ChEMBL Data Questions

How often do you update the data?

The data is updated regularly, with releases approximately every 3-4 months.

Can you provide of list of all changes and additions you've made since the last release?

We provide a list of all downgraded compounds with each release. However, it would be impossible to note all structural changes and/or changes to compound names etc. If there is something specific that you need to check, please contact us and we will be able to let you know what, if anything, has happened to that compound.

Are my queries stored and if so, are they routinely deleted?

In general, we do not store any queries that our users run. We do not analyse the nature of any queries or structures that are processed through the website. In fact, we use https:// wherever possible to maintain the security of the searches. Additionally, the EBI has terms of use and these can be found at: This will tell you what information is retained by the EBI, if any.

Javascript Routing

For the pages that allow to perform free text search, structure and sequence searches, or entity browsing. The filter or search term is always processed by javascript first. For example, when you search for Aspirin, the url will be something like:

Notice the part of the url that is after the # symbol:


This part is stored temporarily only in the browser. The search term is then sent to the server for a parsing process. The server responds with the adequate parameters in elasticsearch to show the results, but the search term is never stored in the server.

The urls contain information about the query and the state of the page that you are seeing, you can recreate a subset set of data from its query by just using a saved url. Our goal is that any subset of data in ChEMBL can be represented by a url. However urls can become really long easily. The length of the urls can easily become longer than the maximum length that many common url shortening services can handle, and they can cause trouble with browsers and devices when they are expanded. The interface is capable of generating shorter, fixed length urls so they can be easily shared in emails, chats, etc.

For example, this url:

Can be shortened to:

The url shortening system works by assigning the code AbCF5DA2XHxgYJqTpptUOQ==, to the parameters in the url.

If you want to shorten a url, the url parameters will be saved in our servers temporarily. We do not analyse this data or store anything else than the mapping of the code (AbCF5DA2XHxgYJqTpptUOQ==) with the parameters, we can't identify the users that introduced any query, and we don't have any intention of doing it.

We keep a count of the usage of the service, it counts how many urls have been shortened or expanded and when. This is to help us analyse the usage of our services and make decisions to improve them in the future.

The shortened urls have an expiration date which is shown after the url is shortened. The system will not expand any shortened url after its expiration date and once a week we delete forever all the shortened urls that have expired.

Some pages automatically shorten urls in order to create links to related data (e.g to see the activities related to a set of targets), these shortened urls also have an expiration date and are routinely deleted.

Why are there so many different types of Standard Units in the database?

The published units are taken directly from the literature and we then attempt to standardise these to report as a standard type. This is an ongoing curation task, which was started with the most common units first.

What is the 'Confidence Score'?

As part of the manual curation process applied to the data we assign a confidence score to the assay-to-target relationships represented in the database. The confidence score value reflects both the type of target assigned to a particular assay and the confidence that the target assigned is the correct target for that assay. The confidence scores range from 0, for as yet uncurated data entries, to 9, where a single protein target has been assigned a high degree of confidence. Assays assigned a non-molecular target type, for example a cell-line or an organism, receive a confidence score of 1, while assays with assigned protein targets receive a confidence score of at least 4.




Default value - Target assignment has yet to be curated


Target assigned is non-molecular


Target assigned is molecular non-protein target


Multiple homologous protein targets may be assigned


Multiple direct protein targets may be assigned


Homologous protein complex subunits assigned


Direct protein complex subunits assigned


Homologous single protein target assigned


Direct single protein target assigned

Do you show which compounds and/or bioactivity data has been changed or deleted with each release of ChEMBL?

As the data and the compounds are continually being curated, it is not possible to keep a track of these alterations or additions. However, if our users contact us personally, we are always happy to try and give them this type of information on individual data or compounds, wherever possible.

Is there a list of all the Activity Types in ChEMBL?

No, we do not keep a list of activity types but we are happy to create such a list as and when a user would require it. This can also be found if the ChEMBL data is downloaded from the FTP site and installed into a database.

