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Delivering an end-to-end R&D Solution

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Sophia Ktori profiles IDBS, a company focusing on analytics as well as informatics

Analytics is an area of informatics that IDBS says still represents a major bottleneck for R&D organisations in any industry, and which has been slow to catch up with the now almost commoditised field of cheminformatics packages and mature software for managing complex biological data. Paul Denny-Gouldson, VP of strategic solutions at IDBS, said: ‘All R&D organisations, whether in the food, pharma, biotech, energy, or petrochemicals industries, will rely on analytical sciences to make sense of their research. But today’s software for analytical science is really stuck in the dark ages compared with platforms for chemistry and biology.’

Effectively, scientists don’t have the ability to search and interrogate heterogeneous data from different types of analytical instrumentation. What they need is the live data straight from that instrumentation, which can be manipulated and reprocessed. What they generally get is dead data in the form of PDFs or spreadsheets.

IDBS and partner ACD/Labs have joined forces to deliver what the companies say will represent an enhanced analytical sciences environment. The collaborative effort has started with an integration of ACD/Spectrus and IDBS’s web E-WorkBook technologies, which will bring live analytical data into scientists’ ELN interface. IDBS says that this capability will represent a major step forwards in allowing R&D organisations to search, retrieve, reprocess and interpret live analytical data from their ELN. 

A single end-to-end platform

IDBS’s partnerships embody the UK company’s drive to offer the best chemistry, biology, and data analytical software across the E-WorkBook and ActivityBase platforms, explained Laurence Painell, VP product management and marketing: ‘Our ultimate goal is to develop E-WorkBook into a single, end-to-end platform that seamlessly offers the best in electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), chemistry, biology, asset data management, and data analysis software, to enable R&D organisations in any industry to manage, interrogate, manipulate, analyse, and exploit their data, from one location. To do that, we have to be the best, or very close to the best, in each facet of the platform, be it analytical science, biology, microbiology, or chemistry.’

IDBS is the first to admit that this goal is not something that it can achieve alone, Painell continued: ‘We cannot build everything in the platform ourselves, so, recognising that we have to bring in external expertise, we have embarked on a major programme of partnering over the last two years, and this will continue as we move forwards.’ To this end, as recently as May 2015, IDBS showcased a landmark strategic partnership with ChemAxon at its Connect client conference in Philadelphia. Over the next three years, the deal will see ChemAxon’s cheminformatics platform integrated across E-WorkBook and the ActivityBase suite, which offers biology and chemistry data management for the high-throughput screening environment.

Transformative partnerships

The ACD/Labs and ChemAxon partnerships will be transformative for IDBS’s products, but the company is also partnering to bring highly targeted software into its R&D informatics infrastructure. ‘Last year, for example, we teamed up with Neural ID, in a very niche area of preclinical development that is centred on cardiosafety testing,’ Denny-Gouldson continued. ‘Integrating the Neural ID software into E-WorkBook means that researchers in that field can now do their analyses a hundred times faster. ’

IDBS has also teamed up with Germany-based systems integrator, Osthus, which specialises in process and data integration for R&D in life sciences. Through this partnership, the firms are developing integration modules for activities such as offline mobile data capture, or lab request handling, which are built into E-WorkBook. Also in 2014, an agreement between IDBS and scientific data consulting firm Rancho BioSciences, allows the two firms to offer to mutual customers manual data curation services for E-WorkBook products in the translational science and clinical research areas.

Sweat your assets

IDBS is, in parallel, adding new functionality to E-WorkBook as part of its in-house development. ‘We are proud to foster an agile environment, with cutting-edge technology that ensures we can deliver on customer demands for innovative solutions,’ Denny-Gouldson commented. ‘Importantly, our aim is not to make existing informatics infrastructures redundant, but rather to enable companies to “sweat the assets” that they already have, which is what IT departments are frequently telling me they are being pushed to do. Yes, we need to incorporate software into our platform that augments and broadens the capabilities of our scientific domains and maximises the value that customers can derive from that data. But we also need to offer tools that will allow our platform to integrate both with the laboratory instrumentation and also, critically, with other systems or IT infrastructures, whether from laboratory information management systems (LIMS), to analytical data management systems, scientific data management systems (SDMS) and chromatography data systems.’