How to Create an Industry-Leading LIMS: Put the Customer in the Developer’s Seat

scientist working in the chemistry lab computerInsights from two decades of applied use

More than 20 years ago, LabVantage made a commitment to the life science market by creating a research initiative of our own. At the time, this was a separate, dedicated team within the organization – focused exclusively on the research side of the life sciences.

This exercise turned out to be one of the most important business decisions we ever made. When we moved from merely supporting the life sciences to performing our own research, we learned valuable lessons from the resulting hands-on experience. Those lessons and our collaborations with customers helped us to identify critical needs that weren’t being met and led to the creation of new functionalities that no laboratory information management system (LIMS) offered at the time.

Approximately 75% of all LabVantage advances — from new features to entire specialized modules — have come about in direct response to customer requests. Sometimes these are the result of partnerships. At other times they were inspired by repeated patterns of similar requests from multiple sources. Either way, every collaboration helps to make our products better.

As a result, LabVantage has become something special in the LIMS industry, pioneering innovations such as:

  • Array Management
    One of our first priorities was to create a more robust and efficient way to manage the handling and processing of arrays such as plates and gels – especially in high-throughput labs. Achieving this goal (and making it even easier to use with later developments like the workflow designer), brought a host of usability improvements that have enabled labs to operate more efficiently, innovate faster and significantly improve their processes on a global scale. This has proven especially important in the fight against some of the world’s most devastating diseases, including COVID-19, seasonal influenza, RSV, Ebola, MERS, and SARS. These diseases can evolve quickly, and treatments require rapid development that only a fully automated system can provide. Integrating all systems can help ensure maximum accuracy and efficiency.
  • Biobanking SamplesBiobanking
    The crucial role of biobanking in biomedical research led to the development of a purpose-built system configured specifically for that purpose. This development overcame a host of common challenges, from storing and distributing clinical information linked to samples to managing those biospecimens and their associated data accurately and efficiently, to managing ethical factors and consent tracking.By creating a LIMS specifically designed for biobanks, LabVantage was able to tackle these and many other informatics challenges inherent to the field. The result was a standardized solution that meets the requirements of both large biobanks and small laboratories while enabling compliance with strict regulatory requirements and improving sample traceability.Today, LIMS continues to play a major role in cancer research and other biomedical fields. The National Cancer Institute’s Comprehensive Cancer Centers,  which are recognized for their scientific leadership in laboratory and clinical research, often have extraordinarily complex sample handling, request and payment requirements. The numerous comprehensive cancer centers using LabVantage share several commonalities, among them the use of ‘core’ laboratories to cluster expertise. Core labs might include molecular diagnostics, histology, mass spectrometry & chromatography, or next gen sequencing. Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, for example, has 19 different cores – all of which need to draw samples from the biobank and perform tests.To address the specific complexities involved in both biobanking and complex, multi-site/multi-investigator research, LabVantage placed its biobanking module atop its LIMS – ensuring the ability to perform testing didn’t require a separate system from the biobank management component.
  • Formulations
    The LabVantage Formulations module came about as a result of a partnership with a global discrete manufacturing company. At the time, the company was doing all of its formulation work in large, complex spreadsheets with multiple tabs. Sometimes this approach worked – but sometimes it didn’t.Working together, we determined which functionalities the company wanted to recreate within a LIMS. The resulting prototype later evolved to become part of our core product, the LabVantage Formulation Module. Today the module continues to be very popular with labs that are doing formulations work, and our development partner continues to add input and make product suggestions.

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  • COVID-19 Accelerator
    Building on the success of the biobanking module, LabVantage mobilized decades of expertise to rapidly deliver a new purpose-built Biobanking LIMS to support COVID-19 testing and research in April 2020. Delivered as a comprehensive Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) solution, the LabVantage COVID-19 Biobanking Accelerator requires no infrastructure investment. And since it’s pre-configured, minimal implementation time is needed. A go-live start is literally possible in less than four weeks.
  • Predictive Analytics
    With the formulations module mentioned above, we’ve worked closely during development with a global engineering company. With our biobanking accelerator, we’ve worked closely with quite a large number of comprehensive cancer centers, as well as other NCI-designated cancer centers.This ongoing pattern of collaboration with customers holds true for other elements of the LabVantage LIMS. One example? The use of predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to best determine which actual physical tests should be performed, and which experiments can be conducted by computer (in silico). Effective analytics is fast becoming a critically important LIMS platform evolution – one that is vital to the speed and value of oil & gas, food and beverage and life science company labs.

The Most Important Lesson

These are just a few of the innovations that have resulted over more than two decades. There are many more that we’ve implemented – from the development of graphical workflow tools for experiment design, to Next Generation Sequencing solutions. But the single most important lesson we’ve learned over the years is the value of collaboration with customers.

If you have a challenge that could benefit from new LIMS capabilities or want to know more about how LabVantage LIMS can help your lab innovate faster, contact us today.