September 19, 2017

DistilBio – New features and Data

Over the past few weeks we have been cheap beats ukadding new features and data to enhance the user experience. Some of the new features are detailed below.


Instant display of results

The query interface has been revamped to display results instantaneously as the user starts typing a query. Earlier, as the user created a query, nodes were formed in the panel above the search box and the user had to hit “Search” to view results. In the new release, as the user starts typing a query, the various options are displayed in the auto-complete and the results are simultaneously displayed in the result interface below the search box. The results displayed below changes dynamically as the user continues typing. For example, as the user types “Aspirin”, results are displayed instantly. Results change as the user continues adding letters to the search term. Users can also view the query nodes by clicking on the arrow above the query box.

Facet modification

Earlier, the facets in the result browser were static and sometimes this presented a problem when there were multiple  facets and user had to scroll down the page to find relevant data. Now, the facets can be maximized, minimized and moved around to view only the data the user in interested in viewing.


One of the first things a researcher asks when he/she finds a connection between 2 concepts is “what is the provenance for this connection?” In the latest release of DistilBio, users can click on the connecting link between 2 facets and view the source of the data (displayed to the top right of the page) and also the curated publications for the links. The curated publications are derived from the source databases from which the data has been integrated.

Numerical operators

Querying using numerical operators is another feature that has been enabled in DistilBio. Many a times users while working on small molecules/drugs/proteins need to find molecules of a particular molecular weight or logP value etc.  Users can now build queries in DistilBio using numerical operators like <, >, =. For example, if a user wants to find all compounds that target the protein cdk1 in human.

Query: cdk1_human ---> compound

The results show 3326 compounds targeting the protein cdk1_human. To narrow down the list, the user can now find compounds with a molecular weight of say < 300.

Query: cdk1_human ---> compound ---> molecular weight <300

This narrows down the list to about 494 compounds. Similarly the user can further narrow down the list using LogP, LogD, ALogP values etc.

Regular expressions

There are instances when the user will want to find a drug, protein etc but will not know the complete name of the molecule. DistilBio now allows the use of regular expressions to enable the user find the search term easily. For example, if a user wants to find all the “Gliptins” and is not sure of the names of the drugs, the query can now be built as follows:

Query: *gliptin

From the drop-down, select the type “Drug ending with” to indicate that the name of the drug ends with gliptin.

Results displayed below will show that there are 3 gliptins – Saxagliptin, Sitagliptin, Vildagliptin. All the links available for the drugs are also displayed in the facets.


Updated Data

Data has been updated for most datasets to the latest version available. Swissprot has been updated to the Dec 2012 release version. For a complete list of databases integrated in DistilBio have a look at the beats.

Protein domains

Protein domain data from Interpro has been added in DistilBio. Users can now query for proteins and find domains present in the protein and also find all proteins that contain a particular domain.

Query: cdk1_human > proteindomain

Results show 3 domains for the protein. For instance, if a user wants to find all proteins that contain the domain “Protein kinase, catalytic domain”, the user can extend the query by selecting the domain and clicking on extend and add the concept “protein” to the query.

Query: Protein kinase, catalytic domain > protein

This displays all proteins that contain the protein domain “Protein kinase, catalytic domain”

Small molecule Activity and assay data

Data from ChEMBL database has been updated to include data on bio-activities and assay. Users can now query for small molecules and their associated activities and also find bio-assays in which these compounds and activities have been measured.

Query: Compound > activity > assay

New properties for data from DrugBank and Swiss-Prot

DistilBio now covers most of the data available in DrugBank and Swiss-Prot.

New properties that have been added to the drug data from DrugBank include

  • Absorption
  • Brand Mixtures
  • Food Interactions
  • LogP
  • Manfacturer
  • Molecular Formula
  • Pharmacodynamics
  • pKa
  • Volume Of Distribution
  • Water Solubility

New connections and properties have also been added to protein data from Swiss-Prot. Connections that have been added include protein sites and regions like active site, binding site, metal binding regions, motifs etc. Users can also query for catalytic activities, PTM, induction, biophysicochemical properties such as Km, Vmax. Cross-references to databases covered in Swiss-Prot have also been included. For a complete list of connections and properties have a look at the of DistilBio.

We would love to hear your inputs on the latest release of DistilBio. You could respond to this blog or write to us at

September 18, 2017

5 Ways Tech Gadgets Have Improved Our Lives

Technology is the founding stone of any civilization. The overall progress of any society depends on the most on scientific progress. This becomes evident if one looks at human history, which is in one sense a chronological account of scientific transitions from the simple to the complex. And now, in the 21 century, the world is more technology-dependent than it ever was.

Our lives have become so tech dependent that it has started to change the basic structure of our society. The invention of the internet, and subsequently, social network, has affected the very meaning of a community.

We have developed societal roles laced with rules different from the previous ones, and the way of information dissemination has seen a huge upgrade. On the other hand, gadgets have made our lives easier and productive. The biggest implication of this is the saving in time and money, and subsequently, it makes possible the pursuit of goals previously unattempted.

Smart Manufacturing

gadgets home have revolutionized manufacturing. For example, using a 3D printer one can make copies of an item without having to go through the conventional procedure. A 3D printer lets a user build complex structures in a fraction of the time required in the conventional method. This has made possible the manufacturing of items, from simple yet ingenious toothpaste squeezers to lifesaving prosthetic limbs to real life castles.

