Breaking the change management mould – leading successful laboratory information system projects and digital transformations?

Laboratory-based organisations have consistently undergone change, whether provisioning new analytical techniques, instrumentation, information system implementations, or incorporating new regulatory requirements. This is especially true today, when we are undertaking initiatives such as digital transformation and the introduction of AI/ML. In fact, one definition of transformation is ‘a radical change’.

What’s clear is that change is constant. However, managing change effectively is essential to success when undergoing these types of projects. Well-run lab informatics projects manage change within the software project lifecycle. Examples of project change include adjusting functional scope; raising change requests as functionality is demonstrated; and variation of costs. Yet, one key area of change is often neglected.

The problem arises when change management for lab informatics projects focuses solely on the technical delivery of the software. In these cases, very little effort is allocated to the change that will need to occur within the laboratory to accommodate the new system. If lab change management is considered, it is often dealt with ad-hoc and separately from the software delivery part of the project, leading to misalignment, misunderstanding, and missed timelines.

75% of the lab is indifferent to your project.

Lab Manager reports that in a typical change environment, 25% of staff will be early adopters, 25% will actively resist change, and about 50% will be ‘on the fence’ in the early stages.1

These statistics are backed up by experience. Scimcon is often called in to resolve issues within ‘in-flight’ informatics projects. All too often, the route cause analysis reveals the lab community only understood the true impact of the new system too late to adopt it, adapt lab workflow, and change procedures. Rectifying the issues after the fact is seldom quick or low-cost.

Informatics projects don’t operate in a vacuum.

Informatics software does not function in isolation, so change management needs to consider the physical working procedures, workflows, SOPs, job roles, quality system, and other areas that will be impacted within the laboratory.

For example, the implementation of a new LIMS could trigger changes such as:

Given that a lab informatics project will generate a large number of change items similar to the above examples, they must be managed appropriately.

In many respects, these changes are very similar to a system’s user requirements, except they are related to the lab processes as opposed to software functionality. With this in mind, they need to be handled in a similar fashion. Create a team with a project lead and subject matter experts who represent the laboratory. The lab change team should be tasked with actively gathering and maintaining the backlog of change items throughout the project life cycle. Each change should be assessed for impact and priority, added to the change management plan, and allocated to team members to be actioned.

Planning for change starts early.

Before making any significant lab Informatics investment within an organisation, it is likely a business case will be required. If you are serious about managing all aspects of change this is where you should begin. Business cases generally do an excellent job of covering benefits, costs, and ROI – however, change management, specifically within the physical lab, is often not called out in terms of impact, approach or importantly the resources and associated costs.

Not highlighting the lab change management process, resources and costs at this stage will make it considerably more difficult for change management to become embedded in your project at a later stage.

Benefits of effective change management.

The benefits of effectively integrating laboratory change management alongside traditional change management for lab informatics project cannot be ignored. New systems can get up and running faster, and can, importantly, deliver improved lab processes and be met with enthusiasm rather than reluctance, scepticism, or apprehension.

Scimcon consultants are on-hand to support lab leaders overseeing change. As many of our consultants have lab experience themselves, they have seen first-hand the impact of change in the lab, and can provide in-depth knowledge on how to ensure success.

For more information about how Scimcon can support your next big project, contact us.

References:

  1. ‘A Guide to Successful Change Management’ Lab Manager, https://www.labmanager.com/a-guide-to-successful-change-management-27457 [accessed 02/11/23]
Digital Transformation in the lab: where to begin??

Digital transformation is not a new concept, it is just expanding the use of technology as it advances. Today’s laboratory users expect a certain level of usability and synchronicity. After all, in other aspects of their daily lives they are accustomed to having, for example, a seamless digital shopping experience via Amazon.

So, with demand for digital transformation coming from the lab users themselves, and often from the organisation, establishing what it really means to you and what’s achievable, as well as where you are already on the path to digital transformation, is a useful starting point.

What is digital transformation in the lab?

Digital transformation requires constantly improving the environment and the platforms in the lab to give the scientists the best tools possible and make their lives easier. It’s not a single project or something that will be completed in a year, or two.

For some organisations, the first step on their digital transformation might be putting in a new LIMS or ELN – which drastically improves their operations, but could be a huge undertaking depending on the scale of the organisation and the legacy infrastructure. For others, it might be establishing the tools and connections to enable the online monitoring of instrument status, automatic ordering of consumables, reserving instrument time and auto-tracking utilisation, for example. Plus, there are many iterations in between.

What’s important for any lab embarking on, or evolving, a digital transformation journey, is to determine where they are, what their goals are and what’s achievable.

How Scimcon can help

We understand the scale of the digital transformation challenge, as well as what is needed to overcome limitations and ensure improvements are made. Our team of experienced consultants – scientists themselves – are ideally placed to help you define and progress your digital transformation journey.

Efforts will continue in the coming years to achieve a truly digital laboratory. However, this will not be a linear journey. Advancements are constantly emerging and the latest technology will build upon the success of others, meaning the ‘latest thing’ is always evolving. Navigating this process successfully will allow laboratories to achieve increased productivity and optimised workflows – giving scientists back more time to spend on getting results.  

