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1.  Towards BioDBcore: a community-defined information specification for biological databases 
The present article proposes the adoption of a community-defined, uniform, generic description of the core attributes of biological databases, BioDBCore. The goals of these attributes are to provide a general overview of the database landscape, to encourage consistency and interoperability between resources; and to promote the use of semantic and syntactic standards. BioDBCore will make it easier for users to evaluate the scope and relevance of available resources. This new resource will increase the collective impact of the information present in biological databases.
PMCID: PMC3017395  PMID: 21205783
2.  The 2012 Nucleic Acids Research Database Issue and the online Molecular Biology Database Collection 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D1-D8.
The 19th annual Database Issue of Nucleic Acids Research features descriptions of 92 new online databases covering various areas of molecular biology and 100 papers describing recent updates to the databases previously described in NAR and other journals. The highlights of this issue include, among others, a description of neXtProt, a knowledgebase on human proteins; a detailed explanation of the principles behind the NCBI Taxonomy Database; NCBI and EBI papers on the recently launched BioSample databases that store sample information for a variety of database resources; descriptions of the recent developments in the Gene Ontology and UniProt Gene Ontology Annotation projects; updates on Pfam, SMART and InterPro domain databases; update papers on KEGG and TAIR, two universally acclaimed databases that face an uncertain future; and a separate section with 10 wiki-based databases, introduced in an accompanying editorial. The NAR online Molecular Biology Database Collection, available at, has been updated and now lists 1380 databases. Brief machine-readable descriptions of the databases featured in this issue, according to the BioDBcore standards, will be provided at the web site. The full content of the Database Issue is freely available online on the Nucleic Acids Research web site (
PMCID: PMC3245068  PMID: 22144685
3.  The 2011 Nucleic Acids Research Database Issue and the online Molecular Biology Database Collection 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(Database issue):D1-D6.
The current 18th Database Issue of Nucleic Acids Research features descriptions of 96 new and 83 updated online databases covering various areas of molecular biology. It includes two editorials, one that discusses COMBREX, a new exciting project aimed at figuring out the functions of the ‘conserved hypothetical’ proteins, and one concerning BioDBcore, a proposed description of the ‘minimal information about a biological database’. Papers from the members of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database collaboration (INSDC) describe each of the participating databases, DDBJ, ENA and GenBank, principles of data exchange within the collaboration, and the recently established Sequence Read Archive. A testament to the longevity of databases, this issue includes updates on the RNA modification database, Definition of Secondary Structure of Proteins (DSSP) and Homology-derived Secondary Structure of Proteins (HSSP) databases, which have not been featured here in >12 years. There is also a block of papers describing recent progress in protein structure databases, such as Protein DataBank (PDB), PDB in Europe (PDBe), CATH, SUPERFAMILY and others, as well as databases on protein structure modeling, protein–protein interactions and the organization of inter-protein contact sites. Other highlights include updates of the popular gene expression databases, GEO and ArrayExpress, several cancer gene databases and a detailed description of the UK PubMed Central project. The Nucleic Acids Research online Database Collection, available at:, now lists 1330 carefully selected molecular biology databases. The full content of the Database Issue is freely available online at the Nucleic Acids Research web site (
PMCID: PMC3013748  PMID: 21177655
4.  linkedISA: semantic representation of ISA-Tab experimental metadata 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15(Suppl 14):S4.
Reporting and sharing experimental metadata- such as the experimental design, characteristics of the samples, and procedures applied, along with the analysis results, in a standardised manner ensures that datasets are comprehensible and, in principle, reproducible, comparable and reusable. Furthermore, sharing datasets in formats designed for consumption by humans and machines will also maximize their use. The Investigation/Study/Assay (ISA) open source metadata tracking framework facilitates standards-compliant collection, curation, visualization, storage and sharing of datasets, leveraging on other platforms to enable analysis and publication. The ISA software suite includes several components used in increasingly diverse set of life science and biomedical domains; it is underpinned by a general-purpose format, ISA-Tab, and conversions exist into formats required by public repositories. While ISA-Tab works well mainly as a human readable format, we have also implemented a linked data approach to semantically define the ISA-Tab syntax.
We present a semantic web representation of the ISA-Tab syntax that complements ISA-Tab's syntactic interoperability with semantic interoperability. We introduce the linkedISA conversion tool from ISA-Tab to the Resource Description Framework (RDF), supporting mappings from the ISA syntax to multiple community-defined, open ontologies and capitalising on user-provided ontology annotations in the experimental metadata. We describe insights of the implementation and how annotations can be expanded driven by the metadata. We applied the conversion tool as part of Bio-GraphIIn, a web-based application supporting integration of the semantically-rich experimental descriptions. Designed in a user-friendly manner, the Bio-GraphIIn interface hides most of the complexities to the users, exposing a familiar tabular view of the experimental description to allow seamless interaction with the RDF representation, and visualising descriptors to drive the query over the semantic representation of the experimental design. In addition, we defined queries over the linkedISA RDF representation and demonstrated its use over the linkedISA conversion of datasets from Nature' Scientific Data online publication.
