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What Does the Lab of the Future Look Like?

November 28, 2019
by Andrew Anderson, Vice President of Innovation & Information, ACD/Labs

2019 has been an incredible year for ACD/Labs. Our 25-year anniversary (with a company-wide event in Malaga, Spain), the launch of Katalyst D2D, and a wealth of customer engagements around the globe have certainly inspired me. While we are working hard to help our clients address some of the challenges they face today, I’m mindful that the future will bring additional challenges. Consequently, our participation in events like the Lab of the Future Congress a few weeks ago is an important part of my efforts to both communicate how ACD/Labs is geared up to address future challenges and also to learn from people charged with future-proofing their organizations, and what challenges they see dominating their R&D.

Since many folks have asked what I learned, I’d like to make a few simple statements about what I think the Lab of the Future might look like, and how ACD/Labs’ capabilities and products may be helpful.


The Lab of the Future is…Collaborative

The very first presentation of the Congress, by Bryn Roberts from Roche, described a future laboratory experience, designed with collaboration and interaction as fundamental attributes. In this future, scientists, charged with a common mission, but responsible for distinctly different areas of scientific study (e.g., synthesis and biological assay) work in close physical proximity with minimal barriers to interaction. Moreover, even when scientists from different continents work towards a common objective, the utilization of newer communication methods is important. Joe Pease from Genentech described their efforts to effectively collaborate with their external ecosystem and emphasized the importance of establishing social cohesiveness among collaborators. At ACD/Labs, we want to ensure that the tools scientists use are easily distributed across these collaborative teams. Moreover, the ability to present live data that supports effective team-based decisions is a fundamental attribute of Luminata—designed particularly to support project teams with chemical manufacturing control CMC development.


The Lab of the Future is…Automated and Parallel

A wealth of discussion at the Lab of the Future Congress covered automation. Colleagues from AstraZeneca described their efforts to automate both “test material generation” (design, synthesis, purification, and submission to assay) and bioassay workflows with high-scalability and modularity as fundamental infrastructure attributes. Moreover, the ability to execute thousands of synthesis-to-purification experiments while assuring the appropriate level of material output quality is anticipated in the short-term. At ACD/Labs, the theme of automating such workflows, while not subjecting human operators to work as “data facilitators” between modular systems, is one of our strategic areas of operation. Katalyst D2D helps scientists address some of the key challenges for such experimentation.


The Lab of the Future is…Digital

Finally, many Congress attendees and presenters talked about being confronted with the challenge of a fully digitalized laboratory experience. Many themes were covered across scientific and functional domains. As readers of this blog are certainly aware, ACD/Labs’ expertise in analytical data addresses some, at-times, overlooked aspects of digitization efforts. When I think of this area of the Lab of the Future, I’m mindful that Laboratory Execution Systems, Experimental Data Capture Systems, and ultimately Decision Support Systems must also effectively capture the “digital twin” of instrumental methods of analysis. Moreover, one of our key goals is to ensure that these “Digitalized” laboratories of the future not only allow for the “on-demand” access of analytical data, but must also provide:

  • Data provenance—assure that sample genealogy is preserved within datasets
  • Data interoperability—assure that data formats do not require specific software to consume and allow for visualization
  • The ability to process-on-demand—assure that data is formatted to ensure that automated processing of large datasets is convenient, fast, and reproducible
  • The ability to associate digital representations of analysis, both automated and human-initiated—assure that the interpretations of results are stored along with the experimental data

In summary, the Lab of the Future, and the vision articulated by the attendees at the Lab of the Future Congress is an exciting place. As a key stakeholder in making that vision a reality, my colleagues and I are poised for the transition!

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