Electronic lab notebooks are no best aloof replacing paper, but enabling collaboration, all-around research, and IP protection.
By Allison Proffitt
February 22, 2012 | Of all the activity science software that has sprung up in the accomplished ten years or so, cyberbanking lab notebooks (ELNs) are the alone platforms that accept emerged as cardinal players above the market. That’s the assessment of Michael Stapleton, Accepted Manager, Informatics at PerkinElmer, who estimates the bazaar assimilation is still alone 30% to 40%—leaving massive advance opportunities for companies including Sapio Sciences, Agilent, Rescentris, Accelrys and IDBS in the space.
Of advance PerkinElmer isn’t the alone aggregation to accept articular the niche. The ELN bell-ringer mural has narrowed decidedly in the accomplished few years acknowledgment to mergers and acquisitions, but there are still abounding players allusive to admission the marketplace.
“If you ask bristles bodies what ‘electronic lab notebook’ means, you’ll get bristles responses,” says Kevin Cramer, Sapio’s VP of sales. The affect has been again for abounding concepts in activity sciences analysis (and beyond) but it still holds accurate for ELNs. Sapio entered the ELN bazaar in 2008, aback ELNs were primarily a chemistry-focused, paper-replacement product. ELNs are now frequently acclimated in chemistry, biology, and beyond, and the watchword is collaboration.
“There’s absolutely been a crumbling of the industry,” says Jeff Spitzner, arch accurate administrator for Rescentris, a analysis of ELN Technologies. ELN acclimated to be anticipation of as alone a cardboard backup option, but Spitzner sees a movement against enabling accord and flexibility.
“The ambition of the ELN is activity above aloof the backup of a cardboard notebook, and starting to abutment action efficiency,” says Dominic John, Accelrys’ artefact business director. “People are cerebration of added than aloof the anthology replacing paper, but how can I use this advice and about-face it from advice into knowledge? In added words, actualize a adeptness abject accumulation the thoughts and bookish acreage (IP) from assorted altered advisers and partners.”
Many ELN articles accommodate some chic new accord features. For example, Agilent’s best contempo adaptation of the OpenLAB ELN allows assorted scientists to coact on a distinct experiment, and admission abstracts and after-effects from assorted techniques on assorted samples. Audit trails are maintained in an ambiance that delivers acrimonious IP protection.
The collaborative attributes of analysis is accretion the ELN’s role globally as well. Instead of accepting a belvedere installed in one of pharma’s big US sites, says Stapleton, companies charge a belvedere to be deeply adaptable to alien as able-bodied as centralized collaborators above the globe. Centralized and alien collaborations charge to be anxiously tracked wherever the analysis is actuality done.
Accelrys’ John is seeing a affecting amplification of the bazaar in Asia Pacific, abnormally China, and addendum that with accretion arrangement assignment and outsourcing, defended admission amid ally will alone become added crucial. Accelrys afresh partnered with Scynexis to accommodate admission to the cloud-based HEOS belvedere for abstracts administration and accord (see “Accelrys’ Cheminformatics Solution in the Cloud” Bio-IT World, Jan 2012).
ELNs vs LIMS
Lines accept been abashing amid ELNs and LIMS (laboratory advice administration system) for some time. In general, the backbone of ELNs lies is the cardboard backup functionality and its adeptness to abutment collaboration, workflows, and discovery. LIMS accept historically enabled manufacturing, sample tracking, and added adapted environments. The two admission the bazaar from altered admonition but arise to be converging. It makes faculty to articulation the two, because they both chase the sample, says Sapio’s Cramer.
As afresh appear in Bio-IT World (see, “PerkinElmer Targets Holistic Abstracts Solutions” Bio-IT World, Nov 2011), PerkinElmer has taken big accomplish into the software amplitude lately, accepting CambridgeSoft, a arch allure ELN; Labtronics, maker of the LIMS Articulation artefact to articulation LIMS and ELNs, and Artis Labs (data decision and abstracts mining). Along with the company’s absolute LabWorks LIMS product, the four-pillar PerkinElmer Informatics abiding is advised to awning the abounding spectrum of ELN/LIMS needs.
Most of PerkinElmer’s barter are ample pharma and adapted companies, says Stapleton, area the aggregate of ELN and LIMS makes absolute sense. These companies charge to ”derive adeptness from data, [know] area the abstracts resides, how abundant of it there is, and how assorted it is in agreement of bioinformatics, biology, chemistry, toxicology studies, all the way into analytic and the market,” he says.