Our linked data approach has allowed us to: 1) make the ISA-Tab semantics explicit and machine-processable, 2) exploit the existing ontology-based annotations in the ISA-Tab experimental descriptions, 3) augment the ISA-Tab syntax with new descriptive elements, 4) visualise and query elements related to the experimental design. Reasoning over ISA-Tab metadata and associated data will facilitate data integration and knowledge discovery.
PMCID: PMC4255742  PMID: 25472428
5.  BioSharing: curated and crowd-sourced metadata standards, databases and data policies in the life sciences 
BioSharing ( is a manually curated, searchable portal of three linked registries. These resources cover standards (terminologies, formats and models, and reporting guidelines), databases, and data policies in the life sciences, broadly encompassing the biological, environmental and biomedical sciences. Launched in 2011 and built by the same core team as the successful MIBBI portal, BioSharing harnesses community curation to collate and cross-reference resources across the life sciences from around the world. BioSharing makes these resources findable and accessible (the core of the FAIR principle). Every record is designed to be interlinked, providing a detailed description not only on the resource itself, but also on its relations with other life science infrastructures. Serving a variety of stakeholders, BioSharing cultivates a growing community, to which it offers diverse benefits. It is a resource for funding bodies and journal publishers to navigate the metadata landscape of the biological sciences; an educational resource for librarians and information advisors; a publicising platform for standard and database developers/curators; and a research tool for bench and computer scientists to plan their work. BioSharing is working with an increasing number of journals and other registries, for example linking standards and databases to training material and tools. Driven by an international Advisory Board, the BioSharing user-base has grown by over 40% (by unique IP address), in the last year thanks to successful engagement with researchers, publishers, librarians, developers and other stakeholders via several routes, including a joint RDA/Force11 working group and a collaboration with the International Society for Biocuration. In this article, we describe BioSharing, with a particular focus on community-led curation.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4869797  PMID: 27189610
6.  Overview of the BioCreative III Workshop 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12(Suppl 8):S1.
The overall goal of the BioCreative Workshops is to promote the development of text mining and text processing tools which are useful to the communities of researchers and database curators in the biological sciences. To this end BioCreative I was held in 2004, BioCreative II in 2007, and BioCreative II.5 in 2009. Each of these workshops involved humanly annotated test data for several basic tasks in text mining applied to the biomedical literature. Participants in the workshops were invited to compete in the tasks by constructing software systems to perform the tasks automatically and were given scores based on their performance. The results of these workshops have benefited the community in several ways. They have 1) provided evidence for the most effective methods currently available to solve specific problems; 2) revealed the current state of the art for performance on those problems; 3) and provided gold standard data and results on that data by which future advances can be gauged. This special issue contains overview papers for the three tasks of BioCreative III.
The BioCreative III Workshop was held in September of 2010 and continued the tradition of a challenge evaluation on several tasks judged basic to effective text mining in biology, including a gene normalization (GN) task and two protein-protein interaction (PPI) tasks. In total the Workshop involved the work of twenty-three teams. Thirteen teams participated in the GN task which required the assignment of EntrezGene IDs to all named genes in full text papers without any species information being provided to a system. Ten teams participated in the PPI article classification task (ACT) requiring a system to classify and rank a PubMed® record as belonging to an article either having or not having “PPI relevant” information. Eight teams participated in the PPI interaction method task (IMT) where systems were given full text documents and were required to extract the experimental methods used to establish PPIs and a text segment supporting each such method. Gold standard data was compiled for each of these tasks and participants competed in developing systems to perform the tasks automatically.
BioCreative III also introduced a new interactive task (IAT), run as a demonstration task. The goal was to develop an interactive system to facilitate a user’s annotation of the unique database identifiers for all the genes appearing in an article. This task included ranking genes by importance (based preferably on the amount of described experimental information regarding genes). There was also an optional task to assist the user in finding the most relevant articles about a given gene. For BioCreative III, a user advisory group (UAG) was assembled and played an important role 1) in producing some of the gold standard annotations for the GN task, 2) in critiquing IAT systems, and 3) in providing guidance for a future more rigorous evaluation of IAT systems. Six teams participated in the IAT demonstration task and received feedback on their systems from the UAG group. Besides innovations in the GN and PPI tasks making them more realistic and practical and the introduction of the IAT task, discussions were begun on community data standards to promote interoperability and on user requirements and evaluation metrics to address utility and usability of systems.
In this paper we give a brief history of the BioCreative Workshops and how they relate to other text mining competitions in biology. This is followed by a synopsis of the three tasks GN, PPI, and IAT in BioCreative III with figures for best participant performance on the GN and PPI tasks. These results are discussed and compared with results from previous BioCreative Workshops and we conclude that the best performing systems for GN, PPI-ACT and PPI-IMT in realistic settings are not sufficient for fully automatic use. This provides evidence for the importance of interactive systems and we present our vision of how best to construct an interactive system for a GN or PPI like task in the remainder of the paper.