Our new interface uses elasticsearch to index the data in ChEMBL, you can get a list of the activity types by simply sending the following query to our elasticsearch server, you can copy and paste this command to your linux or mac terminal:

curl -XGET "" -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d'
"size": 0,
"query": {
"query_string": {
"analyze_wildcard": true,
"query": "*"
"_source": {
"excludes": []
"aggs": {
"2": {
"terms": {
"field": "standard_type",
"size": 1000000,
"order": {
"_count": "desc"

Notice the following:

  • chembl_24_1_activity refers to the activity index in ChEMBL24.1

  • "size": 1000000 requests up to 1000000 activity types.

Also, you can browse all the activities in ChEMBL by visiting this url:

You can see the distribution of the activities by type in the filters on the left.

Is there a list of all the Target Types in ChEMBL?

Similarly to the previous question, you can get a list of the different target types by sending a query to our elasticsearch server:

curl -XGET "" -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d'
"size": 0,
"query": {
"query_string": {
"query": "*",
"analyze_wildcard": true
"_source": {
"excludes": []
"aggs": {
"2": {
"terms": {
"field": "target_type",
"size": 1000000,
"order": {
"_count": "desc"

What literature coverage is there in ChEMBL?

Data are routinely extracted from seven core journals:

However, we also have data from selected articles in more than 200 journals including Antimicrob Agents Chemother, Med Chem Res and Drug Metab Dispos. ChEMBL currently contains data from more than 65,000 journal articles, and we also now include data from selected patents.

How are the SMILES and InChI created for ChEMBL?

The canonical SMILES are calculated using Accelrys's Pipeline Pilot using an algorithm that belongs to Accelrys but it was derived from Daylight's algorithm ( The standard InChI is calculated using the command line InChI generator and was developed by the InChI Trust ( and is executed via the command line. The version of InChI used in ChEMBL is 1.05

How is the LogP calculated?

The LogP, and other compound properties are calculated according to the following document: Property_Definitions. Please note, we are now using RDKit to calculate many of these properties.

How can I be informed of updates in ChEMBL?

You can sign up to our ChEMBL Announce mailing list (, where you will be kept up to date with all new releases and changes to the database.

Which sub-set of the PubChem Bioassay data has been integrated into ChEMBL?

In PubChem, depositors may assign multiple result types to an assay. However, if an assay is deposited as a 'confirmatory' assay (defined as an assay where a range of SID concentrations have been tested, with a view to determining a measurement of potency), then one of the result types must be marked up as an 'Active Concentration' (AC) result type. Panel assays may contain many 'AC' result types, one per panel member. The AC result type is the calculated potency measurement from the data, and is typically an IC50, EC50, AC50, GI50 or Ki. In addition, the PubChem deposition process requires that each SID in an assay must be assigned a single 'Activity Summary', from a controlled vocabulary which includes 'inactive', 'active' and 'inconclusive'. Only assays containing 'AC' result types have been integrated into ChEMBL, and from these assays, only activity data and SIDs associated with 'AC' result types have been integrated. The 'Activity Summary' field in PubChem associated with each integrated activity is also captured and shown in the 'Activity Comment' field in ChEMBL. Panel assays are divided into separate assays in ChEMBL, one ChEMBL assay for each panel member. A number of additional assays which do not match the above criteria, have also been included in the PubChem integration. These have been chosen individually, on the basis that they have been specifically requested to be included by ChEMBL users. These are: AID1, AID3, AID5, AID7, AID9, AID11, AID13, AID15, AID17, AID19, AID21, AID23, AID25, AID27, AID29, AID31, AID33, AID35, AID37, AID39, AID41, AID43, AID45, AID47, AID49, AID51, AID53, AID55, AID57, AID59, AID61, AID63, AID65, AID67, AID69, AID71, AID73, AID75, AID77, AID79, AID81, AID83, AID85, AID87, AID89, AID91, AID93, AID95, AID97, AID99, AID101, AID103, AID105, AID107, AID109, AID111, AID113, AID115, AID117, AID119, AID121, AID123, AID125, AID127, AID129, AID131, AID133, AID135, AID137, AID139, AID141, AID143, AID145, AID1851 and AID493040. A number of assays have been excluded since they contain data already present in ChEMBL. These assays include all ChEMBL-derived assays, and AID1433 (A data set that has been manually added to ChEMBL). An automatic 'standardization' of SID structures downloaded from PubChem is carried out prior to integration (using in house protocols). Standard inchis are generated from the standardized mol files, and used to normalize with existing ChEMBL structures. SIDs matching exactly on standard inchi to existing ChEMBL structures are assigned to the existing CHEMBLID (and the mol file already associated with the existing ChEMBL structure is used to represent the searchable structure for this CHEMBLID). Where no match to a standard inchi is achieved, the incoming SID is assigned to a new CHEMBLID, and the standardized mol file for the SID is used to represent the searchable structure. A very small number of SIDs (<0.1%) with standardized mol files that fail to produce valid standard inchis, or to load into a oracle symyx cartridge without errors, are each assigned a new CHEMBLID, and associated with a 'null' structure (ie: no mol file is associated with this new CHEMBLID). Mappings to ChEMBL targets for each integrated PubChem assay has been automated for the initial load. However, manual review of these mappings by expert curators may result in ongoing changes. Users who prefer to exclude the integrated PubChem data (or any other integrated external data set) from their ChEMBL web-interface searches can do so by clicking 'Activity Source Filter' next to the main ChEMBL search bar, and deselecting the sources not required in future searches. Note, however, that these deselections persist between browser sessions. Users querying ChEMBL database dumps directly using SQL, and wishing to achieve this same filtering, should inspect the 'source' table, and the foreign keys to this table in the 'assays' and 'compound_records' tables.

