Review: 11th Annual ELNs and Advanced Laboratory Solutions Conference

Sheraz Gul

I recently attended and presented at the recent 11th Annual ELNs and 2012 LIMS Forums Conference in Milan. This was a great opportunity for participants to benefit from hearing from a variety of experts in the areas of ELNs and LIMs, attending interactive roundtable discussions and a post-conference workshop.
The speaker list included experts from big pharma, biotech, CRO, academia, consultants and vendors who are either implementing ELNs or LIMs within their organizations or developing such software.
New Developments in Big Pharma

Gerhard Noelken (Pfizer), Frank Klöck (Bayer), Mohit Agnihotri (Novartis), Pascal Maes (Johnson & Johnson), Julie Spry and Charles Demarest (Pfizer), Ralph Haffner (Roche), Daniel Domine (Merck) and Edward Reilly (Baxter),  were just some of the stellar speakers line-up.

From these presentations it seems there is a need to standardize laboratory data systems, especially since big Pharma is outsourcing many activities that were previously performed internally. This fragmentation of the life science information landscape has required additional effort to be expended to ensure that data is consistent across systems (which still requires improvement).
A number of big pharma companies are now founding members of the Allotrope Foundation to look at open information standards for the analytical laboratory.
I was surprised to note that the roll-out time for ELNs and LIMs in big Pharma was significant and typically in the region of 1-2 years. This may not be altogether surprising as the software solutions were usually rolled-out across multiple sites with the total number of users being in excess of 1,000.
Talks from Biotech/CRO

Cat Andersen (Array BioPharma), Ruud van der Pol (DSM), Sheraz Gul (European ScreeningPort), Carla Marchioro (Aptuit), Simon Coles (Amphora Research Systems), Michael Engelmann (CSL Behring),  Agnes Huot (Biogen Idec) and Henry Hallam (Lonza and the University of Southampton) presented in this area.

The companies giving presentations varied considerably. In the case of the larger Biotech companies the complexity of their internal process were shown to be comparable to big Pharma with IT projects taking 2-3 year projects to improve internal processes. The presentations from the CRO’s highlighted the breadth of their customers and that it can be difficult and expensive to ensure their processes and fully aligned with their external customers.
Talks from Academia

Jeremy Frey (University of Southampton), Cecilia Björkdahl (Karolinska Institute) and Lawrence Percival-Alwyn (The Genome Analysis Centre) gave  presentations that covered various aspects of IT such as nomenclature and novel methods to capture data.
It was also appears  that academic institutions are following in the footsteps of  big Pharma/Biotech/CRO processes for implementing ELNs to capture the data that they generate in order to standardize their processes, thus allowing the data to be searchable and save time.
What the consultants had to say

John Trigg (phaseFour Informatics), Peter Boogaard (Industrial Lab Automation), Mike Elliott (Atrium Research), Bernhard Schirm (Quattro Research) delivered particularly revealing presentations that shed light on current IT trends.

The presenters lookedat how  the lines between ELNs and LIMs are becoming blurred, the increasing trend of externalizing R&D despite a relatively small percentage of organisations having an externalisation strategy in place and cloud computing. No doubt these topics will continue to have a high profile in the future of IT conferences.

Taken together, this meeting presented research at the forefront of IT solutions including ELNs and LIMs with speakers from broad backgrounds. It was an excellent forum for the exchange of ideasamong researchers covering both academia and industrial efforts in the field of drug discovery.
As this was the first time IQPC held a LIMS Summit alongside ELNs, it was valuable to hear from experienced peers, consultants, solution providers in one forum in an intellectually stimulating environment and at the same time engage in networking opportunities.
Dr Sheraz Gul, Vice President & Head of Biology, European ScreeningPort GmbH, Schnackenburgallee 114, D-22525 Hamburg, Germany; email: