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Finding the right chemistry --Elsevier buys massive chemistry database
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands—Global scientific, technical and medical publisher Elsevier in March announced that it had acquired the Beilstein Database—reportedly the premier database in the field of organic chemistry and a key tool for drug discovery—through its subsidiary MDL Information Systems GmbH. The purchase price was not disclosed.
The deal, finalized in early March, means that Elsevier will assume ownership and acquire the rights to the Beilstein Database. But being deeply involved with the database is nothing new for Elsevier, which has been exclusively involved in both the production and marketing of the Beilstein Database under a partnership agreement since 1998. Since then, Elsevier has added or updated nearly 5 million compounds to the database and has, according to Herman van Campenhout, Elsevier's CEO of science and technology, "built up a strong customer base in the corporate pharmaceutical and academic sectors" as a result of its involvement. "As one of the world's most significant scientific resources, it is especially valuable for our pharmaceutical industry customers working in the area of drug discovery," van Campenhout adds.
The database covers organic chemistry from 1771 to the present and contains more than 9.8 million compounds, 10 million reactions and 320 million data points on chemical properties. It also has more than 900,000 original abstracts from 1980 to the present, and pharmacological and ecotoxicological data describing the bioactivity of organic chemicals.
The database is important for a number of reasons, including that it is the world's largest reaction database and the 320 million data points on chemical properties represent experimental data—not merely calculated data, notes Michiel Kolman, managing director of Elsevier MDL in Frankfurt, Germany, where the Beilstein database is produced.
"We are very excited about the opportunities to bring even further efficiencies [with] integration between different data resources," Kolman says. Elsevier has already pioneered closer integration between chemical structure data and text information. For example, Elsevier customers reportedly seamlessly link between Scopus, the company's abstract and indexing database, and the Beilstein Database via the Crossfire and DiscoveryGate interfaces.
Even without such integration, the database is a powerhouse unto itself. Since the first reaction was documented, the database has been continually updated, with "exponential" growth over the past few years, Kolman reports. In 2005, more than 700,000 compounds were either updated or added, and the ten-millionth reaction was logged in June 2006.