Advancing your digital transformation journey can be a challenge, but, if done well, can transform your lab and its results. Through a wealth of experience in this area, Scimcon can help you to identify your digital transformation goals and help make them a reality in the short, medium, and long term.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your digital transformation journey.

Introducing Joscelin Smith: an insight into Scimcon’s graduate recruitment scheme?

Earlier this year, Scimcon announced the launch of a new Graduate Recruitment Programme, aiming to attract new talent to our team. We’ve partnered with Sanctuary Graduates, a recruitment agency specialising in sourcing talented graduates for suitable roles within a variety of industries.

Joscelin Smith is one of our newest recruits, and Scimcon’s first graduate consultant to join us through the programme. We sat down with Joscelin to discuss her background, what led her to Scimcon, and what her experience has been like as a graduate joining the Scimcon team.

Can you tell us about your background and what interested you about Scimcon?

Science has always been a passion of mine, so after studying Biochemistry at Bristol University, I went on to work as a Research Assistant at Cambridge University, where I focused on Immunology. I then travelled to Auckland, to complete my PhD on the cardiac nervous system.

It was during this time that I started experimenting with software and coding, which really piqued my interest. This shifted my career trajectory towards a role that incorporated both science and technology, which is of course something I’ve been able to explore working at Scimcon.

How did you find your experience with Sanctuary Graduates?

I had a good idea of the type of role I was after, so after talking to and sending my CV to Sanctuary Graduates, the team put me in touch with Scimcon, who really matched what I was looking for. The interview was quickly set up, and the whole process was very smooth and painless, with a frequent channel of dialogue and updates from the Sanctuary end.

How would you describe your role at Scimcon?

As a Graduate Information Systems Consultant, a large part of my role is helping clients implement various systems and software, such as SDMS and LIMS. I also help clients to problem-solve and alleviate any issues they are having with this process. I have been working in this role for around 6 months, which has mostly been a training period so far, shadowing multiple people across various roles. This has included working with Geoff, Scimcon’s Co-Founder and Principle Consultant, on a digital transformation strategy day, during the early stages of our work with a new client. I found this fascinating as it showed me how Scimcon can add real strategic value to clients. I have also worked with our Informatics Project Manager Lynda Weller, as well as Jon Fielding – one of the Project leads here at Scimcon. Being able to work with different colleagues has been very interesting and provided extremely useful insights into the role, as well as Scimcon in general.

What do you enjoy most about working at Scimcon?

The prospect of problem-solving first attracted me to this role, and being involved in the resolution of a particular issue for a client has been really rewarding so far. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but the project management has also emerged as a really enjoyable aspect of the job. Having worked in the lab myself, I really see the value in Scimcon’s mission to help make laboratory workflows more efficient.

As I’m familiar with a lot of the systems we work on, I can translate my experience in the lab to my role at Scimcon, working on design and implementation.

I am finding it incredibly fulfilling working for a company which is trying to bridge that gap and give more time back to scientists. I believe this process is invaluable and is something I am proud to be working on.

What do you hope to achieve at Scimcon?

My previous lab experience was helpful to evaluate different career paths, and ultimately I am pleased that it has led me to my role as a Graduate Information Systems Consultant for Scimcon. I am really looking forward to advancing my career within the company and in the short term I am hoping to gain more exposure to different projects and the different systems we work with.

To read more about how Sanctuary Graduates are helping to provide Scimcon with talented candidates to add to our expertise in data informatics, read our previous blog.

Meet Scimcon: Steve Griffiths?

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How long have you been involved with Scimcon, and what does your role entail?

I’ve worked with Scimcon as a Project Lead for around seven years now, but have worked alongside the team there for much longer throughout my career. My role involves a lot of problem solving for customers, bringing the ability to look at complex informatics projects in the early stages and plan where we want to be in the future. Working with Scimcon allows me to get the most out of my practical-minded approach to various informatics projects. There’s a diplomatic element to the role as well, making sure that customer expectations are met and providing business-to-technology translation for our customers. As someone who has worked on both the lab side, the vendor side and now in consultancy, I have experienced the entire project process from planning through to execution.

During my time with the company, I’ve learnt that it is vital to look at the wider picture when delivering informatics consultancy and project leadership for clients. It is not solely about the technology, but the process and the change that we are trying to implement. After working with a variety of laboratory software companies, I’ve learnt the value of change management and giving clear guidance to customers. Overall, I am very fulfilled with my role and feel that each day is varied which keeps things exciting.

Tell us more about your background, and what lead you up to this point in your career.

I originally did a degree in biochemistry, which led me on to the start of my career working in a pathology lab in the West Midlands for around 5 years. In my mid-twenties, I moved on to a pathology software company and the realm of technology. Throughout my career, I have worked in a variety of IT and lab-oriented roles. For example, I spent 15 years at LabVantage initially as a business analyst, moving upwards to become a Project Manager and then in charge of professional services for the European region. This was what introduced me to Scimcon, as they delivered some consultancy work for a mutual customer at the time. I worked closely with Geoff Parker and David Sanders, on a variety of implementation projects.

