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Supporting Your R&D Informatics Ecosystem with Laboratory Informatics as a Service (LIaaS)
Research and development organizations are finding themselves under pressure from many directions:
- Business stakeholders want improved operational efficiency, scalability, and agility, while keeping costs under control.
- Regulators are raising the standards and scrutiny of informatics systems demanding strong demonstrable control of data integrity through the entire lifecycle of laboratory data.
- Vendors of laboratory informatics systems traditionally labelled as LIMS, ELN, LES, LIS, SDMS, CDS are blurring the definitions of their systems as they add capabilities to increase their sales: all vendors are claiming to be able to solve all problems.
All while the volume of data generated and processed in scientific laboratories continues to increase dramatically and the pressure for data to make decisions grows. Scientists and their R&D organizations want improved data management practices and increased operational efficiency: an integrated laboratory informatics infrastructure that goes beyond the vendor acronyms and delivers digitized scientific processes.
Creating this integrated laboratory ecosystem and the subsequent support, maintenance, and extension of it is such a significant undertaking that only large companies with sufficient budget and resources have been able to attempt it. In this blog, we will explore a new approach to how R&D organizations can benefit from a new capability-based Laboratory Informatics as a Service (LIaaS) offering.
R&D Laboratory Informatics Challenges
Scientific organizations experience significant challenges in their informatics infrastructure:
- Timely implementation of new systems and subsequent recognition of the benefits.
- Meeting the rapidly changing needs of scientists and offering improved data access to scientists to support data analytics and visualization.
- Integration of new and legacy systems.
- Maintaining best-practice data management through the entire lifecycle, including continuous data integrity, security, and regulatory compliance, the migration of data into new systems, and effective data archival.
- Delivering software upgrades/patches with minimal disruption to R&D operations.
- Recruiting and retaining informatics personnel.
The IT work required to support and optimize data operations in a modern scientific R&D laboratory is challenging. The variety of niche skills, experience, and current knowledge of best practices required, along with the rapid growth of industries such as biotechnology, have created a very high demand for Scientific Informatics personnel. At the end of the day, scientific R&D organizations want the capabilities of an Integrated Research Informatics ecosystem, but not necessarily the implementation projects, support costs, and staffing challenges that come with obtaining the capabilities.
Introducing Laboratory Informatics as a Service
The Astrix Laboratory Informatics as a Service offering brings the “as a service” model to the R&D informatics space. As with the other capabilities such as infrastructure, technologies platforms like databases and web sites, and service functions such as help desks and finance, the “as a service” model is based on the customer buying what they need in terms of the deliverable capabilities in an optimized, low-impact manner. This approach limits the investment in capital assets and/or personnel required to obtain capabilities and makes them available in a “pay for what you use” manner based on a service catalog from a service vendor with service level agreements between the customer and provider. Furthermore, the time required to begin using the capabilities is typically significantly shorter than bringing the capabilities on-line internally.
The trade-off is that the capabilities are generally more limited in terms of their ability to be specifically tailored or customized to the customer needs. Configuration of the systems is generally supported, permitting enablement of built-in features or adjustments in the system behavior, but deeper modification of the system to introduce customer-specific features is much more limited. This trade-off between being able to meet the full specific detailed desires of a customer and obtaining a potentially less than prefect system faster and less expensively is a core aspect of the decision to pursue “as a service” offerings vs the traditional method of building the capability in-house.
The selection of the vendor for the service is a critical aspect. Since in this model the vendor-provided capability is essentially embedded in the customer in lieu of an internal capability fully under the customer’s control, the vendor must have both technical experience in offering the capability and just as importantly, a culture of being able to work in close partnership. To be most successful, the relationship must be frictionless: the vendor becomes an extension of the customer and absorbs the challenges and requirements of delivering the services.
In the case of Laboratory Informatics as a Service, the vendor must be technically capable and experienced across a range of fields: laboratory instrument integration and management; scientific software infrastructure such as databases; delivery and support of system integrations; specific laboratory processes and the deployment of scientific software to support them; meeting regulatory requirements through system validation and change management. With a vendor able to undertake these activities related to the R&D informatics ecosystem, the company scientists and in-house IT will be able to focus on your core business of discovering new therapies or materials.
It is important to note that the goal of Astrix LIaaS is not to replace traditional IT: service offerings may not be ideal or practical to meet all the laboratory requirements. Instead, Astrix LIaaS will work with you to find the right balance between in-house IT and the service offerings.
LIaaS Service Offerings
One service that R&D organizations consider as a candidate for sourcing to a vendor is the laboratory help desk, user support, and system administration. The laboratory informatics system vendors do not generally have mechanisms in place to deliver these services directly to R&D companies. As a result, a partnership for scientific system user support and administration with a vendor with expertise in laboratory informatics systems such as Astrix can be an effective and efficient way to obtain necessary capabilities.
In addition to a help desk and system administration, there are other LIaaS capabilities that can help optimize your R&D informatics operational ecosystem:
- Laboratory Equipment Management – equipment repair, maintenance and calibration; inventory management; integration with data-collection systems.
- R&D Application Lifecycle Support – system management and maintenance; data archival and migration; deployment of application updates and patches; creation and maintenance of system validation documentation.
- R&D Application Organizational Change Management – user training; creating company SoPs, best practices and work templates.
Benefits of Using a Third-Party Informatics Vendor
As discussed, a qualified third-party informatics vendor provides a pay-as-you-go service for laboratory informatics capabilities codified with a service level agreement (SLA). Some of the benefits an organization can expect from partnering with a third-party informatics vendor in this manner include:
- Peace of mind – Proactive monitoring and management of your laboratory systems is being provide with the capability guaranteed through an SLA.
- Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) – The capabilities you require are procured on-demand services where you pay for what you use. This can significantly lower your TCO. You are not responsible for hiring and training necessary staff to manage your application, and the operational expense will be predictable.
- Stay focused on your core business – Leave the complex IT work to the ILaaS vendor and focus your resources on core scientific R&D activities. This will also permit in-house IT personnel to focus on the areas where there is the most strategic advantage.
- Simplified operations – Communicating with and managing multiple vendors can be replaced with a single point of contact.
- Improves business flexibility and agility – Services are changeable and scalable to meet changing business needs.
A third-party informatics vendor with industry experience and expertise in laboratory informatics systems can be a valuable partner in improving the value of scientific R&D organizations by providing Laboratory Informatics as a Service. In the highly competitive and fast-moving biotech industry, for example, a Laboratory Informatics partner who has both the technical experience and cultural fit is key to having the R&D data management capabilities needed.
Astrix Technology Group has over 20 years’ experience in helping scientific organizations manage their laboratory informatics ecosystem. We are experts in laboratory systems and the laboratory domain in general. As such, we understand the science, the needs of end users, regulated environments, and the impact to business when informatics systems go offline. We also understand how change control works, and we can help expedite that.
Through our 360 Degree Laboratory System Services, our experienced professionals can help you develop the right management solution that serves your business best. If you would like to have an initial, no obligations consultation with an Astrix informatics expert to discuss your laboratory informatics management strategy, please feel free to contact us.