Wet Lab research takes place across least 15 departments and research centres in Oxford. This spans a huge volume of cutting-edge research and creates many opportunities for us to collaborate.
However, the complexity of our institution and the interdisciplinary nature of our work can make it challenging to find the right people to work with. It can also be difficult to identify the best way to share knowledge, expertise and data.
By speeding up and improving how people in different disciplines share data, ChemBio Hub tools are helping in a variety of areas. These include - defining the right biological models to test novel compounds, chemical optimisation of screening hits, finding equipment to run a new assay, and numerous others. Take a look at our case studies to find out more about how users are benefitting from ChemBio Hub
The ChemBio Hub vision is to provide the tools that will make it easier for Oxford University scientists to connect with colleagues to improve their research, to satisfy funders that the data they have paid for is being managed according to their policies, and to make new alliances with pharma and biotech partners.
We worked closely with researchers throughout the project to make sure we developed simple, useful tools for scientists. Current functionality includes chemical registration with ChemiReg, and managing laboratory collections (such as plasmids and antibodies) with InventoryReg.
This allowed us to ensure that the ChemBio Hub is useful and relevant to researchers from a wide range of scientific backgrounds.
Using our tools, it is simple for researchers to capture their research data and publicise it to colleagues within the University and beyond. They are able to find out if others have the things they need or who has experience with using something before. This reduces wasted effort, encourages collaboration and supports better, more efficient research.
Researchers are able to keep track of everything they own and know where it is kept and who is responsible for it. They can also be confident that their data is secure. Data can only be shared by the owner's permission.
Public funders often require that all of the data coming out of the projects they fund must be made publicly available. It can be a painful exercise for researchers to collate all of their paper and electronic records into a format that satisfies the conditions set by funders. By having a single data repository, designed to manage data in standard ways, we make it easy for researchers to share their data and so satisfy those conditions. This saves researchers’ time and improves quality – so increasing the chance of further funding in fruitful areas of research.
The ChemBio Hub environment makes it much easier for partners and potential collaborators in biotech and pharmaceutical companies to find and integrate research data. They can then connect with the right people and create mutually beneficial relationships.
Ultimately the effect of all of these activities is to increase research productivity by increasing efficiency and collaboration whilst reducing unnecessary costs.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) have contributed £100,000 from the Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF). This was specifically in support of knowledge exchange activities between the University and the wider world, aimed at providing economic and social benefit to the UK. This contribution funded the appointment of a Knowledge Exchange Coordinator with the role of championing the use of the ChemBio Hub platform.
The KE Coordinator acted as a central coordinator for medicinal chemistry and chemical biology knowledge within the University, bringing together groups from various Divisions and Departments to increase collaboration and reduce duplication of effort. Their role included maximising the transfer of knowledge within the University as well as with external organisations. This increased the impact of the science generated and provided new opportunities to enhance the University's role in drug discovery internationally.
The ISSF commissioned a series of audits of strategic equipment within the University, led by leading researchers. These included one focused on small molecules in biomedical research, headed by Dr Paul Brennan and published in April 2013. One key finding of that audit was that “It is currently very difficult for one research group within the University to know if another group has expertise in a certain assay or screening technique. There is also no mechanism for one group to know if another group has compounds of interest for either target discovery or lead discovery.” Following this finding, the ISSF then provided a total of £225,000 of funding to support development of a University-wide Chemical Biology data and reagent sharing platform, which subsequently became known as ChemBio Hub.
The Nuffield Department of Medicine provided £50,000 of funding in support of the project.
The John Fell Fund provided £125,000 of matching funding to support the ChemBio Hub project. Data resulting from University screening programmes is currently shared ad-hoc. One common way is by emailing various spreadsheets around. The problem with this approach is that it depends on informal knowledge of work in various departments. The John Fell funding addressed the critical need to record and share data by providing a central platform for chemical biology data.
As Principal Investigator, Brian oversaw the ChemBio Hub project and continues to forge strategic alliances with chemical biology investigators with the University and beyond.
David is team leader in SGC Oxford’s Research Informatics Group, with responsibility for supporting and enhancing technologies which improve research data management, including an integrated LIMS system, bioinformatics and structural biology technologies.
After a variety of project management roles in commercial companies and large organisations, Karen drove the ChemBio Hub project to deliver improved tools for researchers to manage their data easily and efficiently. With so many people involved in chemical biology research, she was driven to make sure that they can focus on innovative science rather than each having to spend precious time wrestling with frustrating IT!
Paul's primary role within ChemBio Hub was to develop tools to help chemical biology researchers across the University. Paul specialised in interface design and implementation but was involved across the technology stack. Paul has previous web development experience within the University, a web publishing company and also at Evotec in Oxfordshire.
Andy brought a wealth of experience in data mining and database development to the ChemBio Hub team. He designed the overall technical architecture of the ChemBio Hub tools, including testing and installation of the application, and ensuring data can easily be exported to public repositories and archives to promote knowledge sharing.
As the ChemBio Hub project scientist Adam's job was to liaise between users and developers. Having recently completed his PhD in Chemical Biology, he understands what bench scientists need and ensures that is the main focus of the tools we developed. You could often find him demonstrating the latest version of the system across the university. Through your feedback, Adam helped make this project a truly useful experience for everyone involved.
Michael put in a lot of time and effort into raising awareness of the issues that ChemBio Hub attempted to solve. This was done through fantastic organisation of our symposia and building relationships with senior researchers across the University of Oxford.