PMCID: PMC3269932  PMID: 22151647
7.  Ontology-Based Querying with Bio2RDF’s Linked Open Data 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2013;4(Suppl 1):S1.
A key activity for life scientists in this post “-omics” age involves searching for and integrating biological data from a multitude of independent databases. However, our ability to find relevant data is hampered by non-standard web and database interfaces backed by an enormous variety of data formats. This heterogeneity presents an overwhelming barrier to the discovery and reuse of resources which have been developed at great public expense.To address this issue, the open-source Bio2RDF project promotes a simple convention to integrate diverse biological data using Semantic Web technologies. However, querying Bio2RDF remains difficult due to the lack of uniformity in the representation of Bio2RDF datasets.
We describe an update to Bio2RDF that includes tighter integration across 19 new and updated RDF datasets. All available open-source scripts were first consolidated to a single GitHub repository and then redeveloped using a common API that generates normalized IRIs using a centralized dataset registry. We then mapped dataset specific types and relations to the Semanticscience Integrated Ontology (SIO) and demonstrate simplified federated queries across multiple Bio2RDF endpoints.
This coordinated release marks an important milestone for the Bio2RDF open source linked data framework. Principally, it improves the quality of linked data in the Bio2RDF network and makes it easier to access or recreate the linked data locally. We hope to continue improving the Bio2RDF network of linked data by identifying priority databases and increasing the vocabulary coverage to additional dataset vocabularies beyond SIO.
PMCID: PMC3632999  PMID: 23735196
8.  Web services-based text-mining demonstrates broad impacts for interoperability and process simplification 
The Critical Assessment of Information Extraction systems in Biology (BioCreAtIvE) challenge evaluation tasks collectively represent a community-wide effort to evaluate a variety of text-mining and information extraction systems applied to the biological domain. The BioCreative IV Workshop included five independent subject areas, including Track 3, which focused on named-entity recognition (NER) for the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD; Previously, CTD had organized document ranking and NER-related tasks for the BioCreative Workshop 2012; a key finding of that effort was that interoperability and integration complexity were major impediments to the direct application of the systems to CTD's text-mining pipeline. This underscored a prevailing problem with software integration efforts. Major interoperability-related issues included lack of process modularity, operating system incompatibility, tool configuration complexity and lack of standardization of high-level inter-process communications. One approach to potentially mitigate interoperability and general integration issues is the use of Web services to abstract implementation details; rather than integrating NER tools directly, HTTP-based calls from CTD's asynchronous, batch-oriented text-mining pipeline could be made to remote NER Web services for recognition of specific biological terms using BioC (an emerging family of XML formats) for inter-process communications. To test this concept, participating groups developed Representational State Transfer /BioC-compliant Web services tailored to CTD's NER requirements. Participants were provided with a comprehensive set of training materials. CTD evaluated results obtained from the remote Web service-based URLs against a test data set of 510 manually curated scientific articles. Twelve groups participated in the challenge. Recall, precision, balanced F-scores and response times were calculated. Top balanced F-scores for gene, chemical and disease NER were 61, 74 and 51%, respectively. Response times ranged from fractions-of-a-second to over a minute per article. We present a description of the challenge and summary of results, demonstrating how curation groups can effectively use interoperable NER technologies to simplify text-mining pipeline implementation.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4207221  PMID: 24919658
9.  BioModels linked dataset 
BMC Systems Biology  2014;8:91.
BioModels Database is a reference repository of mathematical models used in biology. Models are stored as SBML files on a file system and metadata is provided in a relational database. Models can be retrieved through a web interface and programmatically via web services. In addition to those more traditional ways to access information, Linked Data using Semantic Web technologies (such as the Resource Description Framework, RDF), is becoming an increasingly popular means to describe and expose biological relevant data.
We present the BioModels Linked Dataset, which exposes the models’ content as a dereferencable interlinked dataset. BioModels Linked Dataset makes use of the wealth of annotations available within a large number of manually curated models to link and integrate data and models from other resources.
The BioModels Linked Dataset provides users with a dataset interoperable with other semantic web resources. It supports powerful search queries, some of which were not previously available to users and allow integration of data from multiple resources. This provides a distributed platform to find similar models for comparison, processing and enrichment.
