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A Look Back at LIMS and Informatics 2013

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There's a very subtle change that's taking place in the LIMS and Informatics marketplace.  It's not immediately obvious and there's not just one criteria driving this change.  Rather it is the combination of market dynamics, vendor decisions, and the economy (yes, still the economy).  There isn't new LIMS technology per se, but most of the LIMS have seen enhancements to their feature sets.  ELNs are making greater inroads into the lab environment.  There's a shift to deploying technology to streamline workflows in a 'working smarter' trend to enable staff to more productive.  As you'll find below, some fairly significant activity occurred last year from a number of Informatics vendors.

New Systems

On-premises LIMS received a lot of attention from Abbott releasing STARLIMS version 11 with expanded user functionality that now includes mobile device applications, advanced analytics, and HTML5 compatibility, enabling users to access LIMS information anywhere on any screen.

Thermo Fisher Scientific released SampleManager 11, touting it as the most configurable version ever that also includes advanced new tools and user-interface enhancements for improved laboratory process mapping, management and automation.

Accelrys announced the expansion of their Accelrys Process Management and Compliance Suite with the addition of the Accelrys Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).  Accelrys also released their Accelrys Electronic Lab Notebook, which offers extensive integration with the unifying, scientifically aware Accelrys Enterprise Platform (AEP). Expanded integration with AEP supports the management and orchestration of information, data, people, tasks and processes within and across labs, enhancing collaboration, externalization, chemistry harmonization, instrument integration, experiment design and reporting.

LABVANTAGE released a new LABVANTAGE Pharma solution, a pre-validated, preconfigured pharmaceutical LIMS that allows laboratories to get up and running fast with a fully operational and validated LIMS.

Agilent Technologies introduced the latest version of its electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) software, OpenLAB ELN 4.2.

Core Informatics released their Core LIMS, ELN, SDMS version 4.2 that extends the configurability of the Core LIMS system.

Dataworks Development released a major upgrade to their Freezerworks Unlimited freezer inventory and sample management software program.

RURO released Limfinity LIMS as well as SmartFreezer® 2.0, an automatic storage freezer with improved barcode reading for more efficient retrieval that's integrated with RURO's FreezerPro version 6.1 frozen sample management solution that also received enhancements in 2013.

Blaze Systems released version 5.5 of its flagship BlazeLIMS Enterprise and Small Enterprise Products that now provides powerful new human interface (HI) features for enhanced usability, including new panels for navigation, hierarchical folders of objects (samples by state, etc.), and an object browser, all configurable to best meet user needs.  Blaze Systems also released version 5.5 of its BlazeInventory product for managing and tracking laboratory materials including samples, reagents, standards, parts and consumables.

Cloud-based SaaS LIMS are still posing a challenge and an enticement to R&D organizations.  Adoption has been slow, but it is happening, and more cloud-based LIMS are being introduced, such as Eusoft's LIMS for Manufacturing Process and Discrete Manufacturing applications.  More cloud-based solutions are on the way: Cerner and Claritas Genomics plan to jointly develop a cloud-based LIMS for next-generation sequencing-based testing.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) continued unabated in 2013, with some interesting twists.  Accelrys acquired ChemSW, adding a chemical inventory management system to their arsenal of lab solutions, as well as QUMAS, a provider of enterprise compliance software that supports regulatory and quality operations in life sciences and other highly regulated industries. 

One of the most significant actions was the acquisition by Thermo Fisher Scientific of Life Technologies Corporation for their life sciences expertise.  Only last year Life Technologies was acquiring companies itself. It will be interesting to watch the results in the months to come.

QIAGEN acquired Ingenuity Systems, Inc., the leading provider of software solutions to efficiently and accurately analyze and interpret the biological meaning of genomic data.

Waters Corporation acquired Nonlinear Dynamics, which is best known for its Progenesis software which offers researchers unique ways to analyze and visualize the raw proteomic data. Waters and Nonlinear Dynamics previously collaborated on the development of Waters’ TransOmics Informatics, a scalable solution for proteomics, metabolomics, and lipidomics analysis.

Partnerships & Distribution Agreements

It seemed like a week didn't go by in 2013 without one or two announcements of partnerships and distribution agreements.  These are both tactics to develop market strength by presenting a more comprehensive solution than either vendor has on their own.  Combining capabilities to provide broader functionality is of benefit to the user since the vendors must work together to solve any integration issues. 

New ASTM Informatics Standard

The ASTM ASTM E1578, Guide for Laboratory Informatics, got a much needed revision last year. The standard, which has been retitled from Guide for Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E13.15 on Analytical Data, part of ASTM International Committee E13. With this revision, the scope of ASTM E1578 has been broadened to include the primary tools in today’s laboratory informatics area. These tools include laboratory information management systems (LIMS); chromatography data systems (CDS), electronic laboratory notebooks (ELN); and, scientific data management systems (SDMS). Additional terms related to laboratory informatics are now defined and new sections, including one on lean concepts and lab informatics, have been added.

Pittcon Vortex

Pittcon still remains the North American conference of choice for announcing industry news, so look to Chicago in March to learn about the latest activities. 

You might also want to plan to attend the Electronic Lab Automation conference in Barcelona in May for an update that combines a strong technical program with a compact exhibition.

Alternatively, Analytica returns to Munich this year and while there is no technical program, a significant number of Informatics vendors will be on hand to provide demos and discuss their systems, making Analytica a sort of Christmas Faire for our industry.

Certainly it behooves laboratory managers and researchers to keep an eye on market developments and be aware of what is available and how it might improve lab operations.  Conferences such as these provide the opportunity to review the latest offerings and stay knowledgeable on tools that can make their work more efficient.