In early October, we held our D360 user group meeting (UGM) in Dublin, Ireland with the goal of fostering community among the users of our scientific informatics platform. In this blog post, I’ll share the UGM highlights and what’s coming up for the next UGM.
Goals for this year’s meeting
The meeting had three themes: using D360 for biologics research, in compound design, and to enhance research workflows. Our goals were to have users share how they gain value from their use of D360 so all attendees can learn and develop best practices.
Our Tier 1 pharma clients were particularly enthusiastic about using D360 to understand biologics data and drive research into oligonucleotide, antibody and peptide therapeutics.
Compound design is currently one of the most active innovation areas in small molecule research information systems. D360 has always provided our users the capability understand their data to help prioritize candidate molecules. But, D360 is now taking them to the next stage to help them figure out what new compounds should be synthesized and which compounds are the most likely to be active. Compound design is a really thrilling area, and our users were interested in that.
The workflow section helped users understand the versatility of all the tasks D360 can support. It’s not just about project datasets, it’s about developing and validating scientific hypotheses to drive projects forward. This requires improved data visualization and analysis capabilities that need to be both straightforward to use and get scientists where they need to be quickly.
From my perspective and from the attendees I talked to, we met our goals for the meeting. And the real proof of this is always in client feedback. Here are some of their quotes:
“Great insight into how other companies use D360 in their workflows”
“Excellent for the open-minded exchange and sharing of similar needs”
“The open attitude and willingness to share was excellent and fostered by the meeting organization”
A client-centric format
Our clients use D360 for different data-driven research tasks. They integrate D360 with different data systems, research different medicinal modalities and analyze preclinical data. The UGM provides an environment where scientists can share the kind of data sources, calculations or other applications they may have integrated, what problems they’ve been solving and new research workflows that they are now driving with data.
The meeting is heavily focused on scientists’ data driven research and comprises 80% customer presentations. This format allows for Q&A, discussion, and developing best practices. When you find three scientists have done something one way, and two people have done it differently, it’s an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of the approaches for the benefit of the scientific community. We have adopted this format as the best way that the whole research community can benefit from the experiences of others.
Sharing innovative uses for D360
Out of the four UGMs we’ve held, this was definitely the most exciting. Historically, when a company first invests in D360, they’re usually thinking about small molecule chemistry and how D360 can help chemists and other scientists get to their project dataset.
At this meeting, the presentations expanded well beyond this initial use case as scientists have developed more and better ways of using their data. We had presentations on using D360 to support biologics research where the research workflow is often really different from that of small molecule programs.
Drug discovery and development is about dealing with multi-target data profiles. It’s not just a question of matching a molecule against one particular target and getting activity. It’s looking at a range of different targets and liabilities. There were some great presentations on multi-parameter optimization and scoring as well as to how to present that data better so scientists can quickly understand it.
Another theme in the presentations was how to best leverage D360 with other tools. We had talks both on the creation of task-specific analytic data views in D360, specific integrations with other applications like Spotfire, and integrating D360 with design tracking capabilities to support higher level design workflows.
Further extending the scope and value of the meeting, we discussed the idea of expanding workflows from the chemist’s workflow with project-based data to ad hoc data analysis. These workflows help support the needs of biologists who use D360.
It’s great to see D360 use mature, and also how our users are finding new and creative ways to get value from it once their initial data access needs are satisfied. With every new customer, we see their voyage through what D360 can do for the scientist. This meeting was one of the first where scientists presented explicitly in this area.
Benefits of the UGM
Obviously, the UGM is designed for D360 clients. But, there’s a secondary group of people who come to the UGM: pharma companies who are considering using D360. The UGM gives them a chance to look at real-world usage of D360 and mingle with the whole D360 user base.
Certara also benefits from the UGM because our users share key industry drivers and trends. We share this information with our D360 customer steering committee which helps us to drive the product strategy moving forward.
Plans for future years
We plan to have two meetings every three years. One year in Europe, one year in the US, have a break, and then repeat. The next meeting will be held on the US East Coast in September or October of 2019. We don’t hold a European and US meeting in the same year because our users have clearly stated that they want to gain the value from the whole global D360 user community.
While we see new companies attending every year, it’s great to see UGM attendees come back year after year because there’s something new to learn at each meeting. They gain value from the UGM, partly from sharing their own experiences, partly from seeing the rapidly evolving D360 capabilities but mostly from learning about D360 usage at other organizations. In turn, we incorporate their feedback in our development of new functionality for D360 to ensure that the product improves its relevance and value.
In addition, this year we responded to an increasing need to share data across organizations that are collaborating on research projects where both sides contribute intellectual property. To fulfill this need, we developed the D360 Partner product to allow data shares to be easily set up, managed by the project team, and most importantly data secure. The use of D360 Partner was a key discussion point for many customers who have been challenged with the informatics needs of collaborative partnerships in the past.
The D360 UGM: A meeting by users, for users
At Certara, we value belonging to a community with our users. The UGM is a forum for both listening to our users and sharing our ideas for improving the data utilization landscape. Once somebody has invested in D360, they really want to understand how they can leverage it to the best of their ability and how we can add to the product to further enhance the effectiveness of scientific research.
Our users see the value in attending and presenting at the UGM. I love their willingness to share at this meeting. I think the best thing about the meeting is the community that is built around D360 capabilities. What’s most important is not the product itself, but the people who use it and the people who develop it.
To learn more about our scientific informatics platform, please watch this webinar.