Musings on the Connected Lab

An Analyst’s Perspective

The Digital Lab. The Connected Lab. Lab of the Future, Next-Gen Lab, Pharma 4.0.  We could make a word cloud of these and other phrases that signify the same thing: a means to modernize labs and eliminate the data silos that continue to plague our industry and inhibit us from bringing therapeutics and medical devices to market efficiently. 

The Solution?

An end-to-end value network that improves access to data, enhances visibility, the ability to search, and that unlocks the untapped potential to collaborate, share knowledge, and apply analytics such as AI and ML using modern digital platforms.  

These aspirations were the prevalent topics at the Lab of the Future (LOTF) Congress in Boston on March 11 and 12th. Several companies presented case studies showing pockets of success, but with the caveat that these efforts were primarily limited to individual departments and a sampling of very specific use cases. Some technology providers presented their ambitions to be more data- and API-centric in their offerings. Collaboration and connectivity were common themes, but it was also clear that the audience was hungry for more tangible evidence that the digital solutions being discussed would work within their existing heterogeneous, legacy ecosystems and that they would be scalable and sustainable.

Upskilling the Workforce

The need to upskill the lab workforce was another resounding theme at the LOTF Congress. Many presenters advocated the need for training across disciplines within their companies, sparking lively discussions with the audience.  Ideally, scientists and technicians would be well-versed not just in biology and chemistry, but also in data science. The same applies to data scientists and engineers who should understand basic biology and chemistry to be able to fully comprehend the challenges and the team’s needs for downstream data analysis and interpretation.  This cross-functional understanding should permeate the organization, from the bench to the top management of the organization, something that is missing today. 

Improving Communication and Understanding

Having a common language to describe problems can significantly improve communication and understanding and accelerate the identification of solutions. In turn, eliminating data silos will provide visibility across stakeholders and lead to more efficient and practical solutions as well as foster more sustainable knowledge management. Some organizations are enabling this kind of upskilling by developing “data citizens,” treating data as an asset.  However, it was clear that there is still a long way to go before this approach becomes widespread. 

Digitally Transforming the Lab

Many discussed the irony that we can order a new home appliance online and track every step in its journey to our door, yet the Life Sciences industry hasn’t made the investments needed to effectively apply the same digital technologies to the drug development space. Making digital tools easier to use, implement and integrate all contribute to the faster realization of the connected lab. This approach demands that technology providers collaborate in ways they haven’t in the past.  It calls for a new ecosystem approach with clever business models that allow everyone to succeed. One shift we are seeing is the morphing of LIMS, ELN and LES into more extensible platforms.  While there is the potential for territorialism to rear its head, getting in the way of progress, the mavericks in this space have no tolerance for this mentality. 

    In Conclusion

    At Axendia we see new and established companies embracing this approach and answering the call. What we hear from a growing number of technology providers is that in today’s complex and heterogeneous lab environment, no single vendor can go at it alone to solve every problem.  Instead, we need the ecosystem to work together. 

    Fresh thinking is critical in moving the industry forward, and when this unfolds, knowing that the end goal of getting medicines to market faster is happening to improve patient outcomes, perhaps we can all celebrate together?

    Join the conversation and let us know what you think.  Click on this link to schedule an Analyst Inquiry on this topic.

    The opinions and analysis expressed in this post reflect the judgment of Axendia at the time of publication and are subject to change without notice. Information contained in this post is current as of publication date. Information cited is not warranted by Axendia but has been obtained through a valid research methodology. This post is not intended to endorse any company or product and should not be attributed as such.

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