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This article is part of the supplement: Semantic e-Science in Biomedicine

Open Access Research

e-Science and biological pathway semantics

Joanne S Luciano12* and Robert D Stevens2

Author Affiliations

1 Genetics Department, Harvard Medical School, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA 02115, USA

2 School of Computer Science, Manchester University, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8(Suppl 3):S3  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-S3-S3

Published: 9 May 2007

Abstract

Background

The development of e-Science presents a major set of opportunities and challenges for the future progress of biological and life scientific research. Major new tools are required and corresponding demands are placed on the high-throughput data generated and used in these processes. Nowhere is the demand greater than in the semantic integration of these data. Semantic Web tools and technologies afford the chance to achieve this semantic integration. Since pathway knowledge is central to much of the scientific research today it is a good test-bed for semantic integration. Within the context of biological pathways, the BioPAX initiative, part of a broader movement towards the standardization and integration of life science databases, forms a necessary prerequisite for its successful application of e-Science in health care and life science research. This paper examines whether BioPAX, an effort to overcome the barrier of disparate and heterogeneous pathway data sources, addresses the needs of e-Science.

Results

We demonstrate how BioPAX pathway data can be used to ask and answer some useful biological questions. We find that BioPAX comes close to meeting a broad range of e-Science needs, but certain semantic weaknesses mean that these goals are missed. We make a series of recommendations for re-modeling some aspects of BioPAX to better meet these needs.

Conclusion

Once these semantic weaknesses are addressed, it will be possible to integrate pathway information in a manner that would be useful in e-Science.