What is a Laboratory Information Management System?
A Laboratory Information Management System, or LIMS, is a software solution which supports modern laboratory operations. LIMS are designed to improve the throughput and reproducibility of research by replacing the traditionally time-consuming, error prone paper-based legacy processes of the past. The progress of samples through the lab is documented in a secure, searchable and robust audit trail. LIMS drastically improve the accuracy and reliability of record keeping, standardise and automate workflows and improve the overall efficiency of research.
What to consider when assessing a Laboratory Information Management System?
Selecting the right LIMS solution can be challenging given the vast number of off-the-shelf and in-house solutions seen today; but the right solution can be transformative. The wrong solution, however, can represent a significant financial burden and operational liability.
The primary consideration should be “what are the challenges faced by the researchers in the laboratory and how does the solution address those needs?”. Scientists specialising in one scientific discipline have very different needs to those in another and it is vital that the features address those needs both immediately and over time.
Another consideration is “will the proposed solution scale to meet the demands of the business over time?”. The solution might support a small number of researchers initially but as the laboratory grows, the solution needs to grow in scale to support the greater demands or will soon limit throughput.
Finally, “how robust is the solution and can the business depend upon it?”. Whilst software solutions are never perfect, an effective LIMS solution will become integral to the daily operations of the laboratory and as such must be available, robust, performant and secure.
Do general purpose solutions address the needs of the researchers?
Current off- the-shelf LIMS solutions are often marketed as “customisable” and represent a general-purpose approach. Whilst these enterprise solutions may ensure regulatory compliance and a secure audit trail, many of these systems fail to deliver the functionality and automation desirable by the researchers within a specific scientific discipline. What features are added to the solution over time remains at the discretion of the supplier. As such, a general-purpose LIMS solution may address some of the challenges of the researchers but is unlikely to deliver significant automation of laboratory processes.
Another consideration is the implementation period; embedding these systems within a laboratory and customising them accordingly is a significant undertaking which can months or even years. This can be hugely dispiriting and frustrating for the end-users hoping to realise the benefits these LIMS solutions should bring. Instead, they are faced with lengthy implementations and left with products falling short.
What is the expense associated with building your own custom LIMS system?
Due to the limitations of commercial solutions, some research teams go to great lengths, and expense, to hire a team of software developers or informaticians to develop a solution which can deliver the desired bespoke features to meet the immediate and future needs of the researchers. This may be a solution designed and developed from the ground up or rely upon integrating multiple third-party solutions. However, this approach represents a significant, long-term financial commitment and can pose significant operational risks.
Firstly, success is dependent upon the researchers investing their knowledge and time in the design of the solution. In addition, the software development team will need to actively maintain and manage the applications comprising the solution as well as any associated infrastructure (e.g. databases, servers etc.). If the solution relies upon integrating third-party solutions, there may also be considerations with regards to license fees.
Finally, recruitment and retention of experienced, commercial software developers with the skills to design, engineer and maintain such a solution is often a challenge due to a shortage in these skills and the demand from other industry sectors.
How do we address these challenges and how is our Laboratory Information Management System different?
When Angus Lamond, cofounder of Platinum Informatics, evaluated the LIMS systems available he quickly identified that none of the commercial offerings would adequately address the challenges of the researchers in his laboratory. Working in close collaboration with leading scientists, the commercial software development team here at Platinum Informatics have developed an integrated, enterprise ecosystem of software applications. Our solution is Platinum Desimal.
Platinum Desimal is unlike any other LIMS solution on the market today. It was designed by scientists, for scientists and its user-led design takes account of many of the issues outlined above.
In contrast to the general-purpose LIMS solutions on the market, Platinum Desimal has been designed to address the specific challenges associated with large-scale, multiomics research. Through first-hand experience, the Desimal ecosystem addresses the needs of reproducibility, automation and the processing of large, complex datasets.
By hosting the solution in the cloud, Platinum Desimal can scale to meet the needs of any laboratory and removes the necessity to upkeep expensive, onsite infrastructure. Desimal is a secure, robust and performant platform that provides businesses with the reassurance that the ecosystem will available to meet the needs of researchers on a daily basis. There’s more on this in our Chief Executive’s blog “Bringing the Digital Lab of the future to the research laboratories of today.
Platinum Desimal, designed by scientists for scientists. There are so many more examples of how our user-centric design overcomes the barriers traditional informatics systems have imposed on research efforts to date. Get in touch to find out more.
Scott Greig, Head of Development