1. What is sbv IMPROVER?

sbv IMPROVER stands for Systems Biology Verification - Industrial Methodology for Process Verification in Research. It is a collaborative effort led and funded by Philip Morris International to enable scientists from around the world to learn about and contribute to the development of an innovative method for verification of scientific data and concepts in systems biology research. This methodology could potentially be applied in a number of industries, such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, nutrition, and environmental safety, to name a few. For more information please see Nature Biotechnology (2011) or Bioinformatics (2012).


2. What is the objective of the sbv IMPROVER project?

The sbv IMPROVER project is aimed at enhanced assessment of complex scientific processes and establishing Systems Biology Verification as one of the components of science-based decision making.
sbv IMPROVER encourages collaborative evaluation of scientific data and plans to establish a broad community of scientists that use processes of verification and community-based problem solving techniques in systems biology. Also, sbv IMPROVER is intended to complement the traditional peer review process through development of a robust, repeatable and recognized methodology to verify the correctness of basic assumptions and methods used in systems biology.


3. Why is sbv IMPROVER important? Isn’t peer review enough?

While the peer review process remains the gold standard for review of scientific papers, the enormous amounts of scientific data generated, the need for access to a high performance computing infrastructure and the time required for rigorous data analysis present huge challenges for the scientific community and make effective peer review very difficult. We believe that sbv IMPROVER enables a more rigorous evaluation of scientific data and verification of the conclusions reached.


4. What are the potential applications of sbv IMPROVER?

The sbv IMPROVER methodology could be applied in a variety of fields, where a clearer understanding of biological mechanisms is needed to help solve important problems, such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, nutrition, environmental safety and consumer product development.  


5. Why is IBM Research no longer working on the project?

Both PMI and IBM rate the project a great success and both partners agree that now is the time to pursue separate initiatives based on the methods defined by sbv IMPROVER.


6. How long has Philip Morris International been working on this? 

Philip Morris International started working on this project in 2009. Following an extensive review of the existing approaches for verification methodologies in life sciences, we developed our sbv IMPROVER approach, which was shared with more than 50 eminent scientists at a symposium in Zurich in 2011.  The proceedings of the symposium and the approach were published in Nature Biotechnology 2011 Sep 8;29(9):811-5. Currently, we are presenting the sbv IMPROVER methodology to the broader scientific community.


7. Who is financing this project?

The project is financed by Philip Morris International. 


8. Do you intend to publish the results of the project and the challenges?

Yes, we plan to publish the results of the project in peer reviewed scientific journals.

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