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Pittcon 2015 Informatics Wrap-Up

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New Orleans was welcoming and warm although not as dry and sunny as it has been during past Pittsburgh Conferences (Pittcon) – this time gentle rains rinsed off the streets during the week after a perfect Sunday.  This didn’t stop Pittcon attendees from enjoying the ambiance that New Orleans has to offer; most of the excellent restaurants were packed each night and probably a big draw for the conferees, 36% of whom attended for the first time.

The premier conference and exposition on laboratory equipment and chemical analyses in North America, Pittcon was held at the Ernst Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from March 8-12.  Some 1,690 booths included exhibiting companies from 29 countries, while 28% of the 13,000+ attendees came from outside the United States to enjoy the conference.  The Informatics arena was one of three specialized areas on the exhibit floor, and gathered most of the LIMS, informatics, laboratory automation vendors close, making it easy to visit them all.

There were more than 2,000 technical sessions included symposia, networking sessions, oral sessions and workshops on all subjects scientific, with a subset of those sessions focusing on laboratory informatics, lab data and automation as well as laboratory regulations. This year Technology Networks hosted a workshop on Chemical Safety Challenges and Solutions to close out the last day of the conference.

Data Accessibility a Top Challenge

Most labs use a variety of software and informatics solutions to capture and analyze data.  Since the first laboratory information management systems (LIMS) were introduced in the early 1990’s, the scope and variety of informatics software has broadened significantly to better manage data of all kinds, from chromatography data systems (CDS) to electronic lab notebooks (ELN) to scientific data management systems (SDMS).  Each solution has been optimized for a specific set of tasks.  However, these systems are rarely integrated or accessible on a single IT platform, meaning that the researcher’s computer has numerous programs open at the same time, jumping back and forth between them to accomplish different tasks.  Meanwhile, the researcher’s workload continues to increase as more lab tasks are automated, thus creating a demand for integration of those disparate software systems so that less time is spent managing the data and more time is spent analyzing it.

The informatics vendors are aware of this emerging need, and the first wave of solutions to address it were introduced at Pittcon this year.  Most notable was the new NuGenesis Lab Management System (LMS) unveiled by Waters Corporation, just one of several product introductions designed to streamline researcher tasks and greatly reduce the time it takes to perform those tasks.  Waters’ Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Dr. Rohit Khanna introduced Waters’ first CDS in 1992 during a Pittcon also held in New Orleans, and this year introduced the NuGenesis LMS as an alternative to LIMS.  It is based on the NuGenesis SDMS but offers significantly more functionality that can be switched on as components are needed for various workflow and sample management tasks.  This enables “the labs to ‘right size’ the system for their particular needs”, according to Khanna.  While the NuGenesis LMS is not replacing CDS solutions, Khanna claims it is better than a LIMS, one reason being its ability to drive regulatory compliance because it is built on the SDMS feature set and thus also provides comprehensive data traceability.  Interestingly, Khanna stated that Waters’ customers did not want another LIMS solution, but asked for a system that would support the analytical testing while driving a seamless information flow from the lab to other business units.  

Thermo Scientific focused on accelerating innovation and enhancing productivity in the lab.  They introduced numerous solutions to deliver capabilities and functionality for these needs, from a new Vanquish UHPLC to a new SampleManager informatics platform. An emphasis on lab workflow optimization underscored all their announcements, and showed an intense focus on tools that could take time-intensive tasks, such as ion chromatography, from days to hours.  

Advanced Chemistry Development (ACD/Labs)’ Graham McGibbon discussed the challenge of numerous informatics systems in the lab during a Lab Informatics oral session, stating “the meta data needs to be integrated and that accessibility of the data is critical.  If it isn’t, it's a dead data environment.”  He added that while the individual solutions are fine, they aren’t designed to search the broader data beyond their primary purpose.  Generally these are ‘one-and-done’ solutions where the researcher might be about to go back to the data again, but typically can’t reuse it.”  He concluded by stating that the lab ecosystem needs adjustment to accommodate today’s data accessibility needs.  McGibbon emphasized the importance of a universal ‘live’ data language to homogenize data and make it accessible through interfaces and store it in the cloud.

BSSN Software’s President Burkhard Schafer emphasized that the data is the most important part of lab experimentation so it should be as accessible as possible, and a key component of making this happen is data standards.  Complicating the situation is the rise in new technology that creates new challenges.  For instance, Schafer pointed out that there was no precedent for interacting with data -- such as chromatograms -- on touch screens.  BSSN developed the solution and has licensed it to several major vendors.  

These data accessibility and useability challenges created a recurring theme throughout Pittcon, making it interesting to learn what the different approaches and solutions the informatics vendors provided.  

Pittcon Informatics Highlights by Vendor

Abbot Informatics presented their STARLIMS solution as well as their ELN, SDMS, Advanced Analytics, Mobile Solutions and Cloud Services, which are all part of the STARLIMS web-based platform for unified laboratory informatics.  

Accelerated Technology Laboratories (ATL) showed their Sample Master LIMS web-based system as well as their TITAN LIMS+ERP system.  According to ATL, Instrument integration is a key feature of TITAN that facilitates efficiency while significantly decreasing transcription errors and paper documentation. TITAN can interface with a variety of enterprise solutions including SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage and JD Edwards that utilize standard, open technology.

