden, IOI's Global Director of Business Development, "but new levels of research and business efficiency and power are the outcomes that matter."

The AZ lead for the SIEVE Project stated, "Questions that used to take my team six months to answer... are now answered in six seconds."

Substantive immediate benefits currently realized include:

  • Content for critical uses is available to researchers within seconds or minutes rather than weeks / months
  • User interface provides research-facing, rapid access to actual study data rather than just an index of trials
  • Targeted views, variables (including clinical assay, therapy area, adverse event, subject demographics, ...), faceted search and reporting provides sensitive and specific identification of potential biomarkers, information about adverse events, etc.

Technical longer term benefits of creating and employing the SIEVE environment at AZ include:

  • Semantic resource supports information scientists' needs for multi-path queries, inference-based querying, exploratory querying
  • Data curation, routines and loading procedures are prepared for application to other clinical data projects, with a growing integration and curation rule-set that draws on advanced machine reasoning or "inference" using semantic methods
  • The SIEVE data resource is positioned for rapid, agile extension / federation with complementary data repositories and databases

Both the immediate and longer term benefits result in saved time and resources for AZ. The system provides an enhanced research environment that feeds deeper understanding of diseases, treatment efficacy, safety and other issues required for improved drug discovery and precise, effective treatments. On the informatics/IT side, having a semantic technology based core for data acquisition, integration and linking will also reduce the time and resources needed to maintain the database and to connect it to other data sets in the future.

Stanley stated,"For IO Informatics, the SIEVE collaboration represents another successful application of semantic or "linked-data" technology to the HCLS community. The project demonstrated that semantic technologies can provide effective integration and search across "linked-data" that is extremely diverse and variable in structure and nomenclature. This example of how semantic technology can and does allow for better data integration and knowledge harvesting opens up unlimited possible uses including aiding to solve challenges in personalized medicine and big data within the pharmaceutical industry".

ISWC: October 12-15, 2015 in Bethlehem, PA


IO is at the forefront of the semantic technology wave. The Company provides software and services for uniquely efficient data integration and transformative knowledge applications in life sciences, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical environments. IO is headquartered in Berkeley, California with offices in Canada, Western and Eastern Europe and Asia that partner with life science and healthcare customers in industry, academia and non-for-profit foundations.

For more information visit:


Sylvia Vallee
Marketing Manager
T 514-508-2338