It’s been 29 years since I first started working in the LIMS and laboratory informatics industry. Commercial software applications for laboratories were in their infancy in the early 80’s and the solutions were mostly aimed at supporting analytical instrumentation – a very narrow focus when compared to today’s broad spectrum of informatics solutions.
From QA/QC to R&D
As software technology progressed, so did our market opportunities. The birth of the commercial client/server laboratory information management systems (LIMS) in the early 90’s firmly established the emerging laboratory informatics market. Along with the demand for LIMS came a dramatic increase in the demand for system integration, interfacing of more complex instrumentation, and data sharing across multiple laboratories. These system connections created expansion opportunities outside the traditional manufacturing quality management (QM) market, opening new markets into Research & Development (R&D) and today, supporting discovery research for many drug and therapeutic development companies.
As with the growth in any market, standards have emerged and today play an important role in the development of supporting technologies. Industry standards and guidance procedures such as Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) have shaped the key functional requirements of LIMS solutions, while government regulations such as FDA 21 CFR Part 11 have mandated that privacy and security is managed and validated by the technology.
Legacy LIMS vs. New Demands
Thick client LIMS computing dates back to the 80’s, where the journey began, and believe it or not, some of those systems are still in operation on a day-to-day basis. There’s something to be said for tried and true technology, but the dialog is very limited in scope, similar to the systems themselves. For many of the very early adopters of laboratory information management systems (LIMS), much of the return on investment in these early systems has run its course.
The early LIMS were purchased and customized to address specific laboratory requirements and were effective in helping QA/QC laboratories meet FDA and other government compliance regulations. However, fast-paced technology advances, modular-driven architectures, the need to lower the total cost of ownership and off-the-shelf configurability offered with systems, have many legacy LIMS managers evaluating their current and long-term needs.
From LIMS to BI and Beyond
The speed at which Web technology has advanced and the benefits it has delivered to software computing in general continues to amaze even the foremost of visionaries, regardless of the industry or market. From the late 90’s on, it’s been my passion to work with the best and the brightest to exploit this game changing technology, and we have been harnessing the power of the Web ever since.
This evolution continues and new horizons await us. Taking a glimpse forward, I see many exciting advances for laboratory informatics technology. One of the first to emerge will be the alliance of LIMS, eNotebook and instrument integration into a single platform. This unified platform, along with other laboratory informatics technologies such as data migration, data warehousing and business intelligence tools will drive a wider integration of laboratory informatics into the enterprise. Keep a sharp eye on the market as we continue to redefine laboratory informatics!