What is the difference between ChEMBLdb, Malaria Data, ChEMBL-NTD and Kinase SARfari?

ChEMBLdb is a database of bioactive drug-like small molecules, it contains 2-D structures, calculated properties (e.g. logP, Molecular Weight, Lipinski Parameters, etc.) and abstracted bioactivities (e.g. binding constants, pharmacology and ADMET data). We attempt to normalise the bioactivities into a uniform set of end-points and units where possible, and also to tag the links between a molecular target and a published assay with a set of varying confidence levels. The data is abstracted and curated from the primary scientific literature, and cover a significant fraction of the SAR and discovery of modern drugs.

Malaria Data provides a service to access to hundreds of thousands of data points on malaria-related compounds, assays and targets, thus facilitating research for this neglected tropical disease. Inspired by the successful ChEMBL interface, a user may query the database using keywords, synonyms, chemical structures or protein sequences, review and filter the hits using tables or charts and then download the resulting subset.

ChEMBL-NTD[ is a repository for Open Access primary screening and medicinal chemistry data directed at neglected diseases - endemic tropical diseases of the developing regions of the Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The primary purpose of ChEMBL-NTD is to provide a freely accessible and permanent archive and distribution centre for deposited data. ChEMBL-NTD is a subset of the data in the free medicinal chemistry and drug discovery database ChEMBLdb.

Kinase SARfari is an integrated chemogenomics workbench focused on Kinases. The system incorporates and links Kinase sequence, structure, compounds and screening data. It is both biology and chemistry aware and provides a central resource for Protein Kinase knowledge.

What data sources are stored in ChEMBLdb?

ChEMBL consists of data from a wide variety of data sources including scientific literature and patents, deposited data sets, PubChem BioAssay and BindingDB databases, toxicology data sets and drug/clinical candidate resources. The current list of sources is:

  1. Scientific Literature

  2. GSK Malaria Screening

  3. Novartis Malaria Screening

  4. St Jude Malaria Screening

  5. Sanger Institute Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer

  6. PubChem BioAssays

  7. Clinical Candidates

  8. Orange Book

  9. Open TG-GATEs

  10. Manually Added Drugs

  11. USP Dictionary of USAN and International Drug Names

  12. Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi)