Advanced Chemistry Development (ACD/Labs) announced a new solution for open-access workflows as well as the new web-enabled ACD/Spectrus Portal that extends the company’s ACD/Spectrus analytical and chemical laboratory intelligence platform. The ACD/Labs Open Access solution will combine the web-enabled ACD/Spectrus Portal with its well-established automation technology and workflow components. Sophisticated data processing and analysis algorithms will deliver interpreted NMR and LC/MS results from a variety of different instrument vendors in the industry's first web-based NMR and LC/UV/MS review panel. Chemists rely on this information to determine the identity and purity of their samples and to make quick decisions about the fate of their reactions.  ACD/Spectrus Portal will be launched through a series of domain-specific market applications. The first application, ACD/Labs' Open Access solution, is targeted towards delivering streamlined results to Open Access or Walk-Up laboratory environments. 

Agaram Technologies highlighted their QuaLIS LIMS, QMS, ELN, SDMS and InterFACER solutions.  They featured the broad functionality of their product suite and also introduced their new platform, QuaLIS Studio, which allows easy configuration, implementation and adoption of their products.

Allotrope Foundation released Allotrope Data Format (ADF) 0.2 to their partner network members.  ADF stores data and associated contextual metadata in a format derived from publically available data standards, such as ANIML, and implemented through APIs provided by the Allotrope Framework.

Autoscribe Informatics highlighted their Matrix Gemini LIMS, as well as their stability management and sample tracking solutions. Matrix Gemini is an easily configurable LIMS for applications in a wide variety of laboratories, and provides a systematic quality management resource for tracking, storage, auditing and reporting of data across all segments of a business.

Baytek introduced a new VortalBliss LIMS, a web-based version of their Baytek LIMS that delivers zero footprint and faster implementation.  Advanced features include SQC integrated data entry, automatic data archiving and replication, retention management, change management and more.  Baytek is experiencing a growth spurt as they are expanding outside the chemicals arena and into food and environmental labs.  They also introduced a new instrument interfacing tool called iPRO.

A leading producer of spectral databases with over 1.4 million spectra, Bio-Rad Labs, Informatics highlighted their KnowItAll spectroscopy software that offers a range of solutions including: spectral search, spectral data management, spectral identification, quality control, mixture analysis, polymer analysis and chemometrics.

BIOVIA (formerly Accelrys) highlighted their enterprise-wide scientific, biological, chemical and material experiences, with next-generation applications, services, and content access and delivery leveraging Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE business platform. The company highlighted their BIOVIA LIMS, ELN, LES, Discoverant system for process management informatics and CISPro chemical inventory management system as well as other solutions from their full range of laboratory software.

BSSN Software highlighted their open, standards-based software for viewing, aggregating, and sharing laboratory data from many different experimental techniques on the desktop, in the Cloud and on mobile devices. Embracing open standards, their software supports AnIML, ANDI, SEDD, GAML, TNF, ACAML and the Allotrope Data Format (ADF). BSSN introduced a new Analytical Data Anywhere initiative that is fully method independent and adds a missing piece to the puzzle that pushes data into LIMS, ERP and data visualization tools.

ChemWare highlighted their Horizon LIMS, which provides an automated solution that helps enforce NELAC, ISO 17025, and other regulatory requirements for environmental, public health, water quality, IH, forensics, energy, and other labs drowning in regulations, QC and paper.

Ethosoft provided live demos of their X-LIMS web based LIMS that can be used in different types of laboratories settings, including labs from the government, agriculture, environmental, food, and manufacturing sectors. X-LIMS tracks samples and QA work from the cradle to the grave and helps laboratories keep compliance with their ISO 17025, NELAC/NELAP and GLP/GMP standards.

Khemia Software featured their Omega 11 LIMS which has been designed and developed by analytical chemists working along with software engineers with the goal to enhance laboratory efficiency and be compliant with ISO 17025, ASTM, NELAC, DoD and AIHA quality standards. With its built-in modules, Omega 11 handles all lab and business functions including Quotations, Invoicing, Inventory, Lab Work-flow, EDDs, Scheduling, QC, Document Management, Automated Level IV CLP-Like Data Packages, etc.

LabAnswer, a technology agnostic laboratory informatics consultancy, focuses exclusively on Laboratory Informatics.  During Pittcon, they discussed their domain expertise that spans all major laboratory software applications including LIMS, ELN, SDMS, CDS, CTMS, and instrument applications, among others. LabAnswer delivers services from strategy through vendor selection, through the implementation and support of that strategy.

LabVantage Solutions highlighted their LabVantage 7 LIMS for the first time at Pittcon.  LabVantage 7 adds numerous new capabilities designed to improve user experience and reduce customizations. A built-in search engine now makes it possible to find data as easily as can be done on the Web. The new, easy-to-use workflow designer, simplifies modeling and improvement of processes to help users become more compliant and efficient. Collaboration with colleagues mimics social media as comments can be added to any object. Plates, gels and other arrays can be handled more efficiently within high throughput labs.

