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Reviewing 2019, and looking to the future in 2020 and beyond

December 18, 2019
by Daria Thorp, President and CEO, ACD/Labs

As the year comes to an end, I wanted to look back at two events that draw my attention in 2019: one internal, another external.

External were the activities related to IoT and the Lab of the Future, as it pertains to the chemistry-driven industries. Obviously, the topics were not new—but in my opinion, industry has been increasingly coming to a consensus and shared vision of what that internet-enabled future might look like.

Just very recently, our colleague Andrew Anderson presented his views on the value of assembled live analytical data, as part of the complete chemistry-driven project, for real time collaborative efforts at the Lab of the Future congress. Please review his observations first hand here.


Around us, chemistry-driven industries have changed, as they have progressed along their digital transformation journey. Digital molecular characterization that we are still very proud to support is transforming into its automated and insightful self—freeing users, highly trained in advanced sciences, to be creators, not data facilitators. Yes, learning technology sometimes feels burdensome; however, there is no way I personally would go back to filing cabinets and volumes of notebooks, in private life or at work! Everything I have been doing for the past number of years is electronically stored and backed up, and often collaboratively shared with either family and friends, or colleagues and collaborators. Do I hate backing things up? Absolutely, but that ensures that “things” can be found; by me, or other people in my absence.

Professionally, I know for a fact that our customers in many chemistry-driven disciplines are feeling the same way: there is a payback for their digitization efforts. In particular, analytical chemistry that has been somewhat digital for over a decade, is still suffering from poor standardization and searchability; while the cost and trouble due to the inability to share, locate, and mine analytical data in support of critically important product lifecycle decisions is staggering. However, there are ways to aggregate the plethora of analytical instrumental results in a searchable, reusable way, and do it automatically, so that the manual burden to the chemistry experts is minimized or completely removed.  This also opens doors for many other benefits, since without analytical data standardization, one cannot move forward with any type of predictive analytics, in science, workflow enhancement, or instrument support. My colleagues and I are happy to be part of this transition.

Earlier in the year, a few published reviews covered the complexity of the analytical chemistry management within the “future vision”. Let me highlight a few issues that strike a cord with me:

quality-by-design approach to process development. With this approach comes a geometric expansion in the quantity of data being acquired to characterize a process…

Data sets are becoming very large and pose challenges to any IT [information technology] infrastructure as they are transmitted across networks for storing and analysis…

An additional challenge is related to data interpretation. The acquisition of MS data occurs in much less time than it takes to interpret it.

C. Challener. (2019). Paradigm Shift for Data Analysis and Interpretation, PharmaceuticalTechnology, 43 (2).

Streaming data… is easy to get to the cloud, as the data are small bits per unit of time. But analytical information, in which the data sizes are much larger, poses a greater challenge in streaming…That contrast in IoT data is the real challenge.” Read more…

Abstracting data generated at a manufacturers site can make it very difficult to retain context and robust data management practices. Creating fully-digital pipelines to feed data back to the organisation helps to meet regulation and competition challenges, while also maintaining the low-risk outsourcing-based business model. Read more…

25th medium

The internal event was the celebration of our company’s 25th anniversary. We have mentioned it in our blog and on our web site on numerous occasions.

The coincidence of the two events made me reflect on the path ACD/Labs has taken—from its origins in cheminformatics, fueled by predictive machine learning, to its present position in informatics of data aggregation, standardization, and re-use. We used to work on the properties of a chemical entity (molecule) to define its physicochemical characteristics, its IUPAC name, its NMR and other analytical spectral parameters, to visualize and digitize its graphical representation. Our recent product introductions have evolved to support complex product lifecycle challenges. Just as an example, our Luminata software solution supports a wide variety of critical decision making needs across the Pharmaceutical CMC lifecycle. Its latest 2019 release includes batch genealogy for tracking and monitoring of reaction schemas and analytical chemistry controls. Moreover, many of our customers leverage Contract Manufacturers, for many process stages, subject to rigorous control and regulatory inspection.  We are helping our Luminata customers connect the CMO-originating data to their internal systems.  This is especially timely, considering some of the recent impurity control based product recalls in the news!

LogoKatalyst D2D, released in 2019, showcases the exciting possibilities of our Core Capabilities: applying our solutions to data aggregation across the “Experiment Lifecycle” (from “Design to Decide”), deployed via cloud or on-premises environments.  We are seeing a significant interest with what appears to be our customers’ increasing investment in High-Throughput Experimentation.

At our 25th anniversary, we did a fair bit of reflection, mainly while looking into the future. Our customers who gathered to share their opinions at our user and key opinion meeting events, or took part in our customer success discussions onsite, and our 195+ employees who combine youth and experience (34 colleagues have been with us for over 20 years)  drive us to deliver the best solutions we can, for the industry we are passionate about.

Going full circle to the Lab of the Future, one of the online reviewers provided the following summary:

What’s pleasing to hear, however, is that despite the extraordinary advances we are witnessing in these spaces, a common vision seems to be shared by both vendors and researchers alike: automation cannot, and will not, replace scientists in the lab of the future. People are integral. Read more…

This matches my observations as well.

Let 2020 be a productive, rewarding, peaceful and successful year for all of you!


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