Perfect union

Thermo Fisher Watson LIMS and Symyx Notebook integrated to reduce bioanalytical workflow error and improve efficiency and reporting

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PHILADELPHIA—Seeking to provide scientists in the bioanalyticalcommunity with what is, in theory, a "completely automated workflow," ThermoFisher Scientific Inc. and Symyx Technologies Inc. have announced anout-of-the-box integration of Symyx Notebook and Thermo Scientific Watson LIMS.


With the integration of the industry-standard ThermoScientific Watson LIMS with Symyx's electronic lab notebook (ELN), thecompanies say that scientists engaged in biological and bioanalytical workflowswill be able electronically pass study information, sample lists, experimentalresults and reports between the ELN and the LIMS, reducing time-consumingmanual transcription and data manipulation that can result in costly laboratoryerrors and regulatory compliance issues.


With the new offering, bioanalytical scientists can not onlydrive their existing workflow in Watson LIMS, but also gain the added benefitof performing sample preparation, managing instrument calibration andmaintenance and completing the experimental record in Symyx Notebook, all underGLP compliance.


"We had originally talked about doing something like thisinternally and developing a product ourselves but we took a long look at themarket and saw what Symyx offers and they immediately went to the top of ourlist," recalls Trish Meek, Thermo Fisher Scientific director of productstrategy, life sciences. "It became clear to us that if we had decided to dothis in-house, their product is the kind of product we would have wanted todesign."


She adds that Symyx's ELN provided a very strong core systemwith flexible offerings and interfaces and very easy connectivity, "so whileit's strong in life sciences, we realized it could also support other industrysegments as needed," she says. "Many of our largest customers had alreadyselected Symyx Notebook as their ELN solution. Symyx had developed an ELNplatform for the entire enterprise based on a .NET architecture. So from both abusiness and technology perspective, the partnership just made sense."


With the economy being what it is and pipelines being what theyare, Meek says, manual transcription of data simply doesn't wash in terms ofmaking things efficient and cost-effective, and customers have been asking formore ability to automate the process, from sample prep to analytical trends tooverall batch management and product management.


"The integration of Symyx Notebook with Watson LIMSdemonstrates Symyx's ongoing commitment to powering the electronic laboratoryenvironment with better data correlation, more secure information exchanges andimproved end-to-end report generation," says Trevor Heritage, president ofSymyx's software business unit. "Additional capabilities to explore and reportWatson LIMS data with Symyx Isentris will enhance the value of scientificinformation and optimize the way scientists communicate and collaborate in thelab."


What Symyx and Thermo Fisher are aiming to do is to assistbioanalytical laboratories in migrating away from paper-based systems andmanual data transcription processes and toward fully electronic, automated laboratoryworkflows. In addition to its other benefits, the integrated solution alsoensures that all experimental details on projects or studies are authenticatedby Watson and documented electronically, allowing scientists to share reportsand results with colleagues across the lab or in another location.


"Today, pharmaceutical companies are looking forefficiencies in workflow, and by guiding the laboratory users through theirstudy protocols and bioanalytical assays in the LIMS and ELN we have enabled scientiststo maximize not only their workflow but also their knowledge while saving timeand eliminating manual transcription errors," says Dave Champagne, vicepresident and general manager for Thermo Fisher Scientific. "The integration ofWatson LIMS with Symyx Notebook provides electronic access to all of the datagenerated, whether it's structured data stored in the LIMS or unstructured datastored in the ELN."


Thermo Fisher hadn't worked with Symyx before, but thecompany had worked with MDL before, which Symyx bought from Elsivier to get itsISIS software, Meek says.


"While we didn't have any traditional, direct relationshipwith Symyx, we looked across the market and saw that this was the right player,and our leadership immediately saw the value of this partnership," Meekexplains. "We weren't coming in with preconceived notions or expectations ofwhat we or they did. We came with a fresh start, laid it all out on the table,and said, 'Where can we make the best start for our customers?' In general,too, we've been looking at more ways to partner with other companies,particularly around products for which we share customers. Instead of doingcustom projects, we're trying to see how we can partner with other companiesmore on mutually beneficial solutions."


Estimates are that companies pay between $15,000 and $20,000per researcher for management of paper notebooks, Meek says, so the marketvalue of ELN in this integration is clear. But she says Thermo Fisher wanted totake it a step farther and look at all the steps in the Watson LIMS workflowand see how much and what kinds of data it could automatically pass between thetwo systems.


"We looked at the workflow end to end and identified all themanual steps to see what could be shifted to the ELN, because that was where wecould really generate efficiency gains—not just for better workflow but alsofor better searchability of data later on," she notes.


Thermo Fisher will expand on the Watson LIMS integrationover the coming months as it continues to work with customers and hears of newrequirements and needs, Meek says, adding that the company is looking at otherLIMS offerings and other products in its portfolio to see where integrationswith the Symyx ELN might help customers best.


One of the other products that has already been targeted for integrationwith the Symyx ELN is the Atlas chromatography data system. Thermo has beenworking with Symyx on that process—aiming for much the same kind of gains inautomation of manual steps, searching improvements and better reporting—and asof ddn's press time, was getting ready to go live at somecustomer sites soon with that newest integrated solution, though neithercompany had yet released an announcement about the new offering. 

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