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laboratory informatics ➤


High-content screening is putting a demand on the capabilities of the instrumentation, and also on the soſtware platforms’. IDBS recently launched a completely


overhauled version of its ELN, E-WorkBook 10. Much of the latest iteration has been to migrate the platform to the web as part of a three year modernisation programme, and features new capabilities for visualising and analysing complex datasets and results. Tis allows multidisciplinary researchers to collaborate more freely on data interpretation as well as input, and the sharing of intellectual property, Denny-Gouldson suggests.


Solid and secure ‘Big pharma is leading the drive to tap into the wealth of innovation in the biotechs, platform, and virtual companies that have the specialist knowledge and research infrastructure to work at the level of the genetic basis of disease and the identification of protein or gene- based therapeutics that can impact on disease mechanism. Today’s informatics solutions need to offer a solid, secure repository for data handling, but also facilitate checking the integrity, standard and quality of that data. Our ActivityBase suite offers dedicated solutions for the management of traditional small molecule screening data and also for biological screening. Te ActivityBase biology platform can be used with all assay types, including multiparametric and image-based, high-content screens, and allows all scientific data analysis and result derivation to be effected in one place.’


Supporting collaboration In parallel with ActivityBase, IDBS’ E-WorkBook has been developed as an environment for supporting collaborative research at the discovery stage, and in particular capturing and managing IP. Te platform’s ELN is complemented by BioBook, which integrates with other data systems including LIMS, so that data imported from multiple laboratories can be collated and all research kept in a single secure environment. ‘We are effectively a gatekeeper for all that


data, providing a data curation element through ActivityBase and E-WorkBook,’ Denny- Gouldson says. ‘Our aim is to provide industry with the tools that will enable them to maximise the value of their data. Research at the early stage is about the experiment, not the sample. Tere are no “yes or no” answers, and data is oſten observational, so soſtware must be able to store, manage and facilitate the interpretation of multifactorial and diverse data types. ‘Te future for research is bright. Tis


growing emphasis on high content and high throughput, combined with the move towards


8 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD Data from multiple research partners managed within a common collaborative information management system


more collaboration and externalisation, will be defining factors in the years ahead. Te nature of research is evolving, and we are evolving with it.’


Self-sufficient Te need for dedicated soſtware that can handle the complexity of biological data input, output, and visualisation, and in parallel facilitate multidisciplinary networking, is similarly stressed by Alister Campbell, head of application science at Dotmatics. Te firm specialises in the development of soſtware solutions for the R&D sector, including early- stage discovery. ‘Our suite of web-based tools has been developed to help scientists become as self-sufficient as possible,’ Campbell explains. ‘Te platform was born out of the need


to give scientists an easy-to-use front end with querying and retrieval functionality, in


IT’S THIS ABILITY TO


VISUALISE DATA IN MULTIPLE FORMATS THAT CAN BE IMPORTANT


combination with the flexibility to manipulate and view all types of data, both chemical and biological, in different ways.’ It’s this ability to visualise data in multiple


formats that can be hugely important in terms of maximising the utility of experimental results, Campbell believes. ‘Te Dotmatics suite enables the user to


view data in numerous ways, for example, graphically, comparatively with other data, or structurally. But on top of the querying and reporting tools, the soſtware gives users an ELN capability for data input, together with biological data analysis capabilities, and dedicated bioregistration and small molecule registration tools.’


Productivity tools Te company has, in parallel, developed soſtware that allows scientists from collaborating or outsourced laboratories to import data from their own informatics platforms into the Dotmatics suite. Additional productivity tools enable scientists, project managers and decision makers to search and query data, in real time, from a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet. ‘Te fact that all our soſtware is web-based


has many advantages for collaboration, Campbell notes. ‘You don’t need to install the same soſtware at multiple sites, and monitoring who has access to what is much easier using a central, web-based hub. Web-based tools also reduce overheads and the need for complex implementation and in house IT support, and people are used to navigating websites, so they find browser-led products very intuitive. Moreover, collaborators can start inputting data into the platform immediately, and view it in real time.’ Te Dotmatics package currently


encompasses 14 different tools that all interconnect seamlessly. ‘We are also continually working on multiple development projects with our clients – particularly in the biotech and pharma sectors – who have a shopping list of functionality that they’d like to see available. Much of this ongoing development is in the biology space’.


More complex than chemistry It’s a theme that both Campbell and Lemon emphasise. ‘Although there is a wealth of commercially available tools and packages available for handling chemistry, the complexity of biological information has meant that equivalent tools for the biology laboratory are only now catching up,’ Campbell notes. ‘Te chemistry workflow tends to be much simpler than biological experimentation, especially


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