June 22, 2009
By Whitney Sommers
In the world of the research lab, applications such as LIMS fulfill a key role in collecting and organizing data. Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) can extend the value of LIMS by applying the context of experimentation to the measurement process. ELNs also address the gap between LIMS and Project Management for R&D, while at the same time being a Knowledge Management (KM) tool that doesn't require additional installation or training.
Advances in software have been helping to optimize productivity and improve efficiency in research laboratories for many years, but the pace seems to be increasing exponentially as research tasks become more complex. Those areas where tasks are still being performed manually have been disappearing as new solutions make it easier and faster to do the work electronically.
For instance, ELNs are replacing the paper lab notebooks used on the front end of research tasks. They dramatically improve the effectiveness of laboratories and their ability to share knowledge and enhance collaboration to provide great benefit to scientists. One such company, Core Informatics, is in the process of releasing its ELN component to its Core LIMS product. Being touted as one of the first LIMS vendors to offer a single platform for both needs, Core Informatics designed its Core LIMS product with customization in mind from the outset, another key differentiator from other LIMS solutions.
Core sees the importance in interviewing the key players in the lab, management and IT to identify the needs of each group, prior to even delivering a price quote. Additionally as part of these interviews, they document every lab’s workflows and determine if and where customizations to the Core LIMS are required to meet the individual needs of the scientists, which extends the value of the LIMS solution. The company’s new ELN product that will launch as an extension to Core Informatics vision, is designed to significantly increase productivity while making it easier to comply with the myriad of increasingly numerous and complex regulations.
For instance, researchers will now be unchained from their desks and granted the freedoms that come with generating and capturing data as it happens. With the cost of developing a single drug running more than $1 million per day, the ability to bring efficiency to research is critical to the market.
Organizations that have deployed the Core LIMS solution have the hardware and much of the services in place, so that they only need to add the ELN component to the existing information management infrastructure to leverage the benefits. It presents an easy, scalable way to potentially save days in the R&D process.
Another company that taking a different approach with ELN systems is Contur Software, which launched this June its high-end electronic laboratory notebook system as an online service. The service, called iLabber, builds on the company's server-based ELN solution called ConturELN. However, iLabber does not require users to invest in any hardware, licenses or maintenance. Using a software as a service (SaaS) model, Contur Software is making iLabber available to single researchers and smaller research groups that previously have not been able to utilize the advantages of high-end ELN systems to increase the productivity of the research process.
For thing that is for sure is that ELNs are radically improving the effectiveness of laboratory operations because these innovative tools provide new approaches to knowledge management, collaboration, and data integration. However, as always, there is a caveat, and that is that the researcher needs to take time to investigate the offerings available to select the one that is the best fit for their lab.