LabWare demonstrated their enterprise-scale LIMS and ELN solutions that enable companies to optimize compliance, improve quality, increase productivity and reduce costs.  They announced the production release of LabWare 7 which offers significant features, including more than 500 new capabilities, an interactive dynamic user interface, a new Design Studio, and platform for mobile applications as well as performance and browser enhancements.

PerkinElmer featured a number of informatics offerings, including their TIBCO Spotfire Platform, a collaborative interface that assimilates data from multiple sources such as chemical structures, text, numbers, images, chemical properties and biological assays.  Also featured with their E-Notebook, an ELN for chemicals and biologists that integrates documents, spreadsheets, presentations and image files.  In addition, they featured their Connector for SAP for QA/QC Lab Procedures that provides a seamless integration between SAP and data systems such as ELNs, LIMS and SDS to support lab workflows and improve data management efficiency.

Promium highlighted their Element LIMS solution, a unified and configurable LIMS that increases productivity for environmental labs that test air, soil, water and food.  Element LIMS provides a seamless flow from sample logging to final report.

Quality Systems International (QSI) featured their WinLIMS solution that is used in over 850 organizations throughout the world. QSI also featured their WinLIMS Cloud Edition, a secure, cloud-hosted version of WinLIMS that provides a flexible off-site approach to outsourcing of LIMS that allows users to choose and fine tune a system that best fits your organization’s technical requirements, as well as your budget. The company’s WinLIMS.NET solution provides all of the tools required to operate within full compliance with regulations such as FDA, GLP/GMP and EN 17025 or GLP/GMP.

RURO highlighted their new FreezerPro 6.2 sample management system. FreezerPro is an intuitive, fast, reliable and secure web-based application with visually-intuitive, customizable “freezer maps” that enable users to know precisely where a frozen sample is located without ever opening a freezer door. RURO also highlighted their Limfinity LIMS and Sciency ELN.

Shimadzu introduced a plethora of new instruments, systems and solutions, including new LabSolutions Insight multi-analyte quantitation software for GC/MS.  With intuitive operation and multiple report viewing options, the software features three chromatogram views (sample, compounds and summary) so users can check differences in parameters, compound results and summary of batch analysis all with the same software. In addition Shimadzu introduced a new GCMS Smart Database Series that simplifies GC-MS/MS method development.  The series is comprised of separate databases for analyzing pesticides, forensic toxicological substances, metabolites and environmental pollutants. Each database includes hundreds of related compounds with optimized transitions and collision energies, CAS registry numbers and retention indices (RI). The software series supports simultaneous high-sensitivity analysis of samples using GC-MS/MS, eliminating the need to configure complicated analysis conditions.

TALtech highlighted their data collection software for laboratories, manufacturing, hospitals, pharmaceutical, process control and more. Their WinWedge software collects data from balances, meters, gages, sensors and any serial or TCP/IP connected lab instrument or device and inputs the data in real-time to MS Excel, Access, data files, LIMS, the Internet and more.

Thermo Scientific introduced the latest version of their SampleManager system, which now encompasses LIMS, LES and SDMS functionality so that laboratories no longer need to purchase, implement, validate and support software packages from multiple vendors. A fully integrated laboratory platform, SampleManager can be connected to customers' existing informatics infrastructures, regardless of which or how many instrument vendors they use. This enables labs to execute and manage all their laboratory processes easily, with the data rigor and intelligence that laboratory management requires to drive efficiency and profitability lab- and business-wide. Thermo Scientific’s tightly integrated informatics platform now features more intuitive dashboards and an enhanced Statistical Quality Control (SQC) capability designed to detect nonconformance trending before it reaches pre-defined thresholds. For pharmaceutical QA/QC labs, enhanced SampleManager Stability improves study management, substudy execution and planning and maintenance of study inventory. SampleManager also automatically calculates the expiration date throughout a study to verify label claims. SampleManager’s workflow technology simplifies system configuration to meet the laboratory's needs today and in the future, optimizing the informatics investment and enabling comprehensive integration with enterprise systems across the business.

Waters Corporation highlighted new capabilities in molecular imaging, laboratory management and more during Pittcon. Of significant interest in the Informatics arena is the new NuGenesis® Lab Management System, a unique and powerful alternative to a traditional LIMS with advances that enable deeper insight into scientific challenges, accelerated decision-making, better business results and compliance with government regulations. The NuGenesis LMS offers high impact functionality. New advances include NuGenesis SampleShare, an optional, secure web-client for sample submissions and results management; NuGenesis Stability, a complete stability protocol management and testing solution to facilitate a consistent regimented workflow across lab operations; NuGenesis Connectors, a bi-directional link between lab systems and business applications, and Paradigm Scientific Search, a fully integrated scientific search solution for text, documents and science objects. Uniquely combining data, workflow and sample management capabilities to support the entire product lifecycle from discovery through manufacturing, the NuGenesis LMS is a user-centric platform that encompasses an SDMS, ELN and LES. 

Next year, Pittcon returns to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA from March 6-10. 

Check out www.Labtube.tv for the latest Informatics videos from Pittcon 2015!