The Global Electronic Laboratory Notebooks Forecast 2012

Pharma IQ



What Does The Future Hold For Electronic Lab Notebooks In 2012?

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By 2017, the global market for electronic laboratory notebooks (ELN) is poised to reach $284 million (£183 million).

Indeed, the market has already seen significant growth over the past few years, making it one of the fastest growing segments of the industry, according to a Global Industry Analysts (GIA) report.

The life sciences industry has been responsible for a large proportion of this growth, but ELNs are also increasingly being used outside medical research, in fields including analytical chemistry.

Regionally, the United States presents the largest market, but growth here is being driven by the same factors encouraging growth across the globe and indeed across the entire scientific community.

The need for efficiencies in the R&D process, an emphasis on intellectual property protection and the need for greater integration between labs is encouraging the adoption of ELNs, which are rapidly becoming the Swiss army knives of laboratory informatics.

If further proof of the future growth potential of ELNS is needed, then the M&A activity taking place in the sector should provide it. PerkinElmer's acquired both CambridgeSoft and ArtusLabs, while Agilent's acquired Kalabie ELN from Klee Group, marking moves toward consolidation in the industry.

Looking ahead, however, the GIA expects an increasingly tough time to be seen by vendors, as pharmaceutical companies expect more and more from their ELNs.

"Vendors are expected to strive to create more thinner and holistic solutions for widening the role of ELNs in the enterprise information architecture, as well as to reduce barriers between internal departments and external collaborators," the report noted.

Consolidation is also bringing about its own challenges for the pharmaceutical industry and the existing applications within the lab are a key consideration when choosing a LIMS.

"Very seldom does a company have the luxury of starting with a clean slate when it comes to making an ELN decision.

"Due to the prevalence of merger and acquisition activity today, the need to rationalise your portfolio of applications in a holistic manner will almost inevitably be an essential part of your decision-making process," Peter Boogaard, founder of Industrial lab Automation, and Patrick Pijanowski wrote for Scientific Computing world.

Although the largest market segment is currently claimed by ELN software licensing, the fastest growing segment is actually in ELN support services.

Indeed, the increasingly functionality of ELNs could almost see the systems become a victim of their own success, as they are increasingly integrated with laboratory information management systems and laboratory execution systems.

John Trigg, founder and director of phaseFour Informatics, noted in an article for The Integrated Lab: "This leads to two potential problems; confusion amongst potential customers, and heavyweight products with performance issues."

Factors outside the pharmaceutical industry are also set to impact on the use and design of ELNs, as consumer electronics increasingly make their way into the workplace.

LabArchives' latest ELN, released earlier this year, contains full functionality with tablets, including iPads and Android devices, essentially allowing users to access their lab data anytime in almost any location, as a result of what the company said was growing demand from customers.

However, the number of lab processes which will choose to allow their lab data on outside devices at a time when intellectual property is such a key issue remains to be seen, no matter how secure the technology is touted as being.

There is also the argument about using technology for technology's sake, which does not necessarily bring about the desired improvements.

Gloria Metrick, writing for her Out On A LIMS blog, noted: "As so often happens, companies sometimes pick things not based on true requirements. Having an iPad isn't really filling a need. Being able to do your work when you don't have space on the work bench for a PC is more like it."

Trigg also highlighted the potential effect the Leahy Smith America Invents Actcould have on laboratory informatics, as the United States moves from a system of first to invent to first to file, although the conclusion is that ELN players are safe in that area for some time.

"This will seemingly reduce the requirement for a laboratory notebook to be used as evidence in a patent interference, and as such may allow for a less rigid documentation and witnessing process," Trigg explained, but also highlighted comments made at an IQPC conference from Colin Sandercock of Perkins Coiethat loopholes will mean interferences are likely to continue for some years yet.

In summary, all signs would point to the market for ELNs having a strong and secure future for some time to come.

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