One of our biggest projects when I worked for the vendor, and Scimcon was also involved (before I was working directly with them) with a top 5 pharma company, which took several years to complete. There was a huge workforce, with regular site visits taking place most weeks. Scimcon also had 3-4 employees working on the project, along with Co-Founder Trevor De Silva. As a Project Lead, Scimcon strategised with me (as the LIMS vendor) to create a solid project plan. They helped to bridge the gap. Next, we worked for a testing and inspection company in Belgium, and Scimcon contributed in a similar way as before. They acted as an intermediary between vendor and customer, to measure the scale and requirements of the project, which is exactly what I find myself doing now.

During my time working for a vendor prior to Scimcon, I found myself increasingly pulled to the HR side, and was eager to get back into the science and back at the coal face on scientific technology systems. While my work with Scimcon is still very people-focussed, it’s allowed me to balance both my communication skills with my love of science.

What do you enjoy the most about working with Scimcon?

The variety of projects we get at Scimcon has kept things interesting. I’ve completed five projects in the last seven years, all of different lengths and requirements, and worked in a variety of new areas that were previously out of my comfort zone. For example, after many years working in life sciences, last year I worked alongside a materials company, in charge of manufacturing batteries and the recycling process. Although I had no experience in this area, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and picked up a lot of new knowledge. With the types of projects we lead, you cannot look at our work as technology: you must look at it as process change. If you take a software into a lab that people have not used before, it is disruptive to them. So the role of the Scimcon lead is not only to be familiar with the software but to manage the change successfully. I have worked with many suppliers of software – from LabVantage Solutions through to Thermo Fisher, Waters, Dotmatics etc – but what is more important is my ability to understand the lab and the people. The software itself is almost incidental.

Working with Scimcon has also shown me the importance of diplomacy when managing projects. I try to maintain a passive approach to problems that arise, working through them in a controlled, systematic way with both client and vendor. Having worked on both the vendor side of lab informatics project management, and seeing the customer standpoint, I have experienced first-hand the value of Scimcon’s consultancy services. For large and complex projects, we mediate between client and customer, drawing out a clear set of tactics and ways to communicate any issues or challenges along the way. I enjoy working collaboratively with each party to create a productive path forward, something which I have enjoyed in my current project with an international biotechnology company.

How has remote working impacted your role and how you deliver it?

I’ve been working remotely for many years, long before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, so I was well and truly prepared for the switch. In a sense, the transition towards remote working on a global scale has normalised the way I worked previously, so it is something I am well adjusted to. Since the pandemic, travel has increased slightly but on a periodic basis. I travel on-site to the Netherlands around once per month to visit the customer I’m currently supporting.

Technology improvements in the last few years have also allowed me to better deliver my services from home. It means customers can connect with us a lot more easily, as things are becoming more localised. We can communicate with customers and companies across the world via Teams calls and other virtual conferencing platforms. I’ve found that the expectation with most projects is to travel to site every 3-4 weeks, which in turn saves on travel costs and is better for the environment.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I’m very much into sport, particularly football (a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan through and through). I’ve had a season ticket for the past 30 years, and have been attending the matches since I was a young child. I’m also fond of the NFL, as a supporter of the Miami Dolphins, I make the commute to London every October to watch the games. Across the board, I like most sports-watching and take part myself on occasion. I used to play 5-a-side on a weekly basis, until the pandemic got in the way, and more recently I have taken on badminton to try and stay active outside of work.

Travelling is also hobby of mine, and my wife and I bought a holiday home near Alicante, Spain during the pandemic. We viewed the villa virtually and saw it for the first time in-person when we arrived to collect the keys! The pandemic definitely marked a change in priorities for me – as the world became remote, we were saving on daily expenditures, so decided to invest in a holiday home instead of a swanky car at a time people generally weren’t really driving far. We travel there frequently, and I’ve invested in a keyboard and monitor to ensure I can work remotely from there with ease.

What is your favourite travel destination?

My wife and I love to travel, in the past we’ve visited America, Singapore, Cape Town and more. We went to Thailand at the beginning of the year which was a highlight, and we have a few trips on the horizon including an RV road trip around Canada next month. We’re also planning to go on a cruise around Alaska, so plenty of trips to keep us busy.

My favourite travel destination is Hawaii, as the scenery was beautiful. Japan was also another favourite, and we travelled around the country on the bullet trains which was a fascinating experience. We are very independent when it comes to travelling, maybe that’s the Project Manager in me. I enjoy planning everything down to the T.

Scimcon as a business is deeply rooted in technology – but how technology-oriented are you? What devices do you use?

I’ve always been really interested in technology, which inevitably led me to the career I’m in now. My passion for tech began as a teenager, when I invested in the early computer models such as the Commodore and Spectrum, and I bought a PC when owning a computer was quite unusual. This passion has grown over time, and I enjoy the seamless experience of modern technology. Devices were less user-friendly back when I was developing an interest in tech, so I would always be fiddling around with settings to get the most out of my system. I usually get frustrated when devices are badly interfaced, which is what sparked my original interest in LIMS – I was a frustrated lab user! Part of what I do is make the technology work for customers, and ensure they get the most out of it. Giving customers the same pleasure that I get out of successfully operating technology is very rewarding.

Does your use of technology differ outside of work?

Naturally, my home is equipped with all kinds of technology and smart devices. For example, we have Sonos speaker systems surrounding our home, and five televisions in total. We also have Amazon Alexa speakers in various rooms throughout the house. Another tech addition is my virtual reality headset, used mainly for gameplay. Ironically, the internet in our Alicante holiday home is faster than the one at our home in Shropshire, which gives me another excuse to travel out there more often.

For more company news and updates, follow Scimcon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/scimcon/

Trends in the lab informatics landscape in 2023?

With our sponsorship of SmartLab Exchange Europe and US earlier in 2023, and our sponsorship of FutureLabs this week, we’ve developed a view of key insights on what is happening across the lab informatics industry, and where priorities lie for lab-centred organisations globally. We have also provided insight into the areas budget-holders are looking to invest in new technologies.

Investment priorities for the modern lab

Attending conferences globally means that our team can provide key insight to share with fellow informatics peers. Face-to-face interactions provide an opportunity to receive instant feedback and insight into lab informatics trends, which we can extract valuable data from.

Having spoken to delegates in North America and Europe this year already, we have identified some of the high priority investment areas for lab informatics in 2023 by comparing what is important to event attendees, who include representatives from leading pharma, biotech, material science, crop science, FMCG, and food companies. Of the global companies who attended, more than 120 people were polled:

Figure 1 represents the data from both SmartLab Exchange Europe and US, to give an overall view of lab informatics priorities across the entirety of 2023 thus far:

The graph also demonstrates other key lab informatics investment priorities (from the EU and US summits), and these include:

We can see a real trend towards intelligent systems this year, as data consolidation and reusability take centre stage and budget-holders looks towards automation, both physical and within software systems, to reduce the risks of human and manual errors. This isn’t a trend that’s isolated to a particular lab sector either – we’re seeing similar trends across all sectors.

What other areas of lab informatics innovation are taking centre stage?

Extracting feedback from delegates at conferences in all geographies means we can identify patterns in the data in order of priority. While Figure 1 highlights high priority investment areas, Figure 2 shows exactly what delegates at SmartLab Exchange Europe and US are planning to assign budget to in the next 12 months:

From Figure 2, we can see that immediate investment priorities for SmartLab Exchange Europe and US attendees are as follows:

What does this mean for lab informatics in 2023?

From both events in both geographies, we can see that automation and digitalisation rank highly in terms of investment priorities for 2023. Laboratories are technologically innovating to suit growing capacity and speed to market. Automation also substantially reduces the risk of human error, as repetitive and manual tasks can be carried out with ease using automated solutions.

We also learn that lab users are prioritising areas such as lab scheduling, method development, data governance, connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). As throughput expectations increase for labs around the world, the need to digitalise and streamline operations is more prevalent than ever. The aim of many laboratories is to increase efficiency within the lab, and digitalisation acts as a catalyst in this process.

You can find our team between Wednesday 31st May – Friday 2nd June at FutureLabs Live, where we’ll be developing more lab informatics insights from fellow sponsors and guests. Stay up to date with our LinkedIn, to be notified of other tradeshows Scimcon is attending this year.

Visit Scimcon at the event and contact us directly to book a conversation, to learn more about how we can support your lab informatics projects.

Meet Scimcon: Lynda Weller?

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How long have you been involved with Scimcon, and what does your role involve?

My journey with Scimcon began in 2021, as an Informatics Project Manager. I was approached by Scimcon’s recruitment consultant regarding a must-see role for the business. This arrived at what felt like an inopportune time for me, as I was relocating to Cornwall with my family.

After completing several interviews and meetings, I secured the project management position. My first project at Scimcon was managing a laboratory information management systems (LIMS) deployment to the UK government Lighthouse Covid-testing laboratories for a major life science instrumentation vendor.

The Lighthouse LIMS project lasted for around a year. The Scimcon Co-Founder, Geoff Parker, then presented another project opportunity to me, which began around a month later, in May 2022. My role involved providing Information Systems project management, business analysis, as well as client engagement and consultancy to a major biotech based in the Netherlands.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Scimcon?

I enjoy the continuity that Scimcon offers. I like to work on longer assignments and, although I work remotely, being part of a team of like-minded people is a refreshing bonus. In my previous roles, I have worked independently at different locations with no company support. At Scimcon I’ve been able to form lasting work relationships.

The current project I’m working on is scheduled to be completed next year (2024), we have carried out the work in phases to ensure that each aspect of the client brief is being met. Working from my home office with visits to the client’s site as required means that I can work flexibly, and I am supported by the Scimcon team of experts who can be contacted when I need some extra help.

Tell us more about your background, and what lead you up to this point in your career.

