Embracing the Digital Revolution in the Lab

Waters Briefing Note

Axendia was recently briefed by David Leitham, Vice President, Tony Sacchetti, Senior Director, and Trish Meek, Senior Director, Cloud Portfolio, at WatersTM Corporation. Fragmented and inaccessible data is an ongoing problem that hinders the Life Sciences industry from realizing the vision of the ‘Connected Lab.’ Waters’ mission to help the industry consolidate and access disparate data more easily and consistently led to the recent formation of the Waters Connected Science division, which Leitham leads. Waters is a familiar name in LC and MS instrumentation, sample preparation and separations chemistries, but innovations in informatics have become increasingly critical for the company as the industry strives towards realizing more automated and robust laboratory workflows. 

Radical Simplicity

The concept of ‘data as an asset’ has been circulating across industries for quite some time, but it is becoming more prevalent in the Life Sciences as the industry strives towards greater efficiencies and bringing medicines to market more quickly. As an informatics company, Waters believes they have a strong role to play in supporting the Life Sciences industry. Leitham states, “This starts with enabling our customers to better use their data in support of their digital aspirations. These aspirations are very similar in every company we talk to, whether they’re in the process of pulling together data lakes or just getting started on their journey. Data science is a pivotal piece of their digital strategy, and FAIR [Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable] data is key to their digital transformation.”  

Source: Waters

We continue to hear from the industry that the missing pieces of current digital offerings for the lab are ease of connectivity and integration between and amongst existing legacy systems. To that end, Waters is striving for what Leitham describes as “radical simplicity” in helping their customers get the answers they’re looking for with better, faster, more efficient access to data. “We want everything to be simple – everything the customer touches,” says Leitham. “Whether it’s how they implement the system or how they execute – we want everything to be as simple and as fit-for-purpose as possible. This includes facilitating compliance – we want it to be as intrinsic as possible. This is our focus.”

The Shift to the Cloud

In recent years, we have seen a shift in the Life Sciences industry’s perception of the cloud, with an attenuation of distrust and fear and an uptick in its adoption. The reasons are varied, but some motivations for the implementation of cloud and SaaS offerings include the reduced burden on IT infrastructure and the corresponding increase in visibility and accessibility of the data along with fostering more opportunities for collaboration. 

Available technologies are also maturing. As a provider of SaaS software solutions, Leitham recognizes this, stating, “The need for the industry to modernize is long overdue. There is a need for more agility as laboratories evolve, there is a desire for more automation – not only digital automation, but actual physical automation – to remove as much human intervention as possible, which not only reduces human error, but it also makes everything that much more reproducible.” Leitham continues, “Right off the bat, with the formation of the Connected Science division, we got to work developing a cloud ecosystem. We’re delivering cloud-based SaaS capabilities and making those capabilities easily connectable.” 

Source: Waters

One specific problem that hinders laboratories’ efficiencies is the lack of seamless asset management. Leitham marvels at the reality of how lab work is still being planned and scheduled: “You think of all the great research going on, and you walk into a lab, and they’re organizing the use of their instruments with whiteboards. We want to eliminate the whiteboard!” 

Launched in early 2023, the waters_connectTM System Monitoring Software is a cloud-native SaaS offering that remotely monitors any Empower software-controlled chromatography system and will soon be expanded to include monitoring of waters_connect-controlled MS systems. Geared to improving asset utilization and lab productivity, real-time dashboards enable remote viewing of system status, notifications of status changes, detailed tracking of system history and performance, and easy scheduling of instrument runs and maintenance. This functionality addresses the need to prevent lost batches and minimize unplanned downtime, instances of which can chip away at a company’s profits.

Fitting into the Lab Digital Ecosystem

Every lab has a wealth of experimental data being generated using a variety of instrumentation, and this landscape has become increasingly complex with the advent of newer therapeutic modalities. Bringing data together to inform better decision-making is crucial, and it starts with eliminating the data silos that result. 

Source: Waters

Waters entered into a partnership with Scitara to address this need, which plays into one of Waters’ tenets that they alone cannot deliver every software the industry needs. “We are committed to enabling customers to accelerate science through a connected ecosystem of solutions that harnesses the power of data,” says Leitham, and this is the growing sentiment that Axendia continues to hear from the broader industry as well – that vendors must work together for the greater good. Fitting into the digital ecosystem is the way forward. Although there is a gravitation towards platform solutions, flexibility will remain an expectation so that, as Leitham puts it, “Companies aren’t constrained – they can still choose which ‘best of breed’ application they want to implement.” Monolithic or single vendor platforms will not be the answer.

Getting Buy-In Across the Organization

The inability to overcome cultural inertia continues to be one of the main reasons that digital transformation initiatives fail. As part of any digital strategy, there will always be technical challenges to overcome, but misalignment of goals and priorities across departments have a devastating effect. 

In a recent post on the Connected Lab, Axendia discussed the need to bridge the divide between departments by training across disciplines so that people have a better understanding of each other’s challenges and goals and can carve out a common language. For technology providers, it is just as important that the selling points of their solutions appeal to different roles and functions within an organization.  The likelihood of collective buy-in increases dramatically when each persona has a tangible grasp on what’s in it for them.

Waters’ approach in evolving their Empower Chromatography Data System Software is to innovate while also delivering incremental value to multiple personas in the organization. 

Source: Waters

As Meek states, “For lab software, there isn’t just one end user that derives value. It’s the scientist, but it’s also the lab manager. It’s about the data and the potential for meaningful insights that can be obtained through predictive and prescriptive analytics. This is where the data sciences teams come into the picture. All the while, we’re keeping the company’s larger ambitions in mind, and being able to deliver longer term value that ties to the corporate vision.”

In Brief

The fragmented digital ecosystem of the Life Science laboratory is a reality that has contributed to the inherent difficulty in making data more accessible. We see strong evidence that both new and legacy technology providers are leaning into the industry’s need for increased flexibility and ease of connectivity and integration. The industry is also eager to get more insight out of the vast amounts of data to make more informed decisions and improve efficiencies. Waters has a long history within the regulated pharmaceutical sector, and their vision to drive radical simplicity and transition to cloud-based solutions, coupled with system enhancements and their collaborative approach with partners to integrate into the laboratory digital ecosystem underscores their commitment to the industry’s digital revolution in the lab. 

We will continue to provide updates on Waters as they become available.

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    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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