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Looking back, moving forward: ONTOFORCE's 2022 highlights and what's next

From an evolving product, a growing company, resuming in-person events, and more, it’s been a year full of achievements, progress, and fun.
11 January 2023 10 minutes

A new year is upon us and team ONTOFORCE is gearing up for a busy 2023. Before jumping into the new year, we’re taking a moment to reflect on everything we’ve accomplished in 2022. From an evolving product, a growing company, resuming in-person events, and more, it’s been a year jam-packed with achievements, progress, and fun.

A growing team

The past year has been a time of growth and expansion for our company, and a key part of that has been the successful onboarding of 24 new colleagues across the globe. The addition of these talented individuals has allowed us to take on new challenges and projects, and we’re looking forward to accomplishing more together in the new year.

As our teams continues to grow and evolve, we are excited to be able to offer even more tailored support to our customers. Our teams go the extra mile to ensure that our customers’ expectations are being met with the set-up and deployment of DISQOVER, staying by their side as they navigate onboarding, customizing, and scaling the platform throughout their organizations.

An evolving product helping scientific researchers and data scientists get the most out of their data

Not only did our team evolve, so did our knowledge discovery platform solution, DISQOVER. DISQOVER uses the powerful concept of a knowledge graph to integrate, link, and structure data. DISQOVER’s data ingestion engine simplifies the import, transformation, and integration process for all your data sources. Throughout the year, the engine received various updates that improved its user experience, including:

  • The introduction of segment functionality within the visual pipeline editor. This functionality allots for easier organization and structuring of pipelines and especially improves the way of working by allowing users to drag and drop components inside and outside of a segment
  • The addition of a unique resource identifier (URI) autofill feature. With the feature, users are given an automated URI suggestion (the option to create one manually still remains) which significantly speeds up the process of developing pipelines
  • Optimizations for memory consumption
Collaboration made easier

Within DISQOVER, users can export results in standard open-file formats and easily share searches, reports, and dashboards with others. These sharing and export features were improved over the year, helping to make user collaboration more efficient. For instance, now when a user wants to export data, they utilize the new dual pane selection modal, which allows them to search, select, and arrange specific properties, enabling them to specify exactly what their export file contains and how it is structured. These export settings are now also saved for users, meaning they don’t need to cross reference previous export files to ensure they aren’t missing a relevant property. Regarding sharing, it is now possible to share a unique result with other users so they can immediately access said result without having to duplicate a search.

Faster public data updates and more

In addition to integrating, linking, and structuring data, DISQOVER also seamlessly connects trusted public data sources with your internal data. Numerous sources are pre-ingested into the platform. These data sources are kept up to date with the help of our data team, who update the sources on a regular basis to ensure users are always working with the most recent data available within DISQOVER. Over the span of 2022, our data team went from averaging 10 days in between these data updates, down to an average of 6 days in between updates.

With DISQOVER’s remote data subscription (RDS) packages, domain-specific data sets of your choice can be retrieved and ingested into DISQOVER, providing the flexibility to make data integration choices based on your use cases so you can optimally use and explore data. Throughout 2022, our data team released several new RDS packages in the following domains: Pathway, Protein Complex, Target, Gene, Protein, Adverse Event. Learn more about the available data sets.

 For users querying data from DISQOVER’s federation system, the data team integrated the Disease RDS package into the federation model during the 1.20 federation model release this year. This integration enables users to access the dataset on their local machine. The dataset offers a harmonized collection of the most important human-oriented disease ontologies and is comprised from 10 reputable data sources.

DISQOVER turns 10!

Amidst this evolution, we also managed to celebrate quite the accomplishment: DISQOVER turned 10. We had some fun looking back at how the DISQOVER interface has transformed over the years, and not only that, how the product itself has transformed into the one we know and love today. In 2012, DISQOVER started out as operating on a medium-scale knowledge graph with a user interface (UI) that allowed users to navigate the graph easily and filter data. It has now grown to operating on a large-scale knowledge graph, and of course, still with a UI that allow users to navigate the graph easily (albeit more intuitively and functionally now) and filter data. Through the years, we’ve also added visual analytics graphs to the platform so users can better visualize their data and generate further insights from it.


A screenshot of DISQOVER 1.0's interface 

FAIR data, IDMP, the value of knowledge graphs and more: inspiring discussions at leading conferences such as BioIT World, BioTechX, and our own events and webinars

BioIT World and BioIT Europe

We are grateful to have had so many opportunities to connect with colleagues across the life sciences industry at the various events we attended and hosted throughout the year. We kicked off our event season in May, attending BioIT World in Boston. ONTOFORCE was also present at BioIT Europe later on in the year in Berlin. Not surprisingly, data was a hot topic at both events. Discussions around FAIR, data valuation, data assets, data strategy, among many others inspired our teams to think more critically about the role DISQOVER is playing at an organizational level to support innovative processes for data management.