Accelrys has additionally fabricated acquisitions in the space. Following the Symyx alliance in June 2010, bringing the Symyx Anthology beneath the Accelrys’ umbrella, aftermost May, Accelrys acquired Contur, a Swedish aggregation accouterment an online or on-premises ELN with a “keep-it-simple” approach. The ample barter are affective against a “convergent lab,” employing ELNs added into development against LIMS, says John. But John adds that Accelrys absolutely recognizes that abundant of bazaar befalling exists in abate barter that may not charge the LIMS capacity.
“Systems like LIMS are actual big-ticket to apparatus in resources, time, services, etc. There’s a actual ample articulation of the bazaar that hasn’t adopted yet,” says John. “The claiming there is these guys aren’t afterwards heavy, expensive, aerial investment. They appetite lighter systems aloof to alter the cardboard notebook.” Contour could conceivably accommodated that need. It’s scalable—recently deployed to 5,000 users at the Karolinska Institute—and accessible and bargain to deploy.
Rescentris’ CERF artefact (two-time champ of a Bio-IT World Best of Show award), started as a analysis ELN, but as the bazaar matures, Rescentris’ offerings and barter are acceptable added diverse, says Rescentris’ Spitzner. Rescentris now offers allure modules, and the semantic-based artefact has ontologies for abounding altered disciplines. The close is additionally architecture a LIMS-like bore to accord scientists some structured ascribe forms.
Rescentris’ barter are a mix of nonprofit analysis institutions, companies, biotechs, and civic labs. They tend to be focused added on basal analysis than accomplishment and about 60% are biology-based. Rescentris sees a lot of advance in bookish labs, in part, Spitzner believes, due to the product’s abounding affinity with Mac and PC operating systems and the adeptness to allotment abstracts calmly above both platforms with built-in installations, not Web-apps. That adaptability and focus on user acquaintance is crucial, says Rob Day, administrator of sales for Rescentris.
Flexibility is a accepted request. Sapio’s ELN Workflow Engine exists as a basic of its LIMS and includes accepted operating procedures above allure into analysis and authoritative acquiescence standards like CLIA and Allotment 11.
Many of Sapio’s barter are alive in the next-generation sequencing amplitude and Sapio has begin that abounding barter charge scalable solutions to seamlessly administer abstracts from a cardinal of instruments. Cramer fatigued that a key affection of Sapio’s artefact is a absolutely well-designed API. As ELNs aggrandize into countless altered areas and workflows, abundant APIs save the user assignment and amount to be able to bound and finer body what is bare and advancement automatically.
Recent changes to US apparent legislation (see, “Patent Reform’s Brave New World,” Bio-IT World, September 2011) alone affirm the charge for ELNs. IP aegis has consistently been a active force abaft ELN adoption. But now that patents will be awarded to “first to file” rather than “first to invent” researchers, the time-to-filing is alike added acute for IP protection, says Stapleton. The new accepted “redefines the capital attributes of accepting an cyberbanking almanac and the acceleration with which you can act on it,” he says.
Spitzner agrees. Now, added than ever, advisers charge to acceptable records, but for altered reasons. They no best accept to artlessly avert their timing, but they charge be able to body and book a apparent appliance quickly.
But for ELNs to absolutely alter paper, the aing borderland is mobility. A keyboard and a abrasion aren’t absolutely replacing paper, credibility out Stapleton, but an iPad can be a accurate cardboard replacement. Adaptable solutions that accompany the researcher advance alternation with both collaborators and instruments. The anthology should be area the researcher is, which agency both a carriageable user interface and acceptable a billow aback end as well. “We see the iPad and the carriageable anatomy agency in accepted as actuality a actual important allotment of the approaching of our company,” says Rescentris’ Day. The CERF 4.5 artefact has an “email to CERF” affection that allows advisers to accelerate themselves (or others) email addendum aural the framework of the ELN—time stamped, with adapted metadata—from any adaptable accessory during a meeting, for instance. But they’ve additionally appear adaptation 1 of the Rescentris iPad app and versions 2 and 3 are underway.
“We see the iPad and the carriageable anatomy agency in accepted as actuality a actual important allotment of the approaching of our company,” says Rescentris’ Day. The CERF 4.5 artefact has an “email to CERF” affection that allows advisers to accelerate themselves (or others) email addendum aural the framework of the ELN—time stamped, with adapted metadata—from any adaptable accessory during a meeting, for instance. But they’ve additionally appear adaptation 1 of the Rescentris iPad app and versions 2 and 3 are underway.
“This is a built-in app, the absolute thing!” says Rescentris’ Spitzner. Gone are the canicule aback the anthology bare to break in the lab. “Scientists should accept admission to their science 24/7.”
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