From start-up to scale-up
The product behind ONTOFORCE is the semantic search platform DISQOVER, which is currently mainly used in pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The company was founded in 2011 and was one of the first start-ups to join the imec.istart program. Since then, ONTOFORCE – which still continues its collaboration with imec – has spread its wings. The company recently completed a new investment round of 4.3 million euros and has already established a foothold on the US market. This year, they have big plans to further expand their sales in the US, i.e. by participating in the Flanders New York Accelerator.
DISQOVER: a new generation search engine
In this day and age, there is so much data that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find an efficient and relevant answer to our search queries. Hans Constandt (CEO and founder of ONTOFORCE) first experienced this when he was searching the web to find relevant, scientific studies that could help his son – who struggled with a learning disorder. From this experience, the idea for DISQOVER originated. Essentially, DISQOVER is an optimized search engine which draws on semantic technology to find links between data across databases faster and more efficiently. Although the platform was originally intended as a B2C offering, it is currently mainly used within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
Hans Constandt explains: “There are thousands of health research databases, clinical trials, literature reviews, patient studies, etc. available. Before setting up a new study, scientists first need to check what kind of research has already been done – both internally and externally – on, for instance, growth hormone applications for a particular disease. In many companies, even internal information resides in hundreds of different databases, each with their own interface and search logic. As a consequence, just finding this kind of background information is a very time-consuming process. This is where DISQOVER comes in.
Our platform brings together all these databases – both internal and public ones – and integrates the data, identifying links and visualizing the search path.
One of the assets is that we use semantic technology to find logical but often hidden connections between internal and external data, allowing you to easily combine information from a multitude of different sources. As such, pharma and biotech companies can save valuable time and money that they can now invest in developing new medicines or treatments.”
In just three days, the ONTOFORCE team can set up a working platform customized to a specific client’s needs, containing not just public databases but also connecting many internal sources, and bringing all knowledge together in one user-friendly hub. After a two-month trial, companies get the option to pay for a license per user per year.
ONTOFORCE has already convinced numerous pharma and biotech companies of the benefits of its technology. At the Bio-IT World Conference in Boston in 2017, multinational Amgen US even gave a talk explaining the benefits DISQOVER brought to them. They were excited about the fact that the platform brings both internal and commercial data within employees’ reach, enabling them to easily find related research themselves without having to consult internal experts on the subject matter. Hans Constandt: “This talk was a big milestone for us. Their support opened many doors and generated lots of new sales leads. In the end, there is still no better marketing tool than word-of-mouth.”
Although ONTOFORCE’s main focus is on the biotech and pharma industries, the basic, underlying DISQOVER platform is open access, allowing anyone to explore this new kind of search experience. For instance, patients or their relatives can use it to find more specific, scientific information on their condition or to search for alternative treatments.