My background is in software and programming, working with life science organisations to roll out informatics projects and IT services. Prior to working with Scimcon, I had been an independent contractor since 2009, helping an array of companies to meet their software goals. My first contract was with Johnson & Johnson, which took around twelve months to complete. It was very structured; the client already knew what documentation and training consultancy they required. I then moved on to Takeda, which progressed from a three-month initial contract to a longer contract, and eventually for a couple of years as a permanent employee. My time with the company came to an end as they closed the offices I was employed in.

How has remote working impacted your role and how you deliver it?

Remote working is something that has benefitted my new lifestyle in Cornwall. Home-office working has become much more acceptable – especially now we have the appropriate technology at our fingertips to ensure that work is carried out efficiently without sacrificing the personal touch. I visit the client’s site at regular intervals, as needs arise, and it makes a refreshing change to meet the remote team face-to-face.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

We moved to Cornwall to be closer to our family and we spend a lot more time with them enjoying the fantastic area we now call home.

Our house was a couple of miners’ cottages and dates back to the 19th century. It has been renovated previously but we have continued with them and now turn our attention to the garden.

My husband and I love motorcycle touring. You could say we took our gap year later in life, touring Europe, the United States and many other destinations. We also take part in long distance rallies which has enabled us to travel to some of the most scenic places of the world, capturing authentic photography along the way. I ride pillion and to help us remember our adventures we document them on our website.

I love to read on my kindle, my favourite genre is fantasy and I enjoy reading personal stories such as biographies (motorcyclists, pop stars, even the rogue Ronnie Biggs). I went to see Miriam Margolyes in her Dickens women’s production, and she set me the challenge of reading the entire Dickens collection. It took me a year but I succeeded, though it’s something I wouldn’t want to do again!

What is your favourite travel destination?

My favourite travel destination is New Zealand. During our ‘gap year’ we went with one of our friends, hired motorbikes and just rode round, booking accommodation as we went. We had fantastic weather (which I understand might be unusual!) and really enjoyed riding in the beautiful scenery.

Scimcon as a business is deeply rooted in technology – but how technology-oriented are you? What devices do you use?

Ironically, I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly tech-oriented person. I am one of those people that needs to do something three or four times, then it sticks. I can pick things up when it comes to software, as I started my career as a programmer. I use my PC and headset for daily work duties. My phone also stays with me for mundane activities.

Does your use of technology differ outside of work?

I have a lot of technology throughout my home, including a large television with surround-sound speakers, an Xbox, Firestick, a Shield, and numerous Sonos speakers around the house. The best part is that we have a universal remote control for all our TV devices. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop me from clicking the wrong button now and then, especially where it’s a touch screen.

Nonetheless, I do love tech. I use a kindle to read, which goes everywhere with me. As soon as the pre-Kindle e-readers came out we started using them on our bike tours – imagine trying to fit 30-40 books in the panniers! I love that I can read in bed without a light and have the text as big or small as I like.

Working alongside Scimcon has enabled me to implement my skills and industry experience, to provide the highest quality information systems (IS) consultancy for our clients and customers. My longstanding relationship with Scimcon is one that I am proud of, pioneering the way to make science more connected.

For more company news and updates, follow Scimcon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/scimcon/

Industry leader interviews: Jana Fischer?

We’re kicking off 2023 with a new industry leader interview, and shining a spotlight on Jana Fischer, Co-Founder and CEO of Navignostics.

In this blog, we speak to Jana about Navignostics’ mission, and how the team plans to revolutionise personalised oncology treatments with the help of data and AI.

Tell us about Navignostics

Navignostics is a start-up personalised cancer diagnostics business based in Zurich, Switzerland. Our goal is simple – we want to revolutionise cancer treatment by identifying a highly personalized and thus optimal treatment for every patient, to ensure that each patient’s specific cancer is targeted and fought as needed. Our capabilities allow us to do this by analysing tumour material, through extracting spatial single-cell proteomics information. and using this data to analyse many proteins simultaneously in individual cells within the tissue.

What is spatial single-cell proteomics?

Single-cell proteomics comprises of measuring and identifying proteins within a single cell, whereas spatial proteomics focuses on the organisation and visualisation of these proteins within and across cells. Combining these two research tools allows the team at Navignostics to characterise tumours on a cellular level, by identifying the proteins present across cells in a tumour, and also how these proteins and cells are organised. This means that the team can provide a more accurate estimate for how certain tumours will respond to different medications and treatments.

Proteins are typically the target of cancer drugs and measuring them on a cellular level allows us to identify different types of tumour cells, as well as immune cells that are present and how the two interact. This data is highly relevant to inform clinicians of the best form of (immuno-) oncology and combinatorial treatment for individual patients. Also, this information is highly relevant to pharma companies in order to accelerate their oncology drug development, by providing insight on drug mode of action, and signatures to identify responders to novel drugs.