PMCID: PMC4423647  PMID: 25182954
BioModels database; Semantic web; Resource description framework; Linked data; SPARQL
10.  Finding and sharing: new approaches to registries of databases and services for the biomedical sciences 
The recent explosion of biological data and the concomitant proliferation of distributed databases make it challenging for biologists and bioinformaticians to discover the best data resources for their needs, and the most efficient way to access and use them. Despite a rapid acceleration in uptake of syntactic and semantic standards for interoperability, it is still difficult for users to find which databases support the standards and interfaces that they need. To solve these problems, several groups are developing registries of databases that capture key metadata describing the biological scope, utility, accessibility, ease-of-use and existence of web services allowing interoperability between resources. Here, we describe some of these initiatives including a novel formalism, the Database Description Framework, for describing database operations and functionality and encouraging good database practise. We expect such approaches will result in improved discovery, uptake and utilization of data resources.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC2911849  PMID: 20627863
11.  BioXSD: the common data-exchange format for everyday bioinformatics web services 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(18):i540-i546.
Motivation: The world-wide community of life scientists has access to a large number of public bioinformatics databases and tools, which are developed and deployed using diverse technologies and designs. More and more of the resources offer programmatic web-service interface. However, efficient use of the resources is hampered by the lack of widely used, standard data-exchange formats for the basic, everyday bioinformatics data types.
Results: BioXSD has been developed as a candidate for standard, canonical exchange format for basic bioinformatics data. BioXSD is represented by a dedicated XML Schema and defines syntax for biological sequences, sequence annotations, alignments and references to resources. We have adapted a set of web services to use BioXSD as the input and output format, and implemented a test-case workflow. This demonstrates that the approach is feasible and provides smooth interoperability. Semantics for BioXSD is provided by annotation with the EDAM ontology. We discuss in a separate section how BioXSD relates to other initiatives and approaches, including existing standards and the Semantic Web.
Availability: The BioXSD 1.0 XML Schema is freely available at under the Creative Commons BY-ND 3.0 license. The web page offers documentation, examples of data in BioXSD format, example workflows with source codes in common programming languages, an updated list of compatible web services and tools and a repository of feature requests from the community.
PMCID: PMC2935419  PMID: 20823319
12.  The BioLexicon: a large-scale terminological resource for biomedical text mining 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:397.
Due to the rapidly expanding body of biomedical literature, biologists require increasingly sophisticated and efficient systems to help them to search for relevant information. Such systems should account for the multiple written variants used to represent biomedical concepts, and allow the user to search for specific pieces of knowledge (or events) involving these concepts, e.g., protein-protein interactions. Such functionality requires access to detailed information about words used in the biomedical literature. Existing databases and ontologies often have a specific focus and are oriented towards human use. Consequently, biological knowledge is dispersed amongst many resources, which often do not attempt to account for the large and frequently changing set of variants that appear in the literature. Additionally, such resources typically do not provide information about how terms relate to each other in texts to describe events.
This article provides an overview of the design, construction and evaluation of a large-scale lexical and conceptual resource for the biomedical domain, the BioLexicon. The resource can be exploited by text mining tools at several levels, e.g., part-of-speech tagging, recognition of biomedical entities, and the extraction of events in which they are involved. As such, the BioLexicon must account for real usage of words in biomedical texts. In particular, the BioLexicon gathers together different types of terms from several existing data resources into a single, unified repository, and augments them with new term variants automatically extracted from biomedical literature. Extraction of events is facilitated through the inclusion of biologically pertinent verbs (around which events are typically organized) together with information about typical patterns of grammatical and semantic behaviour, which are acquired from domain-specific texts. In order to foster interoperability, the BioLexicon is modelled using the Lexical Markup Framework, an ISO standard.
The BioLexicon contains over 2.2 M lexical entries and over 1.8 M terminological variants, as well as over 3.3 M semantic relations, including over 2 M synonymy relations. Its exploitation can benefit both application developers and users. We demonstrate some such benefits by describing integration of the resource into a number of different tools, and evaluating improvements in performance that this can bring.
PMCID: PMC3228855  PMID: 21992002
13.  HPD: an online integrated human pathway database enabling systems biology studies 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10(Suppl 11):S5.
Pathway-oriented experimental and computational studies have led to a significant accumulation of biological knowledge concerning three major types of biological pathway events: molecular signaling events, gene regulation events, and metabolic reaction events. A pathway consists of a series of molecular pathway events that link molecular entities such as proteins, genes, and metabolites. There are approximately 300 biological pathway resources as of April 2009 according to the Pathguide database; however, these pathway databases generally have poor coverage or poor quality, and are difficult to integrate, due to syntactic-level and semantic-level data incompatibilities.
We developed the Human Pathway Database (HPD) by integrating heterogeneous human pathway data that are either curated at the NCI Pathway Interaction Database (PID), Reactome, BioCarta, KEGG or indexed from the Protein Lounge Web sites. Integration of pathway data at syntactic, semantic, and schematic levels was based on a unified pathway data model and data warehousing-based integration techniques. HPD provides a comprehensive online view that connects human proteins, genes, RNA transcripts, enzymes, signaling events, metabolic reaction events, and gene regulatory events. At the time of this writing HPD includes 999 human pathways and more than 59,341 human molecular entities. The HPD software provides both a user-friendly Web interface for online use and a robust relational database backend for advanced pathway querying. This pathway tool enables users to 1) search for human pathways from different resources by simply entering genes/proteins involved in pathways or words appearing in pathway names, 2) analyze pathway-protein association, 3) study pathway-pathway similarity, and 4) build integrated pathway networks. We demonstrated the usage and characteristics of the new HPD through three breast cancer case studies.
