Pharma R&D Today
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Leveling the Playing Field in Medicinal Chemistry
Posted on June 26th, 2017 by Prima Sung in Chemistry
For the designers and developers of Elsevier’s R&D Solutions, a major concern is ensuring that each solution makes the same level of searching or analytical power available to all users. The primary aim for the teams is to create a situation where a new user can take the relevant quick-start guide and dive straight in to search construction. The ultimate goal is to create a situation where every user, new or highly experienced, can be a power user, able to build complex searches and retrieve accurate answers every time.
Last year, the focus of the Reaxys development team was on the main chemistry research solution. There has since been considerable praise for New Reaxys, particularly for its streamlined user interface with user-friendly Quick Search and Query Builder and highly refined results displays and filters. One user took a 15-minute training and then spent 2 weeks working with New Reaxys, and was extremely satisfied with what he could achieve—you can read the interview with him here.
This year, it was the turn of Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry. Designed to facilitate research into the bioactivity of chemical substances, this solution has always offered powerful workflows for data-driven drug discovery, but analyses of usage showed that very few users were deriving full benefit from its features. The team wanted to apply the learnings from New Reaxys to ensure that every user could perform all the searches and analyses that Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry offers.
New Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry now has the same streamlined user interface with Quick Search, Query Builder and a refined display for the results as New Reaxys, albeit with certain important adaptations. For example, Query Builder contains 19 pre-defined medicinal chemistry-related query forms that help to guide every user through the construction of powerful and complex searches. These queries were designed in collaboration with expert pharmacologists and medicinal chemists—consultation with working industry experts has always been an important aspect of R&D Solution development.
Being able to compare the bioactivity of substances is essential to making informed decisions about the medicinal potential of compounds, so Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry was designed with a Heatmap feature for visualizing the relative affinity of substances for targets. The Heatmap remains an important feature, but its functionality has been improved, with better filtering and result refining capabilities.
But it’s not just visible changes that level the playing field when it comes to New Reaxys and Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry. Both solutions saw improvements made to the indexing of the content in the databases. Indexing is what makes it possible to find content—the better it is aligned with the expectations of new and experienced users, the easier it is for them to find an answer quickly.
It might sound like it’s possible to improve any solution with a new user interface and some feature and indexing refinements, but the real key to turning an expert-level solution into one that is accessible for all users is understanding the users. The development of New Reaxys and New Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry involved close collaboration with actual end users: not just a beta test of the solution that the developers thought would work, but a dialog with users that is still going on.
Feedback was obtained from research chemists and educators across all the fields of chemistry. Usage reports were analyzed to see what features were popular and which were underused. During development, opinions were sought when needed, and beta testers were encouraged to push the solutions, trying out a whole range of workflows. Before launch, focus groups were gathered to further test the solutions and at every stage, comments were gathered and analyzed.
Ultimately, that’s how the playing field can be leveled when it comes to research solutions. All the changes must be driven by user need. That’s how New Reaxys improved on Reaxys’ existing appeal to chemists; and that’s how New Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry has become an expert-level tool that even a beginner can use.
Want to know more about New Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry? See the features of this powerful new version of our solution for early drug discovery here.
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Elsevier
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