The Data Management Group (DAMA-UPC), led by Josep Lluís Larriba, has designed a system for searching for information in a network or graph that can complement Internet search engines and is of special interest to biomedicine, social networks, the Internet, fraud detection in different environments and advanced bibliographical searches.
Searching and querying large volumes of networked data using a new technology patented by the UPC is now a reality with DEX. The system offers high-speed processing, configurable data input using heterogenous sources, and management of networks with billions of nodes and connections from a desktop PC.
DEX allows queries using values as simple as names and keywords, so users can graphically identify related records quickly and easily. Until now, this was possible to a limited extent in existing databases, but DEX makes it possible to extract new information from interrelations and increases the speed and capacity of complex queries in large information networks.
One of DEX’s pioneering functions has been the detection of fraud in real-estate transactions, through Spain’s Notarial Certification Agency. Currently, the Catalan Institute of Oncology is also using the system in a study of the evolution of cancer in Catalonia. The Data Management Group has also designed a unique prototype, called BIBEX (www.dama.upc.edu/bibex), for the Ministry of Science and Innovation to explore the world of scientific publications and relate specific bibliography published at international level.
BIBEX also allows scientists to search for reviewers of scientific publications and recommend articles in specific fields. In the future, BIBEX will offer the business world a useful tool for finding scientific groups of interest in common areas of research.
Browsing the human genome
Another innovative Internet service is GenomPort, which incorporates, for the first time, exploration of the human genome over the Internet using the same viewing tools as Google Maps. This interactive Web portal that provides genome information, is free to use and can be accessed by everyone, has been created using open-source software and is viewed with Mozilla Firefox. This service was designed by a team led by Xavier Messeguer of the Algorithms, Bioinformatics, Complexity and Formal Methods (ALBCOM) Research Group and is the first service of this kind that can be accessed via the Internet.
GenomPort, which includes work by doctoral student Bernat Gel and undergraduate student Gerard Muñoz, was designed to be a meeting point for user communities (scientists, doctors, patients and companies) to share data and experiences concerning the human genome.
One of the big successes of GenomPort is that—unlike other browsers that allow the genome to be viewed by parts, loading a single page at a time—it allows the entire genome to be viewed. With powerful and easy-to-use technology, the portal integrates exploration of the genome in a single application. More than a biological improvement, it brings improved visual speed and superimposition of information.
Users can quickly and easily search and view the information stored at different levels on each of the genes of the human genome. They can also move right and left through the genome using the mouse, zoom in and out to see an entire chromosome (200 million letters) and view the same region of the genome with different levels of zoom and synchronized movements.
Soon, it will incorporate the option for users who are interested in one or more items (gene, SNP, disease, etc.) to form a virtual community to exchange knowledge, experiences and information, and will include new tools for surfing through the human body. Behind these new features are Alvaro Villalba, David Gòmez and Marc Morera, students from the Barcelona School of Informatics, and the biologist Ángeles Margelí.
The project won first prize at the third edition of BDigital Global Congress Ciutat del Coneixement 2008 and DEX was one of the finalists. The viability of GenomPort as a spin-off is now being considered.