For those still contemplating whether to embark on the journey, the digital transformation of the laboratory can start sooner than they might think. Not all transformations will take place at the same pace, however the destination remains the same for all involved: 

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An end-to-end digital thread that connects data across the entire development cycle.

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As shown in our Digital Transformation in the Lab report, R&D cycles are getting shorter and products and processes more complex. As a result, the efficient capture and analysis of data in the laboratory is key. By investing in and executing against a transformation journey, both R&D and QC labs can accelerate development and meet the demands of an increasingly complex ecosystem.

Three phases of transformation

We believe digital transformation of the lab should be pursued in three clear phases: foundational, transformational and aspirational.

  1. FOUNDATIONAL emphasizes doing the basics brilliantly and includes priorities such as simplifying the application landscape, deploying automation, connecting all instruments and capturing data digitally. This phase will lay the groundwork for the transformational work that follows.

  2. TRANSFORMATIONAL reimagines the structure of traditional labs, moving away from monolithic and isolated systems toward a cloud-based, multi-vendor platform that delivers connected capabilities. Included in this should be core services such as a common user interface, enhanced security, data access, and instrument integration. These in turn will enable analytics-powered insights, ecosystem collaboration and enhanced workflow and compliance.

  3. ASPIRATIONAL allows new scientific business models to be realized, leveraging a redefined lab environment powered by an end-to-end data supply chain, deeper adoption of AI, whole lab automation and implementation of in silico methods and simulations. This phase will drive truly digital labs into the future.

By implementing these phases in a strategic, meaningful approach, companies will ensure that they can better utilize the enormous amounts of data they have access to and rapidly drive useful insights in areas such as product and process development, tech transfer, operational excellence and continuous improvement.

The lab of the future

The modern digital lab will truly transform how innovative biopharmaceutical products are created and brought to market. Researchers will be able to leverage prior research from both internal collaborators and external partners, as well as access real world evidence, and public research efforts to quickly identify novel disease targets, as well as potential new therapeutics and therapeutic pathways.

Within the R&D lab, previously inaccessible complex and miniaturized assays will become routine and fully automated, and the entire discovery process will result in accelerated insights, greatly reduced time to move promising new therapeutics into the clinical trials phase, and increased likelihood of clinical success for those that do enter the clinical pipeline.

In the QC lab, the use of extended reality (XR) will become commonplace to facilitate tech transfer, train and provide technical support on new methods, as well as guide lab staff as they execute those methods. High levels of automation will further increase quality and reduce the variability of QC operations, leading to higher right-first-time rates on assay execution This will result in improved visibility to QC lab performance, asset utilization, and resource scheduling to support longer-range strategic lab planning.

By establishing an end-to-end data strategy that provides access to information throughout creation, storage, editing, reporting and other usage for internal and external purposes, companies can ensure that they are positioned to capitalize on the digital lab of the future, today. This approach will ensure that transformation is enterprise-wide, rather than done in silos or pilot projects, leading to a truly agile lab. The life sciences companies that commit first to doing the basics brilliantly, and then to leveraging today’s digital technologies to transform and redefine their laboratories, will be in the best position to adapt and thrive.

To read more about the case for transforming from experimental to essential in the digital lab, I suggest reading our Digital Lab of the Future report.

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Barry Heavey

Managing Director – Life Sciences, Europe

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