Providing business, patent, and R&D information on pipeline drugs in an end-user preferred format to a multispecialist team poses a challenge. And that doesn't include the efforts required for setting up alerts based on drug, therapeutic area, or companies of interest. For both mainline pharmaceutical companies and those only peripherally involved in the field, it can become a particularly interesting balancing act, one that requires meeting data demands in the most cost-effective and time-efficient ways possible with available subscriptions, while supporting collaboration of business teams in juggling request priorities and overlapping content. The task demands investigating access--especially customized access--to critical end-user tools.
With this challenge in mind, I took a tour of the Thomson Pharma product with the help of Rachel Buckley, director of product development within the pharma/chemistry markets of Thomson Scientific.
Thomson Scientific, which operates information resources such as Delphion, Derwent World Patents Index, and IDdb (Investigational Drugs database), provides a single interface product that unifies its different offerings. Thomson Pharma content not only pulls from these Thomson Scientific sources, but also from Thomson Healthcare, Thomson Dialog, Thomson Financial, and Thomson Legal and Regulatory. The end result is a highly functional, easy-to-use product for the end user and information professional alike, with a single entry to the most comprehensive amassing of content in the pharmaceutical industry.
This Web-based tool serves both end users and information professionals working in pharmaceutical research. It encompasses content for the business, intellectual property, legal and regulatory, and R&D needs of drug discovery and development. It draws from the best Thomson interfaces, improved upon by the key team members of each Thomson product. How successful the search interface will be for the information professional remains to be seen with the yet-to-be-launched "expert search." However, there is plenty of functionality already available for both user types, enough to not only help them keep abreast of developments in the field, but to derive search results for product teams known for the diversity of their specialized backgrounds and information requirements.
Ultimately, the advantage and benefit of Thomson Pharma lies in providing users with the ability to view and search the latest information specific to their interests from their desktops with content based on a selection of specialty (biology, chemistry, clinical research, licensing and business, competitive intelligence) or general-interest topics that the user can further refine by 12 therapeutic areas. With the ability to mix and match the information provided via "portlets," one starts to see the flexibility and personalization available to users of this product.
According to Buckley, who headed up the Thomson Pharma product development team in 2003, the largest challenge the team faced was coming up with an integrated solution incorporating the best features of the individual Thomson Web sites while retaining simplicity in design--all this despite the complexity of the content. The result is an interface greater than the sum of its parts. "We had many Web-based features to choose from, but not necessarily at the level of flexibility required. What differentiates Thomson Pharma is the breadth of content, flexibility, and intuitiveness it presents in a corporate environment."
The opening screen of Thomson Pharma (see Figure 1 above) offers a default display of content defined as "general interest" covering "all therapy areas." The user may then launch into browsing any of the specialty and therapeutic area combinations, viewing predefined portlets of relevant information. The personalization (and fun) factor comes from the flexibility to create multiple home pages in which you not only select a specialty and therapeutic area, but get to choose the type of information displayed. …