On the cutting edge

A roundup of instrumentation, software and other tools and technology news

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LONDON—Leading off our roundup of interesting software, hardware and services in the pharma/life-sciences realm, we have The Pistoia Alliance on a mission to, as it puts it, “Tackle poorly designed scientific software with launch of the User Experience for Life Sciences Toolkit.” According to The Pistoia Alliance, the UXLS toolkit marks the culmination of a collaborative project involving more than 50 user experience (UX) specialists from 20 different organizations across the world; including several top 10 pharmaceutical companies, bioscience and technology firms. The toolkit contains UX case studies, methods and metrics, and the idea is to enable life-sciences companies to design better, more intuitive, more usable digital products, specifically for R&D in the life-sciences and healthcare environment.
“In today’s world, software is the gateway to unlocking the many zettabytes of data that humans produce. When scientific software is poorly designed, it is frustrating and time-consuming to use, and adds yet another barrier to the acceptance and adoption of new digital technologies, such as automation and artificial intelligence. This has the cumulative effect of making drug discovery and development far less efficient and productive,” commented Dr. Steve Arlington, president of The Pistoia Alliance. “As we become more familiar in our personal lives with digital technologies that interact intuitively and respond to our needs, the desire for technology that ‘just works’ in our professional lives is also growing. The potential for good UX design to impact life-science R&D is significant—from improving the UX of clinical trials and making it easier for patients to participate, to delivering cutting-edge UX design that supports the ‘laboratory of the future.’ UX design should not be considered a remote or niche area, and we hope that our UXLS toolkit enables more companies to realize this potential.”
The UXLS project was formed by The Pistoia Alliance in recognition of the fact that many life science organizations are behind the curve when it comes to UX. Although UX principles are widely recognized and have been applied successfully in other industries, such as retail and financial services, adoption and use in life sciences is low. Members of The Pistoia Alliance communicated this issue, and the UXLS project began as a result in early 2017. The UXLS toolkit so far contains six case studies from organizations such as Novartis, EMBL-EBI and AstraZeneca; 10 published methods, such as interactive prototyping and usability testing; and meaningful principles that will assist and explain activities to better a system or process.

Getting patients matched to clinical trials
DENVER—Early March saw ClinOne, a mobile clinical trial management solution, report that it soon will add another technology into its product suite—the ability to reach and match patients to clinical trials online. While there are other solutions that offer online patient matching, ClinOne’s says its approach is unique because it is a part of their integrated clinical trial solution.
“We want to provide every patient with a clinical trial option. We can do this through their existing institutions, their referring physicians with our MD Referral technology and now with direct online engagement,” said Rob Bohacs, CEO of ClinOne. “The majority of patients identify a clinical trial of interest online versus their current providers. It’s the first step in understanding treatment options for patients in through web searches.”
Starting in June, ClinOne will automatically link an active clinical trial to its online patient-matching website as an integrated solution, eliminating the duplication of costs and administration.
“Think of this as an Expedia or Kayak for clinical trial offerings,” Bohacs says. “When you are facing a medical illness and are seeking additional treatment options, the last thing you want or need is to be burdened by an arduous search process.”

MS + LC = better proteomics
BILLERCA, Mass. & ODENSE, Denmark—Bruker and Evosep announced recently that they have signed a codevelopment and comarketing agreement to integrate their mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography technologies.
Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will work to improve the integration of the Evosep One LC system with Bruker's timsTOF Pro mass spec by enabling control of both systems via Bruker's Hystar LC-MS control software. The agreement is focused on clinical proteomics research. According to the companies, the integrated Evosep One-timsTOF Pro system could enable the analysis of more than 200 samples per day.

Direct labeling chemistry for genome mapping and SV analysis
SAN DIEGO—In February, Bionano Genomics announced the global commercial launch of new chemistry for sequence motif labeling called Direct Label and Stain (DLS). DLS is a non-destructive labeling chemistry that reportedly improves every aspect of Bionano genome mapping. When used in the Bionano workflow, DLS is said to enable unprecedented sensitivity and resolution for structural variant discoveries and the most accurate and contiguous genome assemblies.
Prior to the DLS chemistry, Bionano offered its customers NLRS (nick, label, repair and stain) kits, which use nicking endonucleases to make sequence-specific nicks, where fluorescently labeled nucleotides were subsequently incorporated, followed by a ligation reaction to repair the nicks. The NLRS process is highly robust and specific, according to the company, but it introduces systematic double-stranded breaks that limited the contiguity of Bionano maps. Overcoming these systematic breaks often required the use of two different nicking enzymes to create two separate sequence motif maps that could be overlaid in analysis. Because DLS has no destructive steps in the workflow, the systematic molecule breaks are eliminated and the DLS protocol is substantially streamlined. It involves fewer steps and fewer enzymes, and a single sequence motif map is usually sufficient to obtain the same or better results seen with the NLRS chemistry, effectively doubling the throughput of the Saphyr system.

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