The kind of data that we are able to extract from different types of tumours are monumentally valuable, so the work doesn’t stop there. All of the data we harness from these tumours is stored centrally, and we plan on utilising this data by building it into a system we refer to as the Digital Tumour, that will continuously allow us to improve the recommendations we can make to our clinical and pharma partners. Our journey has been rapid, though it is built on years of research and preparation: we founded the business in 2022, as a spin-off from the Bodenmiller Lab at the University of Zurich.

The dream became a reality for us in November 2022, when we secured a seed investment of 7.5m CHF. This seed funding will allow us to pursue our initial goals of establishing the company, achieving certification for our first diagnostic product and developing our Digital Tumour. By extension, collaborating with pharma and biotech partners in oncology drug development. It has also given us the resource we need to move to our own premises. We are due to move off university campus in May 2023. This offers us great opportunity to push forward with the certification processes for our new lab, and it gives us to the chance to grow our team and expand our operation. We will be located in a start-up campus for life science organisations in the region of Zurich, so we’ll be surrounded by companies operating in a similar field and at a similar capacity.

Tell us more about the Digital Tumour – how does it work?

The Digital Tumour will be the accumulation of all the molecular data we have extracted from every tumour that we have analysed to date, and ongoing. Connected to that, we store information on the clinical parameters and patient response to treatment. Over time, our aim is to utilize this central data repository to identify new tumour signatures, and build a self-learning system that will provide fully automated treatment suggestions for new patients, based on how their molecular properties compare to previously analysed patients that have been successfully treated.

Sounds interesting – are there any challenges to working with a database of this size?

Our data storage is quite advanced, so volume isn’t really a challenge for us. Our main focus is standardising the input of data itself. The technology is based on years of research and the data analysis requires a great deal of experience and in-depth expertise. In order to extract the full value from this data, it must be completely standardised. Data integrity is therefore vital to our work, and allows us to get the maximum value from past analyses. Our past experience in the Bodenmiller Lab allowed us to develop standardised processes to ensure that all of our data is fully comparable, which means that we can learn more and more from our past data, and apply this to new cases that we analyse.

It is also important to report on our complex data in a comprehensive but easily interpretable manner to the clinician/tumour board who needs to organise a treatment plan. We’re currently working with our clinical collaborators to develop readily understandable and concise reporting outputs. Unlike genomics analysis, our reports focus on proteins in tissue, which is the same information that clinicians are used to working with. So, there is a common language there that offers us the unique opportunity to provide clinicians with data they can easily interpret and work with.

What does this kind of research and data mean for oncology, both in terms of pharmaceuticals, biologics, and healthcare?

It’s important to note that personalised treatment approaches and precision medicine are not new concepts in the diagnostics space. However, our technology and algorithms allow us to extract novel types of biomarkers which were previously inaccessible or unknown, so we’re helping to level up the playing field and give clinicians and drug developers’ comprehensive information to individualize therapies.

Comprehensive tumour data is truly at the heart of what we do, and one key benefit of our technology is that we’re able to analyse very small amounts of sample – such as fine needle biopsies – to provide therapy suggestions. We can also analyse bio banked tumour material, so if there is any old material that has been stored, we have the ability to analyse those samples retrospectively. Not only does this help us to fuel our Digital Tumour with more data, but it also allows us to examine new fields such as long-term survival rates of patients with these tumours. This is of huge value to fuel our product development pipeline because it allows us to identify different molecular properties between individuals that may not have been considered on a clinical level, but may have played a role in patient responses to treatments and survival outcomes in the long-term.

This kind of retrospective data also plays a key role in the evolution of healthcare and drug development, as having the technologies available to acquire this sort of data and mine it to our advantage will provide enormous benefits. These include improving individual treatment courses for patients, as well as expediting the development of novel cancer drugs so pharma companies can get more effective treatments to market sooner.

For example, one commonly cited statistic is that 90% of clinical drug development fails during phase I, II, III trials and drug approval. Often, this may arise from a lack of available information to identify the subset of patients most likely to benefit from a novel drug. Having access to Navignostics’ technology and algorithms and a database such as the Digital Tumour will offer the potential to pre-select the right patients to enroll in clinical trials, and more easily identify the patients that do respond to the novel treatment, which could substantially expedite the speed of drug development in the trial stage, and help bring more effective drugs to the market.

Even unsuccessful trials offer valuable opportunities: it is possible to repurpose and reanalyse material from previous failed trials. Such high rates of failure in clinical development means that there are a large number of companies that have invested $millions in developing drugs that have not come to fruition, so if companies want to re-mine their data, our team can reinterpret the existing work into identifying more successful strategies, so we can give those drugs another chance and offer a better chance of Return on Investment.

A failure no longer needs to be a failure. Navignostics and its offerings can bring value to our pharma and biotech partners, and will also bring direct benefit to patients and clinicians once we launch our diagnostics product. So, data from every facet of the oncology industry, from curing a patient to halting the development of a drug, can offer us valuable insight that both we and the Digital Tumour could learn from when developing treatments.

What does 2023 and beyond have in store for Navignostics?

The next three years will be critical for our work, and we have projected timelines and key milestones for our diagnostics developments that we will achieve until our next funding round. Along the way, we are actively speaking to biotech and pharmaceutical organisations to identify projects and build the foundation for long lasting collaborations. We are looking forward to a successful continuation of the Navignostics development in 2023!

