A research-intensive bio-pharma company like AstraZeneca, has to deal with a vast number of highly technical data and documents, produced in-house and by others: research papers, data from medical databases, trial reports of all kinds, patent filings, internal notes, emails and other communications between researchers in different fields, etc. The information in these sources can be of different nature, according to the field of its origin: medical, pharmaceutical, biological, chemical, biochemical, genetic, etc. It may deal with diseases, genes, drugs /active agents, and mechanisms of action. A lot of the information is textual, but there may well be structured information, like molecule structures, formulae, curves, diagrams, etc.
Volume: With the well-known information bases of the trade, and internal information and data bases, companies reach the order of magnitude of about 500 million documents and billions of database records. In a company that is a global player in this field, the number of experts in R&D may well be in the range of 10,000 people and beyond.
Finding networks of experts with similar or complementary expertise on a given subject helps avoid costly redundant research, sheds light on a complex research problem from different angles, fosters cooperation, facilitates drug repositioning and accelerates time to market.