11 December 2013Biotechnology

Major chemical patent database launched

Europe’s main life sciences laboratory has made a database containing details of around 15 million patented chemical structures available to the public for the first time.

The European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) has launched a new website allowing visitors access to the previously inaccessible information.

The launch of the database, announced today, marks the first time the data has been available on a non-commercial basis.

The website and its data were previously administered by SureChem, a software firm which has since announced it is folding.

SureChem extracted the chemical structure data from the full text and images of registered patents in a bid to simplify the process of checking whether a newly developed drug or product was novel.

However, it has agreed to transfer its information over to the EBI and to allow the institute to continue using its software and open it up to the public.

In a statement, Digital Science, the company which owned SureChem said it was a “significant advance” in open data for use in drug discovery.

Nicko Goncharoff, head of knowledge discovery at Digital Science said: "Our mission is to give researchers better tools and services and from the start Digital Science has preferred solutions that support open science and open data communities whenever possible.

“By placing this collection into the trusted hands of EMBL-EBI, we're opening up an entire new class of life science data to the public that has previously been locked behind paywalls, and inaccessible for data mining.”

“We are delighted to take on the stewardship of this resource,” said John Overington, head of computational chemical biology at the EBI, which is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hinxton, UK.

“Scientists are accustomed to doing literature searches, but the patent literature is often where the real gems lie,” Overington said.

Historically, chemists have not had limited access to online data and have been used to paying to get information from private databases.

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