Concept recognition is an essential task in biomedical information extraction, presenting several complex and unsolved challenges. The development of such solutions is typically performed in an ad-hoc manner or using general information extraction frameworks, which are not optimized for the biomedical domain and normally require the integration of complex external libraries and/or the development of custom tools.
This article presents Neji, an open source framework optimized for biomedical concept recognition built around four key characteristics: modularity, scalability, speed, and usability. It integrates modules for biomedical natural language processing, such as sentence splitting, tokenization, lemmatization, part-of-speech tagging, chunking and dependency parsing. Concept recognition is provided through dictionary matching and machine learning with normalization methods. Neji also integrates an innovative concept tree implementation, supporting overlapped concept names and respective disambiguation techniques. The most popular input and output formats, namely Pubmed XML, IeXML, CoNLL and A1, are also supported. On top of the built-in functionalities, developers and researchers can implement new processing modules or pipelines, or use the provided command-line interface tool to build their own solutions, applying the most appropriate techniques to identify heterogeneous biomedical concepts. Neji was evaluated against three gold standard corpora with heterogeneous biomedical concepts (CRAFT, AnEM and NCBI disease corpus), achieving high performance results on named entity recognition (F1-measure for overlap matching: species 95%, cell 92%, cellular components 83%, gene and proteins 76%, chemicals 65%, biological processes and molecular functions 63%, disorders 85%, and anatomical entities 82%) and on entity normalization (F1-measure for overlap name matching and correct identifier included in the returned list of identifiers: species 88%, cell 71%, cellular components 72%, gene and proteins 64%, chemicals 53%, and biological processes and molecular functions 40%). Neji provides fast and multi-threaded data processing, annotating up to 1200 sentences/second when using dictionary-based concept identification.
Considering the provided features and underlying characteristics, we believe that Neji is an important contribution to the biomedical community, streamlining the development of complex concept recognition solutions. Neji is freely available at http://bioinformatics.ua.pt/neji.