Perceiving the Possible

Tech gadgets have made possible for us to create digital simulations which can be used to impart experience to human beings. For example, Virtual Reality can be used to train Pilots and Disaster Management workers to work in extreme conditions. On the other hand, Augmented Reality has been used to mix the real world with the digital, from making it possible to teach Australians about beach safety to figuring out the right place for furniture in a room before buying it.

Ease of Communication and Access to Information

The invention of the internet coupled with the advancement of electronic devices resulted in a big leap forward in terms of communication. An information that took days to in the least to travel from one point of the globe to another can now not only be sent in an instant but the exchange of information can be done in real time. This has made possible features like video calling from anywhere in the world.

Life expectancy

The advancement of medical instruments has made possible for the doctors and researchers to learn more about the human body and accordingly render cure. The MRI machine is a good example of this.

Recording History

The advancement of computers and the invention of complimentary gadgets such as closed-circuit cameras, advanced surveillance systems, and advanced storage systems, we have succeeded in recording a huge part of the day to day human life that not only has practical applications in the smooth functioning of law and order, but will also be important for us a race in the future to come.


Technology is ever-evolving. What exists today shall evolve into more efficient entities, and if one is grateful for being alive in a time like this they can scarcely be blamed.

September 18, 2017

A Short Guide to Aerial Photography Using Drones

Drones have achieved unprecedented popularity in the last few years, and photography enthusiasts all over the world have adopted this new technique to capture some of the most beautiful and ingenious photographs of all time. While that may be so, drone usage goes much beyond photography and has been used in many scientific, environmental, and military enterprises. Thus, it is not a surprise that the various types of drones available in the market come with different features suitable for the respective usage.

There are low-end drones with basic cameras that let you capture low-resolution photographs and films. And there are drones that let you add a plethora of add-on features, apart from the ones that they come loaded with. But before we get into the technicalities, it is necessary to get acquainted with the legality regarding droning.

What safety measures to be taken while manoeuvring a drone?

The laws regarding drone flying vary from country to country. Two major kind of drones, commercial and Recreational have different official guidelines. Since this article deals with aerial photography, which is a recreational activity, the user does not (in most countries) need to go through any official licensing process. However, he/she must comply with some of the guidelines as mentioned below

  • A drone must be flown in daylight
  • It shouldn’t be elevated above 400 feet
  • It should remain in a direct line-of-sight
  • It shouldn’t be flown over national parks etc.

For further information, it is advisable to inquire about the specific rules that exist in the user’s country.

What essential features should you look for while buying a drone?

While an expensive machine cannot make up for the lack of ingenuity, a decent drone with a few essential features can help you take pictures that cannot be taken with a basic kit. So, here are some of the features one should look for in a drone.

a.GPS and RTH

GPS is a must which allows the drone to use the automated features such as auto return to home (RTH). It is especially necessary for rough terrains where maneuvering the drone back to the user’s location manually can become a serious task. Another useful RTH feature is that when the connection between the controller and the drone is severed by buildings or other structure the RTH feature will get activated and the drone will get back to the user’s location.

b. Wireless live view connection.

This is achieved through a Wi-Fi or 2.4/4.8 GHz connection with a smartphone where the user can view in real time the purview of the drone camera. This is immensely helpful while taking precise shots rather than simple aerial shots.

c. Manual Tilt

Some drones come with a gimble that can be manually controlled. What this means is that the camera can be tilted at a right angle in respect of the drone’s horizontal plane. This allows the user to move the camera between the ground and the horizon. Without this feature, it becomes extremely difficult to shoot a major portion of the landscape.

d. Advanced camera control.

The availability of features such as manual focus control, time lapse, RAW capture opens up the possibility of using a camera beyond the conventional uses. This feature is essential if precision is what one is looking for.

e. Failsafe flight features.

This feature enables the drone to know when the battery is about to die out, and automatically sets its course back to the user’s location.

Create your own drone with a kit

These days, there are other options for owning a drone which takes photo. One of the new ways of taking creative drone photos, and especially video, is by creating your own drone using a kit. Essentially, these are all of the individual parts used to create a drone, but you can then mix and match to suit your needs. For example, some people would need a drone with a long battery life. Others prefer that their drone, is fast and nimble. Still others, would want their drone to be able to carry a lot of weight. By checking what drone kits are available for sale and buying and building your own custom gadget, you'll know that this has been built specifically for your needs.

Technical difficulties

Aerial photography is exactly like normal photography in that it is a game of light and shadows. For professional-like shots it is advisable to use the drone on well-lit days since the camera quality of the drones is still inferior to the land cameras. On the other hand, it is also advisable to use the drones in calm weather where a greater stability can be achieved. Apart from the obvious safety angle to it, calm weather often coincides with better lighting and scenic worth. But harsh weather can also offer once in a lifetime shot sometimes, and in that case, user’s discretion is paramount.

Post Production

Editing a raw footage after shooting is as important as the shooting itself, if not more. If efficiently done, a decent shot can be turned into a great one during post-production. But it is not as easy as it sounds. All the different editing software available in the market such as Final Cut X, Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, etc, require a considerable amount of practice for the development of efficiency. So, at the end of the day the age old saying still holds: practice makes perfect.