Pharma Data Congress UK

In September, members of our teams attended Pharma Data Congress UK in London where they had the pleasure of showing attendees how DISQOVER is supporting organizations with FAIR data implementation, data analytics, AI and machine learning technologies, scaling data infrastructure, and leveraging multi-omics datasets. During the event, ONTOFORCE’s Vice President of Sales, Carl Latham presented a case study on the use of DISQOVER to conduct knowledge searches in pharmaceutical companies to optimize clinical research.

ONTOFORCE’s Customer Advisory Board and User Group Meeting

In October, ONTOFORCE held its 2022 Customer Advisory Board and User Group Meeting. Customers from across Europe and the US joined us at our Ghent headquarters for this interactive two-day event. It was not only a great opportunity to hear directly from customers about their organization’s use of DISQOVER and how they see the use of the platform evolving across their company, it was also a great opportunity for pre-competitive collaboration on the part of our customers in attendance. It was inspirational to see this collaboration take place right in front of us. We heard from many of our attendees that they were walking away from the event having learned more about the power and potential of DISQOVER by witnessing how others are utilizing the platform. Such collaboration can be so powerful in the life sciences industry, where even incremental advancements can translate into improved patient outcomes. Read the full recap.

ONTOFORCE CAB & UGM 2022 event 31A snapshot from ONTOFORCE's 2022 Customer Advisory Board and User Group Meeting


We made the trek to Switzerland in November for BioTechX where we got the opportunity to catch up face-to-face with customers, partners, and collaborators, and meet many new industry colleagues along the way. ONTOFORCE’s Vice President of Solution Delivery, Bérénice Wulbrecht moderated a panel discussion about the current challenges life sciences organizations are facing when it comes to adopting truly data-centric, cross functional approaches. The panelists, Najat Khan – Janssen, Angeli Moller - Roche, Mahesh Pancholi – UK Biobank, and Faisal Khan – Novo Nordisk, discussed the rising opportunities for data-centric transformations and touched on some best practices for enabling data-centricity through the lens of patient impact, pre-competitive collaboration, and talent development. You can watch the recording here.


Webinars: IDMP and the use of knowledge graphs in biotechs

On the virtual side of things, several customers joined us during online webinars to share their thoughts on data and knowledge related projects they have embarked on in their company. In June, we organized a webinar centered on IDMP readiness for pharmaceutical companies. The webinar featured Dr. Jörg Werner, the former Data Governance Lead at Merck (current Sr. Director of the Data Value Office at BioNTech as of November 2022) and an advising member at the EU IDMP/SPOR Task Force. Together with Tamara Stankovic, a Senior Data Solution Scientist at ONTOFORCE, the webinar detailed how to actively tackle this regulatory challenge with a strategy that adds value and opens up new business opportunities. Watch the webinar here.

Later on in the year, ONTOFORCE hosted a webinar focused on the use of knowledge graphs for drug discovery in biotechnology companies. On the topic, we had the pleasure of hearing from two individuals working in the biotech sphere: Paul Vauterin, then CIO of Aelin Therapeutics, and James Longden, Head of Discovery Biology at e-Therapeutics. The speakers elaborated on how their organizations are using knowledge graphs to advance drug discovery activities efficiently and additionally detailed how knowledge graphs enable their teams to uncover non-obvious relationships that would’ve otherwise remained hidden. Watch the webinar here.

What’s in-store for 2023?

There’s a lot on the horizon for ONTOFORCE in 2023, especially when it comes to DISQOVER. Later on in the year, we’ll be strengthening our integration process for both public and private data and we’ll be introducing an improved user experience by offering users a new way of searching in the platform.

Additionally, our data efforts will further evolve throughout this new year. Just as we accelerated our public data update frequency in 2022, our data team is aiming to further accelerate their update times to an average of three days in between updates. They’re also aiming to release seven new RDS domain-specific packages: Chemical, Active Substance, Bioassays, Medicine, Patent, Project, and Antibody. Additionally, the team will integrate more RDS packages into the federation model, including Biomarker, Pathway, Protein Complex, and various others.

We are also looking forward to seeing how the year unfolds for the life sciences/biopharma industry and its major players, especially when it comes to innovation. While the biopharma industry specifically has been historically slow to take up novel digital technologies, as a recent Deloitte report points out, in the wake of COVID-19 forcing the adoption of many new digital technologies, the industry is now at a pivotal moment in which organizations will either continue their digitalization or decelerate efforts. As the report notes, riding the wave of digitalization momentum will be crucial for companies looking to forge their ways ahead competitively.

“We wholeheartedly believe that the time to invest in digital innovation is now,” says ONTOFORCE CEO Valerie Morel. “ONTOFORCE has always been focused on championing the power of data and people through democratizing data access via DISQOVER. Throughout the years, we’ve seen our customers use DISQOVER to create interoperable data ecosystems that enable increased data literacy and more efficient cross-functional collaboration, ultimately bolstering business growth and most importantly, enabling better health outcomes for patients. Thus, it goes without saying that this year, we look forward to further living out our mission of helping life sciences companies accelerate drug development for improved patient outcomes.”

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