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Report: 11th Annual ELNs and Advanced Laboratory Solutions

Peter Boogaard takes stock of the coming together of the ELNs and LIMS conferences in Milan, Italy

The ELNs forum, in one guise or another, has been going now for 11 years and it’s fair to say that in that time we have seen may changes. We’ve seen the data capture technology evolve and progress, companies – both vendor and manufacturer – merge, and in more recent years an increasing global trend towards systems integration. The program of this year’s conference included many case studies and general trends in laboratory information, but there were three particular topics that triggered my attention.

At first, during both conference days, several vendors and industry examples confirmed that ELNs are moving from development to manufacturing, especially in new ELN markets such as food and beverage, at the costs of traditional LIMS deployments. The perception that an ELN can only be deployed in a non-regulatory environment is changing rapidly. During last year’s conference, LONZA showed how an ELN is used in both regulated and non-regulated markets. This year, Pfizer showed how a LIMS was extended to include both LIMS and ELN capabilities. An evolution such as this doesn’t just occur – it must be catalysed by concerted action taken by the industry.

Secondly, it may seem a boring topic these days, but the need for standardisation in our industry has never been higher. Forums like this conference presents a valuable opportunity for so many people from different sectors, job functions and seniority to come together to discuss how the industry can evolve these standards and make it happen. Gerhard Noelken from Pfizer represented the birth of a new industry-sponsored initiative to promote open information standards for the analytical laboratory. The Allotrope Foundation, sponsored by Abbott, Amgen, Baxter, BI, BMS, Merck, GSK and others seeks to address the lack of common metadata repository formats. The proposed framework will consist of (a) open document standards based upon XML and JSON, (b) open metadata repositories to provide accurate input from numerous data sources, and (c) open source class libraries to support these components.

The last trend that I observed is that the introduction of new tools such as mobile tablets is changing the mindset within organisations. While in the past just the new ‘cool’ technology has been the focus, it has been increasingly noted that core functionality and business impact are key drivers. During a workshop on the third day, a detailed and interactive session that included live demonstrations addressed how these new mobile devices may add value in the laboratory workflow.

Steps towards this were taken at this year’s ELNs and LIMS forum, and I look forward to continuing the discussion and progression at next year’s event. In a discussion with the meeting organisers, Pharma IQ, before I left for the airport, we talked about the future of the event. It seems that much like the evolution and integration of our informatics systems within the pharma industry, so will the event itself evolve, to give a much broader, strategic and more business-critical view. I certainly look forward to the 2013 meeting, as it looks like it is not just the event’s location that is changing.


Peter Boogaard is the founder of Industrial Lab Automation, an independent consulting firm that provides management services to address harmonisation, integration and consolidation of business processes in Life Science development and manufacturing.

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