In the blog, Informatics Challenges in Pharma and Biopharma R&D, we identified five major challenges facing R&D and IT managers in pharma and biopharma companies as they strive to equip their researchers with modern, flexible and responsive informatics tools:
- Managing New Science
- Dealing with Change
- Integrating Old and New Systems
- Collaboration and Externalization
- Harmonization and Simplification
This post is the third in a series examining these challenges in more detail, with examples gained while staff collaborated with customers to understand their requirements and devise and deliver solutions. The first two posts discussed Managing New Science and Dealing with Change, and now we will consider the informatics challenges in Integrating Old and New Informatics Systems.
Linking 78 rpm Records to Cloud-Based Streaming
Anyone over a certain age has lived through the evolution of sound systems, possibly even starting as far back as 78 rpm records. These were superseded by 45 rpm “singles” and 33⅓ rpm “LPs”. Then came eight track tapes and tape cassettes, followed by CDs. The advent of digital storage and distribution saw the introduction of cloud-based streaming and download systems (e.g., Spotify, Pandora, iTunes) and mobility (e.g. iPod, mobile phone).
Each new sound storage technology and distribution mechanism brings its own new hardware for inclusion in existing sound systems. But audiophiles aren’t ready to stop sighing over their favorite mixtape, or leaping around to a specially burnt party CD, and still want access alongside today’s streaming and mobile systems.
And this relates to laboratory information management systems – how? Without stretching the analogy too far, we are in a similar situation with Informatics systems in established biopharma R&D labs. Think of the favorite mixtape as the long-standing small molecule compound registry system: it may not make you sigh any more, but you can’t get rid of it and its crucial structural and compound identification data. And the party CD may be the current site-wide inventory system which, while no longer leap worthy, is still happily tracking sample amounts, locations and properties.
Capitalize on New Technology Without Abandoning Older LIMS Systems
How do we take advantage of the burgeoning new science and technological advances such as biotherapeutics, precision medicine and next generation sequencing, while still capitalizing on the investment already sunk in the current informatics infrastructure and applications?
It’s a bit more complicated than simply plugging in a new audio component with a USB connector and hitting “play.” Touchpoints between the old and new systems can include the workflows and processes involved with the new system or technique, the sample types being handled and the data definitions associated with the new data that is being captured or calculated.
An example of a new application requiring access to an existing informatics system is when a new high content screening (HCS) system is introduced to produce richer data for a battery of in vitro or in vivoassays. The new HCS assays may be run on a selection of representative compounds from the company’s corporate registry, and for efficient operations, the assay biologists will want information on the corporate IDs of the compounds in the registry system, quick access to the appropriate screening sample in the inventory system and the ability to add their newly generated HCS data to the existing corpus of assay data in the data warehouse.
Linking Laboratory Information Management Systems Seamlessly
The old and new LIMS systems need to be linked and adapted in a way that gives the scientists access to the right information, at the right time and in the right format, with no delays, disconnects or rekeying of data. The key to ensuring such productive and seamless synergy between these old and new LIMS systems is the availability of stable, robust, well-documented and standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs).
If these aren’t available, the old and new LIMS systems will need to be linked together using hand-coded custom connectors. Writing these takes IT staff away from more value-added tasks, and once the custom connectors are in place, they then require ongoing maintenance and will complicate and slow any future systems upgrades.
Thermo Fisher™ Platform for Science™ software provides a flexible and adaptable framework complete with the rich APIs described above. The APIs can be used to link together old and new systems, processes and data models through configuration, with no need to write custom connectors. IT staff and power users of the platform rapidly become self-sufficient and can quickly make these configuration changes themselves – and if they have any questions or need help, they can always turn to the Customer Success team for assistance, or to training resources.
Platform for Science software, with its flexible, configurable technology and applications is addressing this need for old and new laboratory information management systems to coexist synergistically with a range of customers; teaming with us enables them to take advantage of new science and techniques while still exploiting essential legacy systems already in place so that they gain a competitive edge as they strive to deliver novel therapies faster. Learn how.