Constructing an Integrated Chemical and Test Data Management System to Industrial Standards

Reiner Dieden

Reiner Dieden PhD, Analyst and Physical Chemistry and Logistics Director from UCB, joins Pharma IQ to discuss the development of a Compound Management Facility at the University of Bonn.

Pharma IQ: Could you give us a brief overview of your role?

R Dieden: As you mentioned in the introduction, I’m responsible for Analytical and Physical Chemistry, as well as Logistics, which is the local term for compound management here at UCB’s Belgian site in Braine-l'Alleud. We’re hosting the central UCB test compound archives as well as the main UCB screening deck, because of the high throughput screening facility being located here as well. 

Pharma IQ: Now at the conference you’re going to be talking about building a compound management facility at the University of Bonn within the Neuro-Alliance consortium, so, first of all, could you talk a little bit about managing compounds with different IP situations in one place?

R Dieden: UCB is part of the Neuro-Alliance consortium which is an initiative which is financed in part by the German Government and which is aimed at strengthening pharmaceutical research in Germany and making innovative therapies for neuro degenerative disorders available to the public.

One of the sub-projects, the one my talk is covering, is to build a compound library at the University of Bonn. The goal of this compound library is twofold: first of all, it’s to store and manage in a professional fashion, whilst in a university setting, the compounds synthesised within the projects that are part of the Neuro-Alliance consortium. So the compounds library facility must provide adequate storage conditions and also be able to serve as a central compound despatching platform in order to be able to send the compounds for local testing or external testing facilities.

The second goal is to serve as a repository for compounds originating from outside of the consortium. These latter are, for example, generated at the University of Bonn with non Neuro-Alliance affiliated projects, but again also originate from other academic groups and institutions. For example, classically whenever an academic leader or professor retires, the compounds that have been generated, isolated or synthesised during his career are just lost or destroyed. The idea here is to salvage these, which are sometimes precious or rare compounds, and be able to use them for future projects.

Obviously all the project members, everybody that’s involved in the compounds library and who inputs his compounds into the library, wants to make sure that his IP is respected and guaranteed. At the same time, all the people working in a particular project need to have access to the same data notwithstanding where that data has been generated, since they are working together towards a common goal. So building such a compounds facility comprises two main aspects: the compounds storage and handling as such, and the data management without which nowadays nothing is possible anymore.

Now where things become intricate is when you start considering the IP. As I mentioned briefly a bit earlier all the parties who entrust their compounds with the compounds library want to make sure that their IP is protected, that is making sure that their structures and data remains confidential, but at the same time also avoiding any IP contamination.

So, firstly, the structures and all related information must be protected against unauthorised access. Nobody who’s not working for a particular project for which the compound has been synthesised should have the right to see or to access the structures and the relevant data. Secondly, the same is true in reverse. By all means we must avoid being able to see data which is not ours, so which is not part of the projects we are involved in.

As far as the data management system is concerned, beside the strictly compound related information, we also need to manage the access rights to the data and this enforced access control, both on a physical, that is, directly to the compounds as such, but also at the electronic level. And once this is in place, you want to make sure that the data system allows for professional registration and storage of information which is generated in a standards compliant and stable application that’s usable at the University, even beyond the duration of the consortium.

Pharma IQ: Now next I’d like to discuss the challenges in constructing an integrated chemical and test data management system to industrial standards. What would you say are the key challenges involved, Reiner?

R Dieden: In practice, working in a consortium like this implies that the project groups are composed from members from different backgrounds; some of them are from industry, others from academia; and both located either at universities or in industry, and they’re working together in order to discover new drugs. So we need to make sure that all the project members, wherever they are sited physically, can have access to the most recent data gathered by their different colleagues at the different institutions.

However, we must not forget that we’re using two or more different systems, informatics systems. At UCB we have our own home-built data management system with its inherent complexities and our business rules; on the other hand, at the University a new system is being conceived to local requires, with a different architecture and maybe less stringently enforced business rules. Therefore the data from these two different systems must be synchronised, checked against errors or business rule violations for the other system, and then be merged into the local system, all the time making sure that only the data for the specific projects that the two exchange partners are involved in is actually transmitted over the internet using standard, secure data transmission protocol.

So, in practice the way we are ensuring this is through generating on both sides a full dump of the records of the project under scrutiny, which are in the data base as a standard SD file. These are then checked for differences with the data which is already present in the local data bases. Differences can be due to either new data that must be incorporated or they can identify problems due to the different complexities inherent to the system which then must be handled by the Registrar. A feature which helps us with that is data flash modification for each data item, which can help us distinguish between data handling errors and amendments.

So the process needed some fine tuning in the beginning, but now almost a year into the project, it’s running almost seamlessly, which does not yet mean as well as we would like it.

Pharma IQ: So you’ve outlined some of the challenges in ensuring secure data synchronisation between academia and industry. Next, I’d like to talk about the advances that you foresee in the next two to three years.

R Dieden: The pharmaceutical industry is developing more biologicals, so managing biologicals is an obviously trend with which more and more colleagues have to cope, so I would see that as one development in future years. Besides that, I think we would see in the future a continuing tendency to more collaboration with external partners, be it industry or academia. Most biopharma companies that I can see are working with CROs in either India or China for compound synthesis. I think that in the future you might also see more risk or library sharing ventures.

Pharma IQ: Now, Reiner, you’re obviously going to speaking at our event in May. What are you looking forward to most?

R Dieden: I’m interested in getting an update on the latest developments in the field and to learn from the experience of our colleagues, and then such an event is also always an excellent opportunity for networking.

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