Deploying Laboratory Information Management Systems
Advances in recent years mean laboratory professionals have an ever increasing number of ways to store and view their data. However, this is little use if this information cannot be used to provide real operation and research and development benefits.
The labs of the future will require systems which are "sophisticated, fast, easy-to-use and most importantly interoperable", according to a recent report from Kalorama Information, entitled Laboratory Information Systems (LIS/LIMS) Markets.
It stated more than two-thirds of labs currently operate with less than half of their instruments connected to a laboratory information system (LIS), but these will have to adopt the technology and utilise the data it produces if they are to remain as players in the industry.
Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information, said: "The vendors with a long-term view are developing a next-generation of LIS that will meet the needs that even many of today's systems cannot provide."
Advancements in laboratory information management
The market for LIS reached $800 million (£495 million) in 2010 and as the requirement for systems which allow for better management increases, it is likely this figure will too.
"Clinical lab information systems will need to offer features such as an interface with electronic charting, EMRs, real-time data integration, reporting, analytics and data visualisation," Bruce Carlson from Kalorama Information said.
Among those taking the step to install laboratory information management systems (LIMS) is the Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics, which last year signed a deal with GenoLogics.
Dr. Peter Wilson, executive officer at the centre, said: "Efficiently managing and tracking sample data in our lab is critical to the success of our research."
"We need to know where our samples are at every step of the workflow and our team needs to be able to access the history of the sample at any stage," he added, naming the key capabilities for decision making within the lab.
GenoLogics claim such a system is essential for next-generation sequencing labs, which generate "terabytes of data on a weekly basis."
bioMerieux, meanwhile, has developed an LIMS specifically intended to address key capabilities in microbiology labs, which is designed to "recapture the time spent on information retrieving and reporting activities."
Chief executive officer Stephane Bancel said the system allows for "significantly improving operational efficiency and making the most relevant information readily available to clinicians so they can take action rapidly."
Ocimum has also been working on its LIMS for biorepositiories, launching its Biotracker for Biobanking product as a software-as-a-service application, allowing centres to deploy the solution without investing in any additional IT infrastructure.
Adapting to new innovations
The needs of the Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics are shared by next-generation genomics labs across the world, and this is one area where developments in LIMS are likely to take place.
GenoLogics, which provided the software for the Australian facility, recently announced the launch of its G Rapid Scripting Application Programming Interface for bioinformaticians, which it claims will better permit labs to adapt seamlessly to next-generation technology "without relying on the LIMS vendor."
The Rapid Script system is said to allow for integration with both current and future LIS, while optimising workflows and ensuring samples can be easily tracked.
Johanna Swanson, scientific programmer at the Northwest Genomics Center - University of Washington, said the technology was "critical" when the facility's lab was scaled up.
"The nice thing about the Geneus system and the Rapid Scripting API is that they allowed us to respond and adapt quite easily so if someone changes a step in a process, we can pull it out, reconfigure another one and put it back in place.
"We don't have to rework the entire workflow, or spend time struggling to figure out how we're going to re-engineer a hard coded LIMS system," she said.
The system uses Representational State Transfer, which GenoLogics claims is the "latest and most robust technology for web-enabled scientific scripting."