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laboratory informatics

any practice is the all-important issue of safety. With this in mind, ACD/Labs has developed its ‘Percepta’ platform. Designed for researchers synthesising new products, the systems predict the physiochemical and toxicity properties of novel compounds. ‘Safety issues can arise from many

sources such as packaging, raw materials, contaminants or unexpected degradation,’ says McGibbon. ‘Also, problems don’t just come from new chemicals, it could also be familiar chemicals under certain circumstances.’ ‘Safety has to be one of the most important

criteria for lab managers, and Percepta allows predictions of safety, in terms of possible toxicities, solubilities and physical properties of chemicals,’ he adds. Danica Reynaud is chief executive of

US-based Authentechnologies, a small, three-person strong business, that uses DNA sequence-based technologies to test the authenticity of species from different natural


products. As Reynaud simply states: ‘We work with dietary supplement companies, food companies and their suppliers to make sure that the ingredients are the right thing.’ For the chief executive, safety is key.

systems (LIMS) are more important than ever before. ‘In many cases, lab managers are under

pressure to meet certain nutritional profiles,’ said Graham McGibbon from Canada-based laboratory soſtware provider, Advanced Chemistry Development (ACD/Labs). ‘Take the move away from soda pops and towards natural beverages: how do you make something that appeals to consumers and what do you use as your ingredients? How do you track the chemical components in your beverage, and do you even know what’s in your competitors’ product?’ McGibbon is certain queries such as

these are driving demand for informatics systems. As he puts it: ‘[Laboratory staff] need information on their scientific activities and they want to lay their hands on entire sets of information all at once, without having to l

track backwards inconveniently. [Informatics] platforms can, for example, bring different kinds of data together on a single interface, so instead of going back to different instruments in the lab, you can search a single informatics system for your data.’ With easy access to information in mind,

ACD/Labs’ ‘Spectrus’ platform combines raw or processed data from various techniques and instruments, such as chromatography and spectroscopy, across laboratories into a single environment ready for analysis. Analytical and chemical data can be combined with a researcher’s interpretations, offering insight at any stage in a project. And at the same time, chemical handling and nomenclature tools maintain the chemical context of experiments. Clearly such informatics systems can save

a lab manager time and money, and boost production efficiencies, but underlying


‘Everything we do traces back to safety. We now find ourselves dealing more and more with different types of fraud, adulteration, contamination, even infestation by insects,’ she says. ‘So customers are using us for authentication of a material, and that’s really to ensure it’s safe and they have a high-quality product.’ Staff carry out botanical and meat

genetic ID testing, microscopic analysis, GMO screening, and other analyses, tracking some 300 tests a month, using a laboratory information management system called GoLIMS developed by US-based GoInformatics. Having used the system for almost two years, Reynaud asserts it is now critical to the day-to-day running of her laboratory and ensuring customer safety. ‘We’ve just been audited for compliance

with ISO 17025 [testing for technical compliance] and working with manufacturers of food and supplements, we also have to comply with the FDA’s current good


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