or the hardware on which it runs, even if it becomes obsolete,’ Schaefer notes. Archiving in a binary data format is

also less than ideal, because there is still a dependency on software to read it. It represents a serious cost of ownership issue, he continues. ‘No-one will ever dare to throw away data, but if it’s kept in a proprietary format and you have to keep the software to read it, you will also need to keep and maintain the hardware to run it, and someone trained to operate it.’ Jim Brennan, technical specialist

at LabWare, feels that Bioanalytical laboratories, for example, will want to secure and archive all data that comprise the tracking, testing, and reporting of samples from pre-clinical and clinical drug studies. ‘It is common that instrument data is archived separately from the remainder of the study archive,’ he said. ‘As laboratory software is updated, the

burden of maintaining legacy versions falls on the custodians of these systems,’ Brennan says, in concurrence with Schaefer. ‘To access legacy data from old software, they must, in some cases, maintain specific versions of operating systems and databases to support outdated software. For decades data standards held the promise of eliminating this scenario. Unfortunately, some of these support limited instrument formats and are not extensible. Other standards can be modified without traceability and do not address archival storage.’

Creating a standard BSSN-Software has been pioneering development and adoption of the Analytical Information Markup Language (AnIML) standard data format. Recently, LabWare developed functionality to exchange data in AnIML. ‘AnIML is an extensible vendor neutral instrument data standard based on XML,’ Brennan explains. ‘AnIML uses Base64 encoding to prevent data from being modified while in transit through information systems. Conversion or export to AnIML allows generic viewers to access data after the proprietary software is no longer supported. Support for AnIML within LabWare provides immediate business benefit by eliminating the need to develop multiple interfaces for instruments that provide data in AnIML format.’ The topic of maintaining data in standard formats, particularly for long- term storage and retrieval purposes, is something that Biovia’s Hayward and Jansen also bring into the conversation. While BSSN Software and LabWare are pioneering the use and adoption of AnIML, Biovia is working with the Allotrope data

14 Scientific Computing World August/September 2018

 Matrix Gemini LIMS from Autoscribe Informatics

format for storage of experimental data. ‘The idea is that whatever system you

are using, at least the data from all your instrumentation is archived in a standard format,’ Hayward says. ‘Then, as long as you define the ontologies in the right way, you also won’t lose data in translation or introduce errors when connecting systems together.’ BSSN offers interfaces that customers install, which on the one hand can organise their data flow to ensure a high degree of integrity between the instrument and the controlling system – typically a LIMS – and on the other

“It’s about building a holistic system where all the different pieces work together to accomplish all the different tasks and management functions”

enable bidirectional instrument interfaces. ‘We want the system to be able to tell the instrument what to do, as well as to retrieve information generated by the instrument,’ Schaefer notes. ‘Describing this interaction is also a key part of the complete data package that companies should aim to derive. We can do this using another standard, SiLA, which allows us to submit samples to instrument software, create instrument workflows, and then retrieve the data package back in AnIML.’ It’s highly interoperative, he notes, and using SiLA as a communication protocol provides the means for standardising the language used to instruct the instruments.

For Schaefer the ultimate goal is to be

able to marry your instrument data with the package of contextual information, procedures, equipment and personnel data, and parcel it all up together in one set of AnIML documents that can be archived independently of your LIMS. ‘Companies currently maintain all of their calibration data, study data, instrument and batch release data, in the LIMS, but at the end of the day a LIMS is still part of that perishable construct called software, and from a business, as well as a regulatory perspective, you need to plan for the failure of such systems. Assuming that your laboratory will always have the same LIMS system is a bit shortsighted, when you think about the retention times that may be required for data,’ says Schaefer. At the 2017 European Bioanalysis

Forum (EBF) LabWare introduced the notion of a complete bioanalytical study archive that could contain all relevant data in AnIML format. ‘This could include all analytical instrument data, potentially from multiple analytical techniques, all sample tracking and storage records, sample freeze-thaw counts, rejected and reported results, incurred sample reanalysis, reassay history, etc,’ added Schaefer. ‘An AnIML-based study archive could be

stored in LIMS or other secure centralised repositories. In principle development of such an archive would ensure that all study data would be readable at any time without the original instrument software, LIMS or ELN. This would be relevant not only in bioanalytical laboratories but also in other regulated laboratories involved in preclinical and clinical drug studies’, concluded Brennan.

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