HPD is a new resource for searching, managing, and studying human biological pathways. Users of HPD can search against large collections of human biological pathways, compare related pathways and their molecular entity compositions, and build high-quality, expanded-scope disease pathway models. The current HPD software can help users address a wide range of pathway-related questions in human disease biology studies.
PMCID: PMC3226194  PMID: 19811689
14.  Clever generation of rich SPARQL queries from annotated relational schema: application to Semantic Web Service creation for biological databases 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14:126.
In recent years, a large amount of “-omics” data have been produced. However, these data are stored in many different species-specific databases that are managed by different institutes and laboratories. Biologists often need to find and assemble data from disparate sources to perform certain analyses. Searching for these data and assembling them is a time-consuming task. The Semantic Web helps to facilitate interoperability across databases. A common approach involves the development of wrapper systems that map a relational database schema onto existing domain ontologies. However, few attempts have been made to automate the creation of such wrappers.
We developed a framework, named BioSemantic, for the creation of Semantic Web Services that are applicable to relational biological databases. This framework makes use of both Semantic Web and Web Services technologies and can be divided into two main parts: (i) the generation and semi-automatic annotation of an RDF view; and (ii) the automatic generation of SPARQL queries and their integration into Semantic Web Services backbones. We have used our framework to integrate genomic data from different plant databases.
BioSemantic is a framework that was designed to speed integration of relational databases. We present how it can be used to speed the development of Semantic Web Services for existing relational biological databases. Currently, it creates and annotates RDF views that enable the automatic generation of SPARQL queries. Web Services are also created and deployed automatically, and the semantic annotations of our Web Services are added automatically using SAWSDL attributes. BioSemantic is downloadable at
PMCID: PMC3680174  PMID: 23586394
15.  BioMoby extensions to the Taverna workflow management and enactment software 
BMC Bioinformatics  2006;7:523.
As biology becomes an increasingly computational science, it is critical that we develop software tools that support not only bioinformaticians, but also bench biologists in their exploration of the vast and complex data-sets that continue to build from international genomic, proteomic, and systems-biology projects. The BioMoby interoperability system was created with the goal of facilitating the movement of data from one Web-based resource to another to fulfill the requirements of non-expert bioinformaticians. In parallel with the development of BioMoby, the European myGrid project was designing Taverna, a bioinformatics workflow design and enactment tool. Here we describe the marriage of these two projects in the form of a Taverna plug-in that provides access to many of BioMoby's features through the Taverna interface.
The exposed BioMoby functionality aids in the design of "sensible" BioMoby workflows, aids in pipelining BioMoby and non-BioMoby-based resources, and ensures that end-users need only a minimal understanding of both BioMoby, and the Taverna interface itself. Users are guided through the construction of syntactically and semantically correct workflows through plug-in calls to the Moby Central registry. Moby Central provides a menu of only those BioMoby services capable of operating on the data-type(s) that exist at any given position in the workflow. Moreover, the plug-in automatically and correctly connects a selected service into the workflow such that users are not required to understand the nature of the inputs or outputs for any service, leaving them to focus on the biological meaning of the workflow they are constructing, rather than the technical details of how the services will interoperate.
With the availability of the BioMoby plug-in to Taverna, we believe that BioMoby-based Web Services are now significantly more useful and accessible to bench scientists than are more traditional Web Services.
PMCID: PMC1693925  PMID: 17137515
16.  The caCORE Software Development Kit: Streamlining construction of interoperable biomedical information services 
Robust, programmatically accessible biomedical information services that syntactically and semantically interoperate with other resources are challenging to construct. Such systems require the adoption of common information models, data representations and terminology standards as well as documented application programming interfaces (APIs). The National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed the cancer common ontologic representation environment (caCORE) to provide the infrastructure necessary to achieve interoperability across the systems it develops or sponsors. The caCORE Software Development Kit (SDK) was designed to provide developers both within and outside the NCI with the tools needed to construct such interoperable software systems.
The caCORE SDK requires a Unified Modeling Language (UML) tool to begin the development workflow with the construction of a domain information model in the form of a UML Class Diagram. Models are annotated with concepts and definitions from a description logic terminology source using the Semantic Connector component. The annotated model is registered in the Cancer Data Standards Repository (caDSR) using the UML Loader component. System software is automatically generated using the Codegen component, which produces middleware that runs on an application server. The caCORE SDK was initially tested and validated using a seven-class UML model, and has been used to generate the caCORE production system, which includes models with dozens of classes. The deployed system supports access through object-oriented APIs with consistent syntax for retrieval of any type of data object across all classes in the original UML model. The caCORE SDK is currently being used by several development teams, including by participants in the cancer biomedical informatics grid (caBIG) program, to create compatible data services. caBIG compatibility standards are based upon caCORE resources, and thus the caCORE SDK has emerged as a key enabling technology for caBIG.