Scimcon is proud to showcase start-up companies like Navignostics, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the company will grow over the coming years.

To contribute to our industry leader blog series, or to find out more about how Scimcon supports organisation with lab informatics and data management solutions, contact us today.

Introducing Ben Poynter: Associate consultant, and Scimcon’s newest recruit?

Our team at Scimcon is made up of a talented group of interesting individuals – and our newest recruit Ben Poynter certainly does not disappoint!

Ben joined our Scimcon team in July 2022 as an associate consultant, and has been working with the lab informatics specialists to get up to speed on all things Scimcon. We spoke to Ben about his experience so far, his interests, background, and what he hopes to achieve during his career as an informatics consultant.

To get us started, tell us a bit more about your background.

So, I studied Biomedical Science at Sheffield Hallam University, which was a four-year course and allowed me to specialise in neuroscience. During my time at university, I created abstracts that were presented in neuroscience conferences in America, which was a great opportunity for me to present what I was working on. My final year dissertation was on bioinformatics in neuroscience, as I was always interested in the informatics side of biomedical science as well.

Once COVID hit, I moved into code work, and worked in specimen processing, and then as a supervisor for PerkinElmer who were undertaking some of the virus research. When things started to die down, I began working for a group called Test and Travel (not the infamous Track and Trace initiative, but a similar idea!). I started there as a lab manager, training new staff on lab protocols for COVID-19, and then a month into that I started working more on the LIMS side – which is where I ended up staying. I wrote the UAT scripts for 3 different companies, I performed validation on the systems, I would process change controls. I then moved to Acacium as LIMS lead there, so over the course of my career I’ve worked with a number of LIMS and bioinformatics systems, including LabWare 7, LIMS X, Labcentre, WinPath Enterprise, and Nautilus (ThermoFisher Scientific).

Which now brings you to Scimcon! What was the deciding factor for you taking on the associate consultant role?

In the early stages, I would have to say it was when Jon and Dave led my first interview, and Jon asked me a question I hadn’t been asked in an interview setting before. He asked me ‘who is Ben Poynter?’. The first time I answered, I discussed my degree, my professional experience with LIMS and other informatics systems, and how that would apply within Scimcon’s specialism in lab informatics consultancy. Then he asked me again and I realised he was really asking what my hobbies were, and how I enjoyed spending my free time. Since starting at Scimcon, I’ve been introduced to the full team and everyone is happy to sit and talk about your life both inside and outside of work, which makes for a really pleasant environment to work in. Also, it seems as though everyone has been here for decades – some of the team have even been here since Scimcon’s inception back in 2000, which shows that people enjoy their time enough to stay here.

I’ve been given a really warm welcome by everyone on the team, and it’s really nice to see that everyone not only enjoys their time here, but actively engages with every project that’s brought in. It’s all hands on deck!

That brings us nicely into our next question then – who is Ben Poynter? What do you like to do outside of work?

So, my main hobbies and interests outside of work are game design, as well as gaming in general. I run a YouTube account with friends, and we enjoy gaming together after work and then recording the gameplay and uploading to YouTube. We are also working on a tower defence game at the moment, with the aim to move into more open world games using some of the new engines that are available for game development.

In addition to gaming and development, I also enjoy 3D printing. I have a 3D printer which allows me to design my own pieces and print them. It’s a bit noisy, so I can’t always have it running depending on what meetings I have booked in!

Technology is a real interest of mine, and I’m really fortunate to have a role where my personal interests cross-over into my career. The language I use for game design is similar to what I work with at Scimcon, and the language skills I’ve developed give me a fresh perspective on some of the coding we use.

What sort of projects are you working on? Have you had the opportunity to use your language skills to full effect?

At the moment, I’m working on configuration for some of the LIMS systems I’ll be working with at customer sites, which I really enjoy as it gives me the chance to work with the code and see what I can bring to the table with it. Other projects include forms for Sample Manager (ThermoFisher Scientific), making it look more interesting, moving between systems, and improving overall user experience. It’s really interesting being able to get to grips with the systems and make suggestions as to where improvements can be made.

My first week mainly consisted of shadowing other Scimcon lab informatics consultants to get me up to speed on things. I have been working with the team on the UK-EACL project, which has been going really well, and it’s been great to get that 1-2-1 experience with different members of the team, and I feel like we have a real rapport with each other. I’ve been motoring through my training plan quite quickly, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the different roles and projects I’ll be working on.

What are you hoping to achieve during your career at Scimcon?

I’d really like to get to grips with the project management side of things, and also love to get to grips with the configuration side as well. It’s important to me that I can be an all-round consultant, who’s capable at both managing projects and configuration. No two projects are the same at Scimcon, so having the capability to support clients with all their needs, to be placed with a client and save them time and money, is something I’m keen to work towards.

For more information about Scimcon and how our dedicated teams can support on your lab informatics or other IS projects, contact us today.

