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Reaxys User Day 2022: Researcher secrets in the spotlight
Posted on May 26th, 2022 by Louise Springthorpe in Chemistry
In April, Elsevier hosted the first Reaxys User Day to learn from expert users and share best practices. Attendees were also updated on how the expert-curated chemistry database has dramatically upped its ability to streamline R&D. We spoke with senior director Ivan Krstic about how Reaxys is turning data into actionable insights to better understand the competitive landscape, design novel compounds, and generally accelerate synthetic chemistry. “Today is about sharing the amazing strides we’ve made,” says Ivan.
Making the most of Reaxys
On 6 April, Reaxys User Day 2022 brought together experts from across the worlds of academia, business and government to share how to gain access to the information they need in a faster and more reliable way using Reaxys, particularly now after a flurry of exciting new releases. Over six customer presentations and eight workshops, it became clear Reaxys is evolving quickly – with user experience as its guiding light.
Since the platform is a continual work in progress, those gathered were also updated on the latest developments around patent search capabilities, identifying emerging competitors, assessing bioactivity of compounds and obtaining and customising retrosynthesis routes – as well as much, much more.
The digital transformation of Reaxys
Ivan Krstic is Senior Director of Product Management at Elsevier and self-proclaimed ‘Reaxys evangelist’. He and his team have been one of the driving forces over the past three years to transform Reaxys from being the main go-to searchable database for chemists, to going next-level as a platform that combines reactions, substance and bioactivity data with cheminformatics and machine learning to support research and digitalization in pharma, chemical industry and academia.
“I see my job as helping researchers do their jobs more effectively and efficiently using software. I’m also a chemist. So, I like helping other chemists do their jobs better,”
says Ivan. “And our ability to do this has accelerated remarkably over the last few years. Basically, we’ve brought AI-based capability to solve a problem of how to synthesize compounds that were never synthesized before. This is a game-changer.”
Meanwhile, Reaxys has also increased its patent content from 1.7 million to over 32 million in a single year. “We did need to do three years of preparatory work to build the muscles and capabilities,” notes Ivan. “But to put it into perspective: Reaxys is 30 years old and it took 28 years to reach 1.7 million, and now we’ve made it almost 20 times that much – and counting.”
User-first: the path to customer-centricity
The last few years has also seen a mindset shift in how Elsevier builds its products. “We stopped believing that because we are chemists, we know what needs to be built,” says Ivan. “We flipped perspectives to become completely customer-obsessed. We validate all our important decisions with our customers.”
“We are out to understand the day-to-day work they’re doing – understanding the use cases they are trying to address, and understanding how they are doing it today. In this way we can help them do their job more effectively not only today but also in the future.”
And this, in short, is what Reaxys User Day is all about. The day focusses on a handful of important use cases – for 2022 it was monitoring the competitive landscape, designing novel and effective compounds, driving innovation in synthetic chemistry, and advancing chemistry education – and invited customers from these areas to talk about how Reaxys helps them do their jobs better.
Reaxys people were also on hand to give workshops presenting the latest features. And at the end of the day, all were represented in a roundtable discussion on Reaxys’s latest AI capabilities.
Charting out continual improvement
Reaxys User Day in fact builds on the smaller-scale ‘Roundtable Discussions’ that were organised in previous years. “We’d bring in an expert in one field or use case and go into discussion,” says Ivan. “And these discussions helped us decide what to build. And this really just grew. From one customer, to 30 to the 200 we had this year.”
And the event will continue to grow in the future. “We need to keep highlighting the additional key features that we are continually bringing to the market – to show users we are committed to addressing their needs,” says Ivan.
“For instance, we will continue to give researchers more flexibility and autonomy around creating the pathways in making more and more complex molecules. After all, we chemists like to control things,” smiles Ivan. “At the same we shouldn’t give chemists so much control that they get stuck in choice paralysis.”
Reaxys as both chemistry and AI authority
Meanwhile, Ivan sees the main challenges ahead being less of a technical nature. “We know what we are doing on the innovation side – and will continue to balance the tech side with that of our domain knowledge around chemistry. But now we really have to work harder at communicating what we are achieving,” says Ivan.
“We have really changed the product dramatically over the last two years. We are already a trusted partner in the daily workflow of many chemists – especially in terms of our bioactivity data to help spur early drug discovery. And now it’s time for more people to know about what we have to offer.”
“For me, the highlight of the Reaxys User Day,” says Ivan, “was while in a chat room with some of the attendees. One said ‘Wow. I really had no idea we could do this’. For me, that was my mission accomplished moment.”
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