The caCORE SDK substantially lowers the barrier to implementing systems that are syntactically and semantically interoperable by providing workflow and automation tools that standardize and expedite modeling, development, and deployment. It has gained acceptance among developers in the caBIG program, and is expected to provide a common mechanism for creating data service nodes on the data grid that is under development.
PMCID: PMC1379637  PMID: 16398930
17.  Computational toxicology using the OpenTox application programming interface and Bioclipse 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:487.
Toxicity is a complex phenomenon involving the potential adverse effect on a range of biological functions. Predicting toxicity involves using a combination of experimental data (endpoints) and computational methods to generate a set of predictive models. Such models rely strongly on being able to integrate information from many sources. The required integration of biological and chemical information sources requires, however, a common language to express our knowledge ontologically, and interoperating services to build reliable predictive toxicology applications.
This article describes progress in extending the integrative bio- and cheminformatics platform Bioclipse to interoperate with OpenTox, a semantic web framework which supports open data exchange and toxicology model building. The Bioclipse workbench environment enables functionality from OpenTox web services and easy access to OpenTox resources for evaluating toxicity properties of query molecules. Relevant cases and interfaces based on ten neurotoxins are described to demonstrate the capabilities provided to the user. The integration takes advantage of semantic web technologies, thereby providing an open and simplifying communication standard. Additionally, the use of ontologies ensures proper interoperation and reliable integration of toxicity information from both experimental and computational sources.
A novel computational toxicity assessment platform was generated from integration of two open science platforms related to toxicology: Bioclipse, that combines a rich scriptable and graphical workbench environment for integration of diverse sets of information sources, and OpenTox, a platform for interoperable toxicology data and computational services. The combination provides improved reliability and operability for handling large data sets by the use of the Open Standards from the OpenTox Application Programming Interface. This enables simultaneous access to a variety of distributed predictive toxicology databases, and algorithm and model resources, taking advantage of the Bioclipse workbench handling the technical layers.
PMCID: PMC3264531  PMID: 22075173
18.  BioLit: integrating biological literature with databases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(Web Server issue):W385-W389.
BioLit is a web server which provides metadata describing the semantic content of all open access, peer-reviewed articles which describe research from the major life sciences literature archive, PubMed Central. Specifically, these metadata include database identifiers and ontology terms found within the full text of the article. BioLit delivers these metadata in the form of XML-based article files and as a custom web-based article viewer that provides context-specific functionality to the metadata. This resource aims to integrate the traditional scientific publication directly into existing biological databases, thus obviating the need for a user to search in multiple locations for information relating to a specific item of interest, for example published experimental results associated with a particular biological database entry. As an example of a possible use of BioLit, we also present an instance of the Protein Data Bank fully integrated with BioLit data. We expect that the community of life scientists in general will be the primary end-users of the web-based viewer, while biocurators will make use of the metadata-containing XML files and the BioLit database of article data. BioLit is available at
PMCID: PMC2447735  PMID: 18515836
19.  The ChEMBL database as linked open data 
Making data available as Linked Data using Resource Description Framework (RDF) promotes integration with other web resources. RDF documents can natively link to related data, and others can link back using Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs). RDF makes the data machine-readable and uses extensible vocabularies for additional information, making it easier to scale up inference and data analysis.
This paper describes recent developments in an ongoing project converting data from the ChEMBL database into RDF triples. Relative to earlier versions, this updated version of ChEMBL-RDF uses recently introduced ontologies, including CHEMINF and CiTO; exposes more information from the database; and is now available as dereferencable, linked data. To demonstrate these new features, we present novel use cases showing further integration with other web resources, including Bio2RDF, Chem2Bio2RDF, and ChemSpider, and showing the use of standard ontologies for querying.
We have illustrated the advantages of using open standards and ontologies to link the ChEMBL database to other databases. Using those links and the knowledge encoded in standards and ontologies, the ChEMBL-RDF resource creates a foundation for integrated semantic web cheminformatics applications, such as the presented decision support.
PMCID: PMC3700754  PMID: 23657106
ChEMBL; Bioactivity; Semantic web; Resource Description Framework; Linked Data
20.  BioModels Database: An enhanced, curated and annotated resource for published quantitative kinetic models 
BMC Systems Biology  2010;4:92.
Quantitative models of biochemical and cellular systems are used to answer a variety of questions in the biological sciences. The number of published quantitative models is growing steadily thanks to increasing interest in the use of models as well as the development of improved software systems and the availability of better, cheaper computer hardware. To maximise the benefits of this growing body of models, the field needs centralised model repositories that will encourage, facilitate and promote model dissemination and reuse. Ideally, the models stored in these repositories should be extensively tested and encoded in community-supported and standardised formats. In addition, the models and their components should be cross-referenced with other resources in order to allow their unambiguous identification.
