The Discovery Phase of Biotechnology and Life Sciences Research

Research & Development | November 19, 2019

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Discovery is the first phase of life sciences and biotechnology research. Learn about the importance of Discovery in project workflows.

To investors, your biotechnology company’s idea is only as good as its evidence. In a landscape defined by evidence-based methodology, researchers need to use a mix of original research and third-party studies as evidence that their hypotheses will not result in either the re-invention of the wheel or the creation of a very expensive placebo/toxin/knick-knack. This process of data-gathering to support the viability of your company’s hypothesis is called Discovery.

Defining Discovery in Biotechnology

In broad terms, Discovery involves the exploration of experimental results and current literature in order to determine the feasibility of a project. The actual process of Discovery depends on your company’s biotechnology focus.

For members of the Biomedical/Pharmaceutical industries, this could mean identifying a target receptor for a new drug and determining (via previous studies and lab experiments) whether the target is a viable candidate for treating a given condition.

For Food/Agriculture companies, this could mean gathering evidence identifying a desirable/undesirable gene and its molecular markers, isolating it in your lab and verifying the possibility that it can be safely inserted/deleted from the organism’s genome without negative outcomes.

For companies focusing on Industrial/Environmental Biotechnology, this could mean gathering evidence that a certain microorganism is more efficient at dealing with a waste product than a chemical/another microorganism and running comparisons of the results.

In all cases, Discovery is a research-heavy, time-intensive process which is heavily dependent on the quality of your research and experimental results.

Directing Discovery: Literature Research in Life Sciences

Regardless of where your company’s biotechnology focus happens to be, you will need research to back your projects. Primary source articles from reputable journals and knowledge databases, such as EBSCO’s Biotechnology Source, help prevent your research teams from “discovering” something that has previously been discovered elsewhere.

The databases your company uses for preliminary research play a major role in determining whether a project will move past the Discovery phase. Choosing where to begin a search is a critical factor in the quality of results and the time spent on research.

Who’s on First: Terminology as a Roadblock to Discovery

For example, some researchers may not be familiar with certain terms or acronyms due to having a different area of expertise than whatever they are researching. Translating another specialization’s jargon or reading through an article on aspirin only to discover the article focuses on the wrong target or mechanism, bogs down the already time-consuming research process and frustrates your researchers.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of biotechnology, this term-confusion is a relatively common occurrence. Having a comprehensive life sciences database, curated by experts, which can disambiguate author vocabulary with controlled vocabulary during searches, such as the Web of Science Group’s BIOSIS Previews, can mitigate the time lost to bad searches. Such a database also gives the researcher the assurance that their literature review is thorough.

Eureka! Now What?

While there are many factors that influence a project’s likelihood of moving forward, the quality of the evidence is a factor your company has control over.  With the right combination of quality research, successful experimentation and market-readiness, your biotechnology projects can move past the Discovery phase and on to changing the world.

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