When we think of labs of the times of Marie Curie or Louis Pasteur we might have an image in our minds that includes wooden furniture, glass devices– and paper lab notebooks. It feels so far away from what we see in labs today. We can choose between stainless steel, ceramics or different polymer-based furniture. Labs are equipped with advanced electronic equipment that is developed for very specific analytical or synthesis purposes and that comes along with sophisticated software for data processing and result calculation. For the recording of observations and results, we avoid paper by using a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).
However, does LIMS sometimes not feel old fashioned too?
Pioneered in 1982, LIMS was the first electronic solution to support laboratories in terms of documentation and regulatory compliance. Since then these systems have been further developed, leveraging relational databases, a client/server architecture, web enablement, wireless networking etc. In addition, many application-specific functionalities have been added for things like stability studies, environmental monitoring or batch release. While this is a significant development, a monolithic solution with bespoke interfaces is not what we are used to anymore. Privately we are using apps on smartphones or tablets with intuitive user interfaces. We are connected everywhere at all times. We manage the lights, the music and more in our homes through voice control and we automatically get real-time information tailored to our interests wherever we are. Stepping into the lab feels like going backwards in time.
The Reason for Change
Younger generations expect technology in their work environment to reflect their experiences at home. Working with non-intuitive solutions and not being able access all relevant data does not come naturally to them. A traditional LIMS does not allow scientists to work in an agile way, accessing all relevant information through one single interface. User might need to do some “app-hopping”, moving from application to application to get to the information they need, and the lack of data access will hinder collaboration. With bespoke connections to different solutions, redundant functionalities abound and are confusing. Users require time-consuming training (and retraining!), and the overall experience will not be motivating. To attract and retain skilled tech-savvy staff labs must provide a more modern, agile and consistent way of working.
Besides improving the human experience, labs will also improve productivity and compliance by moving away from the traditional large monolithic LIMS. While they might have all the capabilities and sometimes even a nice User Interface, it is not comprehensive enough to provide all information. This makes access and transfer of data cumbersome and time consuming. Ensuring data integrity requires validation of the bespoke interfaces and revalidation with every new software version.
The technology to move from a “grandfather’s lab” with a traditional LIMS to a modern inspiring lab environment is here today. BIOVIA is connecting workflows, data and people by providing comprehensive cloud-based laboratory informatics capabilities on the open and connected 3DEXPERIENCE platform. These capabilities are provided by role-centric agile applications that have the deep functionalities needed in the lab. They are connected through the platform, easily deployed, maintained and adapted to current needs.
This fundamentally changes the way how users are working digitally in the lab. It provides a consistent, cohesive and non-redundant user experience for different lab processes, like batch release, the development of analytical methods, the development of small molecules, biologics of drug product as well as complex stability studies or environmental monitoring.
Users can access all information through a single system, saving time in data transfer as point integrations still might require some user interaction. Users get experiment-relevant information displayed while typing, like a list of chemical substances available in the materials inventory or the available fit-for-use instruments. Access and exchange of real-time data in the cloud makes collaboration easier and more effective.
A truly connected platform-based lab environment makes labs more productive and provides a single source of truth with full traceability and integrity of all data, and consequently contributes to regulatory compliance. While these goals are possible to achieve with traditional lab informatics environments, legacy solutions are much more cumbersome and require more resources, efforts and control to attain these goals.
The alternative to “your grandfathers lab” is a connected unified lab that delivers you a user experience like at home – and that allows you to work the same way, whether in the lab or at home.