BioModels Database is aimed at addressing exactly these needs. It is a freely-accessible online resource for storing, viewing, retrieving, and analysing published, peer-reviewed quantitative models of biochemical and cellular systems. The structure and behaviour of each simulation model distributed by BioModels Database are thoroughly checked; in addition, model elements are annotated with terms from controlled vocabularies as well as linked to relevant data resources. Models can be examined online or downloaded in various formats. Reaction network diagrams generated from the models are also available in several formats. BioModels Database also provides features such as online simulation and the extraction of components from large scale models into smaller submodels. Finally, the system provides a range of web services that external software systems can use to access up-to-date data from the database.
BioModels Database has become a recognised reference resource for systems biology. It is being used by the community in a variety of ways; for example, it is used to benchmark different simulation systems, and to study the clustering of models based upon their annotations. Model deposition to the database today is advised by several publishers of scientific journals. The models in BioModels Database are freely distributed and reusable; the underlying software infrastructure is also available from SourceForge under the GNU General Public License.
PMCID: PMC2909940  PMID: 20587024
21.  Implementation of linked data in the life sciences at BioHackathon 2011 
Linked Data has gained some attention recently in the life sciences as an effective way to provide and share data. As a part of the Semantic Web, data are linked so that a person or machine can explore the web of data. Resource Description Framework (RDF) is the standard means of implementing Linked Data. In the process of generating RDF data, not only are data simply linked to one another, the links themselves are characterized by ontologies, thereby allowing the types of links to be distinguished. Although there is a high labor cost to define an ontology for data providers, the merit lies in the higher level of interoperability with data analysis and visualization software. This increase in interoperability facilitates the multi-faceted retrieval of data, and the appropriate data can be quickly extracted and visualized. Such retrieval is usually performed using the SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language) query language, which is used to query RDF data stores. For the database provider, such interoperability will surely lead to an increase in the number of users.
This manuscript describes the experiences and discussions shared among participants of the week-long BioHackathon 2011 who went through the development of RDF representations of their own data and developed specific RDF and SPARQL use cases. Advice regarding considerations to take when developing RDF representations of their data are provided for bioinformaticians considering making data available and interoperable.
Participants of the BioHackathon 2011 were able to produce RDF representations of their data and gain a better understanding of the requirements for producing such data in a period of just five days. We summarize the work accomplished with the hope that it will be useful for researchers involved in developing laboratory databases or data analysis, and those who are considering such technologies as RDF and Linked Data.
PMCID: PMC4429360  PMID: 25973165
Semantic Web; Data integration; PDBj; DDBJ; Glycobiology; Alzheimer’s disease; Faceted search interface
22.  Large-Scale Event Extraction from Literature with Multi-Level Gene Normalization 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e55814.
Text mining for the life sciences aims to aid database curation, knowledge summarization and information retrieval through the automated processing of biomedical texts. To provide comprehensive coverage and enable full integration with existing biomolecular database records, it is crucial that text mining tools scale up to millions of articles and that their analyses can be unambiguously linked to information recorded in resources such as UniProt, KEGG, BioGRID and NCBI databases. In this study, we investigate how fully automated text mining of complex biomolecular events can be augmented with a normalization strategy that identifies biological concepts in text, mapping them to identifiers at varying levels of granularity, ranging from canonicalized symbols to unique gene and proteins and broad gene families. To this end, we have combined two state-of-the-art text mining components, previously evaluated on two community-wide challenges, and have extended and improved upon these methods by exploiting their complementary nature. Using these systems, we perform normalization and event extraction to create a large-scale resource that is publicly available, unique in semantic scope, and covers all 21.9 million PubMed abstracts and 460 thousand PubMed Central open access full-text articles. This dataset contains 40 million biomolecular events involving 76 million gene/protein mentions, linked to 122 thousand distinct genes from 5032 species across the full taxonomic tree. Detailed evaluations and analyses reveal promising results for application of this data in database and pathway curation efforts. The main software components used in this study are released under an open-source license. Further, the resulting dataset is freely accessible through a novel API, providing programmatic and customized access ( Finally, to allow for large-scale bioinformatic analyses, the entire resource is available for bulk download from, under the Creative Commons – Attribution – Share Alike (CC BY-SA) license.
