Magazine Article | February 1, 2009

See The Forest Through The Trees

Source: Life Science Leader

By Kim Shah

By effectively integrating lab informatics data with enterprise systems, life science executives can have access to just the right data — and thereby make better business decisions. One of the key challenges faced by life sciences companies today is the inability to turn the vast amount of laboratory data generated into useful information that enables management at all levels of an organization to make timely and effective decisions. With multiple applications across the enterprise generating reams of data that sit in separate silos, aggregating and mining this data is a very real and complex problem. Many companies still use manual processes for collecting, analyzing, and reporting this data. Oftentimes, the reports that distill this mountain of data into relevant information are extremely tedious to create, taking scientists away from their work and thereby losing time and money performing administrative report generation instead of furthering the scientific work of the lab. And because data formats and applications are inconsistent and not well-integrated, there has been no coherent way for scientists to aggregate all of their work in one place. All of these are barriers for life science executives trying to make effective business decisions.

No More Disparate Data Systems
As life sciences laboratories look to streamline the flow of information, living with multiple disparate systems with minimal to no integration is no longer an option. Aside from greenfield installations, informatics integration is most often conducted one data silo at a time. The key to finding an optimal solution is in choosing an approach that will provide the most value to executives.

The most common sources of data that provide mission-critical information include laboratory instrumentation, informatics software like LIMS (laboratory information management system), CDS (Chromatography Data System), and ELN (Electronic Laboratory Notebook); enterprise systems like MESs (manufacturing execution systems), PIMS (process information management system), and ERP (enterprise resource planning); enterprise communications tools like SharePoint and BizTalk; or document management systems like NextDocs and Documentum. Having these data sources integrated enables you to track data points in real time, eliminate manual data entry, and set up automatic ways for identifying trends, all of which elevates the role of the laboratory in the day-to-day, mission-critical decisions made by management throughout an enterprise. The ability to access this dashboard-level information also provides a real opportunity for risk mitigation for management. An example of this integration strategy is in place at MDS Pharma Services, which centralized its bioanalytical data storage across its global locations and automated the processes related to data analysis. This process streamlined all activities related to the bioanalytical lab and enabled more reliable compliance with the many global regulatory agencies it responds to. Merry Danley, associate director, bioanalytical technical operations & QC for MDS Pharma Services, explains, “From an IT standpoint, the Thermo Scientific system integrated seamlessly with existing databases, operating systems, and hardware. We can easily share data in any type of format with our clients. The system streamlines the data transfer steps even more and has provided the ability to easily share data between laboratories, including the ability to more simply transfer methods from one site to another.”

In fact, integrating the enterprise facilitates better planning, data quality, collaboration, and end-to-end report generation, all with the goal of providing management with dashboard views of key business metrics that are essential to effectively run their operations. This means management will have the critical data they need before, not after, any point of crisis, and it also means early insight into how drugs or compounds are progressing in the pipeline on a routine basis.

Integration of informatics solutions with a variety of enterprise systems is particularly relevant for life sciences companies in today’s business climate where near-instantaneous response is required to know the source of potential risks, and to continuously protect the consumer. Peter Ketelaar, VP Bioanalytical Laboratory PRA International in Assen (Netherlands), comments, “In the highly competitive life sciences market, long-term profitability and survival depend largely on staying current by following industry trends. Contract research organizations need to closely match what big pharmaceutical companies do. Since the implementation of Thermo Scientific Watson LIMS, PRA has experienced a flawless transmission of data between the bioanalytical laboratory and the multiple pharmaceutical sponsors it serves. Our scientists can now produce reports that follow the exact same format as the one implemented by our customers in-house. Communication and data transfer between PRA International and our pharmaceutical sponsors is totally seamless.”

It is therefore critical for any integration strategy to bring key knowledge originating in the laboratory to management at all levels of the enterprise. Furthermore, with increased pressure to cut costs and shorten the pipeline life cycle, companies are looking for tools that allow them to better communicate, make decisions faster, and report out on how compounds are progressing in drug development. Companies offering an end-to-end solution that facilitates the integration of various instruments and systems, along with the interoperability necessary to transform data into relevant business drivers, are able to help their customers expand the business of science from the laboratory throughout the enterprise.

Kim Shah has more than 20 years’ experience in high tech marketing and management. Prior to joining Thermo Fisher Scientific in November 2006, he served as VP of marketing and channel development at Convoq. Shah has held leadership roles at Inso Corporation, Lotus Development, and Micrografx. He also cofounded e-tractions, Inc., a provider of strategy and implementations of online marketing campaigns.