With more and more pressure being put on research and development units to accelerate the drug development process, many organizations are changing the way they operate. Biopharmaceutical companies are collaborating with academia and CROs in the discovery process and looking at new technology to make their process more efficient. One such technology that, when implemented correctly, enables collaboration and improves process efficiency is the Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN).
An ELN is a multidisciplinary system that provides tools to design and capture experimental protocols, results, and research findings in electronic form. ELNs are designed for scientists in different areas of research such as chemistry, biology, analytical, in vivo, and clinical. Using an ELN:
Below, we’ll dive into each of those advantages and further explain how your laboratory can benefit from an ELN.
Research laboratories without an ELN are most likely using a variety of tools, most prominently Excel spreadsheets and a lot of paper to conduct their work. Pertinent experimental data is then collated and entered into a paper Lab Notebook. Implementing an ELN will help your laboratory begin the process of going paperless. ELNs are designed to replace paper notebooks through the use of electronic, smart and intuitive forms. This eliminates the need to copy and paste data, such as instrument printouts, into the paper lab notebooks. The benefits of a simple replacement of a paper lab notebook with an ELN include:
And just imagine, research notes without coffee stains, ripped sheets, or the fear of losing records by accident or in a fire!
A major concern of managers in R&D environments is to protect intellectual property. Those of you who have worked in a chemistry lab probably had a supervisor who was always asking you not to leave chemical structure diagrams hanging everywhere.
Through the use of ELNs, each experiment, including your chemical structure diagrams, can be digitally recorded and secured, Access can be granted on a need to know basis. In addition, entries in the ELN are time-stamped, changes logged, and e-signatures applied. The result is a complete audit trail of the entire experiment. Controls can be applied to experiment data to satisfy both legal and regulatory requirements such that the data can be used for patent submissions.
Configured correctly, an ELN can streamline the experimental process from experiment creation to experiment conclusion. ELNs offer the following capabilities:
Interfacing your laboratory instruments and integrating other systems with your ELN can be accomplished in a number of ways. Most ELNs have built-in instrument interfacing capabilities and many ELNs have Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that can be used to extend the capabilities of your ELN. These integration solutions work with:
Major benefits of instrument interfacing and system integration include:
By combining research data from different internal or external groups in an ELN system, you make the information securely available and easily searchable across your organization (including external partners), speeding up your research findings and decision making Remember that in order to achieve rapid access to your data across the enterprise you must spend time upfront to standardize the use of the ELN. For example, you must define naming conventions for such items as folder, experiment names, assays, metadata, etc.
The benefits you will achieve through designing the foundations of your ELN before you start implementing include:
In summary, when implemented correctly, ELNs facilitate interoperability that fundamentally changes the ways scientists perform experiments and manage their data. ELNs eliminate communication issues, replication of work, and different interpretations or approaches (especially in an interdisciplinary setting). An ELN has the flexibility to adapt easily, to automate very complex workflows, and to support discovery research where IP protection, data processing and sharing, and reporting and visualization are important objectives.
Have you implemented and ELN and realized the benefits outlined in this blog? If not, when do you plan on getting started with an ELN implementation?