  13. DrugMatrix

  14. GSK Published Kinase Inhibitor Set

  15. MMV Malaria Box

  16. TP-search Transporter Database

  17. Harvard Malaria Screening

  18. WHO-TDR Malaria Screening

  19. Deposited Supplementary Bioactivity Data

  20. GSK Tuberculosis Screening

  21. Open Source Malaria Screening

  22. External Project Compounds

  23. Gene Expression Atlas Compounds

  24. AstraZeneca Deposited Data

  25. FDA Approval Packages

  26. GSK Kinetoplastid Screening

  27. K4DD Project

  28. Curated Drug Metabolism Pathways

  29. St Jude Leishmania Screening

  30. Gates Library compound collection

  31. MMV Pathogen Box

  32. HeCaToS Compounds

  33. Withdrawn Drugs

  34. BindingDB Database

  35. Patent Bioactivity Data

  36. Curated Drug Pharmacokinetic Data

  37. CO-ADD antimicrobial screening data

  38. WHO Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification

  39. British National Formulary

  40. Published Kinase Inhibitor Set 2

Can you provide some details on how ChEMBL compound properties (e.g. LogP, MW, PSA,..) are calculated?

Yes, please refer to the following document: Property_Definitions. Please note, we are now using RDKit to calculate many of these properties.

What is pChEMBL?

In addition to the conversion of published activity types/values/units to standard activity types/values/units, we have now added an additional field called pChEMBL to the Activities table. This value allows a number of roughly comparable measures of half-maximal response concentration/potency/affinity to be compared on a negative logarithmic scale. For example, an IC50 measurement of 1nM would have a pChEMBL value of 9. pChEMBL is defined as: -Log(molar IC50, XC50, EC50, AC50, Ki, Kd or Potency).

What is the Data Validity column?

The Data Validity column has been added to the interface and to the database (as column data_validity_comment) to flag activity values that are outside a range typical for that activity type, or even for potentially missing data. For example, an IC50 of 23000000nM would be flagged as Outside Typical Range. The use of the flag will allow users to decide whether or not to retain those values in their results set after running a search on the interface or using the downloaded database. The flags currently in use in this field are:

  • Potential missing data

  • Potential author error

  • Manually validated

  • Potential transcription error

  • Outside typical range

  • Non standard unit for type

  • Author confirmed error

Can you provide more details on the removal of Metal-Containing compounds?

The molfiles and images of a proportion of metal-containing compounds we removed from the ChEMBL interface and downloads set in ChEMBL_17. This was partially due to some of these compounds having coordinated metal bonds. As InChI limitations are such that these coordinate bonds could not generate a Standard InChI, our main compound indicator of uniqueness in ChEMBL, it was decided to exclude the structures altogether.

The compound image on the interface was replaced with an icon that shows it is a metal-containing compound and the molfiles were removed from the download set on the FTP site. We will retain the molecular formula in both the download files and on the ChEMBL interface, so that the elemental make up of the compound is visible. This change does not affect the storage or display of the associated bioactivity data for these compounds.

Can you provide more details on bioactivity data standardisation?

In addition to the conversion of published activity types/values/units to standard activity types/values/units, described in previous releases, a number of further enhancements have been made to the data in the activities table:

  1. Conversion of log/-log values to nM concentrations. For example pIC50 and log Ki have been converted to IC50 and Ki values.

  2. Rounding of standard values to three significant figures (or 2 decimal places for values > 10)

  3. Flagging of data with possible errors (using the data_validity_comment field), such as unusual units for the activity type, or very large/small numbers.

  4. Identification of potential duplicate values - where an activity measurement is likely to be a repeat citation of an earlier measurement, rather than an independent measurement (flagged using the potential_duplicate column).

An additional table (ACTIVITY_STDS_LOOKUP) has been included in this release, which contains details of the standard_types that have been standardised, their permitted standard_units, and acceptable value ranges.

Can you provide more details on how to detect potentially duplicated data?

We detected and flagged duplicated activity entries and potential transcription errors in activity records that come from publications. The former are records with identical compound, target, activity, type and unit values that were most likely reported as citations of measurements from previous papers, even when these measurements were subsequently rounded. The latter cases consist of otherwise identical entries whose activity values differ by exactly 3 or 6 orders of magnitude indicating a likely error in the units (e.g. uM instead of nM).