PMCID: PMC3629104  PMID: 23613707
23.  Text-mining-assisted biocuration workflows in Argo 
Biocuration activities have been broadly categorized into the selection of relevant documents, the annotation of biological concepts of interest and identification of interactions between the concepts. Text mining has been shown to have a potential to significantly reduce the effort of biocurators in all the three activities, and various semi-automatic methodologies have been integrated into curation pipelines to support them. We investigate the suitability of Argo, a workbench for building text-mining solutions with the use of a rich graphical user interface, for the process of biocuration. Central to Argo are customizable workflows that users compose by arranging available elementary analytics to form task-specific processing units. A built-in manual annotation editor is the single most used biocuration tool of the workbench, as it allows users to create annotations directly in text, as well as modify or delete annotations created by automatic processing components. Apart from syntactic and semantic analytics, the ever-growing library of components includes several data readers and consumers that support well-established as well as emerging data interchange formats such as XMI, RDF and BioC, which facilitate the interoperability of Argo with other platforms or resources. To validate the suitability of Argo for curation activities, we participated in the BioCreative IV challenge whose purpose was to evaluate Web-based systems addressing user-defined biocuration tasks. Argo proved to have the edge over other systems in terms of flexibility of defining biocuration tasks. As expected, the versatility of the workbench inevitably lengthened the time the curators spent on learning the system before taking on the task, which may have affected the usability of Argo. The participation in the challenge gave us an opportunity to gather valuable feedback and identify areas of improvement, some of which have already been introduced.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4103424  PMID: 25037308
24.  BioNetwork Bench: Database and Software for Storage, Query, and Analysis of Gene and Protein Networks 
Gene and protein networks offer a powerful approach for integration of the disparate yet complimentary types of data that result from high-throughput analyses. Although many tools and databases are currently available for accessing such data, they are left unutilized by bench scientists as they generally lack features for effective analysis and integration of both public and private datasets and do not offer an intuitive interface for use by scientists with limited computational expertise. We describe BioNetwork Bench, an open source, user-friendly suite of database and software tools for constructing, querying, and analyzing gene and protein network models. It enables biologists to analyze public as well as private gene expression; interactively query gene expression datasets; integrate data from multiple networks; store and selectively share the data and results. Finally, we describe an application of BioNetwork Bench to the assembly and iterative expansion of a gene network that controls the differentiation of retinal progenitor cells into rod photoreceptors. The tool is available from
The emergence of high-throughput technologies has allowed many biological investigators to collect a great deal of information about the behavior of genes and gene products over time or during a particular disease state. Gene and protein networks offer a powerful approach for integration of the disparate yet complimentary types of data that result from such high-throughput analyses. There are a growing number of public databases, as well as tools for visualization and analysis of networks. However, such databases and tools have yet to be widely utilized by bench scientists, as they generally lack features for effective analysis and integration of both public and private datasets and do not offer an intuitive interface for use by biological scientists with limited computational expertise.
We describe BioNetwork Bench, an open source, user-friendly suite of database and software tools for constructing, querying, and analyzing gene and protein network models. BioNetwork Bench currently supports a broad class of gene and protein network models (eg, weighted and un-weighted, undirected graphs, multi-graphs). It enables biologists to analyze public as well as private gene expression, macromolecular interaction and annotation data; interactively query gene expression datasets; integrate data from multiple networks; query multiple networks for interactions of interest; store and selectively share the data as well as results of analyses. BioNetwork Bench is implemented as a plug-in for, and hence is fully interoperable with, Cytoscape, a popular open-source software suite for visualizing macromolecular interaction networks. Finally, we describe an application of BioNetwork Bench to the problem of assembly and iterative expansion of a gene network that controls the differentiation of retinal progenitor cells into rod photoreceptors.
BioNetwork Bench provides a suite of open source software for construction, querying, and selective sharing of gene and protein networks. Although initially aimed at a community of biologists interested in retinal development, the tool can be adapted easily to work with other biological systems simply by populating the associated database with the relevant datasets.
PMCID: PMC3498971
network analysis; software; network contruction; network integration
25. Web Services, a free and integrated toolkit for computational modelling software 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2009;11(3):270-277.
Exchanging and sharing scientific results are essential for researchers in the field of computational modelling. defines agreed-upon standards for model curation. A fundamental one, MIRIAM (Minimum Information Requested in the Annotation of Models), standardises the annotation and curation process of quantitative models in biology. To support this standard, MIRIAM Resources maintains a set of standard data types for annotating models, and provides services for manipulating these annotations. Furthermore, creates controlled vocabularies, such as SBO (Systems Biology Ontology) which strictly indexes, defines and links terms used in Systems Biology. Finally, BioModels Database provides a free, centralised, publicly accessible database for storing, searching and retrieving curated and annotated computational models. Each resource provides a web interface to submit, search, retrieve and display its data. In addition, the team provides a set of Web Services which allows the community to programmatically access the resources. A user is then able to perform remote queries, such as retrieving a model and resolving all its MIRIAM Annotations, as well as getting the details about the associated SBO terms. These web services use established standards. Communications rely on SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) messages and the available queries are described in a WSDL (Web Services Description Language) file. Several libraries are provided in order to simplify the development of client software. Web Services make one step further for the researchers to simulate and understand the entirety of a biological system, by allowing them to retrieve biological models in their own tool, combine queries in workflows and efficiently analyse models.
PMCID: PMC2913671  PMID: 19939940; Systems Biology; modelling; Web Services; annotation; ontology

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