AstraZeneca adopts search engine for scientists

London-based drug giant AstraZeneca ($AZN) has headlined a group of early users of Boston-based startup Knode's search engine of sorts for finding life sciences experts and their digital content, becoming the first Big Pharma revealed as an adopter of the web-based software.

Knode, first covered by FierceBiotech IT in May, is a spinoff from Enlight Biosciences. Boston-based Enlight develops technologies that support drug discovery, and the company draws support from a membership of pharma backers. Not surprisingly, AstraZeneca is among a pack of large drugmakers in Enlight's partner mix, which also includes Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Novo Nordisk ($NVO), Abbott Labs ($ABT), Pfizer ($PFE), Merck ($MRK) and Eli Lilly ($LLY).

AstraZeneca and these companies have grappled with unproductive R&D and other challenges for which Enlight's spinoffs promise fixes. At Knode, the web-based software enables users to identify the key experts in particular fields both inside and outside of their organizations (believe it or not, some drugmakers have become so big there's confusion about who's doing what in the lab.) It could help drug developers assemble a squad of scientists to take on a new project or aid business development by zeroing in on the sources of compounds.

"Faced with a vast body of scientific information, we expect Knode will provide an efficient platform to access and mine a broad range of data to identify expert sources across topics and relationships that provide our R&D scientists unique insight into emerging science and opportunities," said John Reynders, AstraZeneca's head of R&D information, in a statement.

"As evidenced by Google's new knowledge graph, connecting people, concepts and attributes is extremely valuable in search," Knode CEO David Steinberg told FierceBiotech IT in an email. "The ability to instantly reach out to the right expert or collaborator derived automatically from a sea of unstructured data helps our partners answer important research, partnering and business development questions and provides a discovery engine to unearth hidden insights and forge new relationships inside and outside their organizations.

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