Scimcon sponsors SmartLab Exchange and identifies priority themes for 2022 lab informatics?

The SmartLab Exchange, from April 26-27, 2022 at the InterContinental At Doral Miami – Doral, FL is one of the global meetings for lab informatics leaders. Scimcon continues its proud sponsorship of this event, and attended in person to facilitate one-to-one meetings with a number of informatics customers from big pharma and lab-centric sectors. Scimcon sponsors the SmartLab Exchange because it provided a useful access to the community of senior R&D, Quality Assurance and Quality Control decision-makers from industry in North America.

Speakers at the 2022 SmartLab Exchange included the best of the best, with attendees from Proctor & Gamble, Biovia, Bayer, AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Amgen, among others. SmartLab Exchange is attended by invite-only decision-makers. The unique invite-only format of the event means that both sponsors, speakers and delegates can access a closed community that meets their individual needs. 

Feedback and Voice of the Industry

Attending from Scimcon were Geoff Parker and Dave Sanders, and during the event they took the opportunity to poll the customers and contacts from many of the attending organizations, to identify the current 2022 trends in the lab informatics industry. SmartLab Exchange represents the lab informatics community across industries including:

  • Pharmaceutical
  • Bio-pharmaceutical
  • Biotech
  • Biobanking
  • Medical device
  • Petrochemical
  • Bio-fuel
  • Chemicals 
  • Cosmetics
  • Food & beverage
  • Defence
  • Forensics
  • Water
  • Environmental
  • Agriculture
  • Consumer Goods

Geoff and Dave spoke with representatives from a multitude of organizations to take a pulse of the trends in the industry. Geoff explains:

“Scimcon works globally as a lab informatics consultant and implementation partner, with big pharma and biotech companies as well as vaccine manufacturers. We tend to see similar challenges from lab to lab, from organization to organization, and it is useful to take events like SmartLab Exchange as a means of checking in and ensuring that our customers’ needs are current.”

Summary of trends in lab informatics for the modern lab

In the informal poll of attendees at SmartLab Exchange, Scimcon was able to identify key trends and themes that are important to the modern lab in 2022.     

The subjects identified as highest interest to the delegates were:

  • Data standardization
  • Data Quality and Integrity
  • Instrument Connectivity/ IoT 

Interest in product areas for the lab was high, especially for:

  • Scientific Data Management Systems,
  • Lab Automation
  • ELN
  • LIMS

There was a general trend for interest and support in data integration and systems integration.

Scimcon sponsors SmartLab Exchange 2022, summarizes trends from laboratory informatics leaders

Geoff summarizes “As lab informatics consultants with a global customer base in pharma and biopharma labs, it is important to us to check in with influential decision-makers from the lab. SmartLab Exchange gave us a useful ability to poll the attendees and see trends that will impact the modern lab decision-maker, and will help us at Scimcon to hone the way we partner with our customers.”

 

 


 

 

Scimcon is proud to sponsor SmartLab Exchange, and support customers in life sciences with their lab informatics management and strategy. For more information about Scimcon’s services, contact us today.

Scimcon commits to Blood Cancer UK charity?

Scimcon, the decades-strong leader in scientific informatics for the lab, has announced in 2021 that it has made a company-wide commitment to support Blood Cancer UK. After years of ad hoc charitable donations, Scimcon has decided that from 2021 the company will support one charity, and going forward all its charitable donations will be related to fundraising in the cause of Blood Cancer UK.

Commitment to charity of choice

Geoff Parker, our co-founder explains: “When we really thought about it, it makes sense to ensure that the entire company aligns behind one cause. A company’s charitable contributions are not insignificant over time, and that’s why we are determined that every dollar and penny of our charitable contributions going forward will all be donated to our charity of choice. This means that every member of staff in Scimcon understands that from this year, without fail, we will all support this charity.”

Because it’s time to beat blood cancer  

Blood Cancer UK is a community dedicated to beating blood cancer. They do this by funding research and supporting those affected. Since 1960, the charity has invested over £500 million in blood cancer research, transforming treatments and saving lives. Right now, the Blood Cancer UK community is funding 167 researchers and staff across the UK who are searching for the next breakthrough. The day we will beat blood cancer is now in sight, and the charity’s researchers are determined to finish the job.

The charity also campaigns for change, helping to make sure that people get the healthcare they deserve, and that new treatments that come from research breakthroughs are available on the NHS.

Investing over £500 million in blood cancer research

Geoff adds, “As scientists working with scientific companies, Scimcon is committed to investment in science – it is our lifeblood. The fact that Blood Cancer UK is funding lifesaving research appeals to our ethos as a business. You only have to read the most recent annual report from the charity to learn what their money is spent on: Survival rates have improved dramatically over the last few decades, and even over the last 10 years we have seen blood cancer survival rates increase faster than survival rates for other cancers.”

In 2020, investing in life-saving research remained at the heart of their work, with the announcement of £6.5 million of new research funding. This money was spread across 15 projects, supporting the work of 169 researchers at 30 research institutions. This included a series of projects focused on acute myeloid leukaemia, which has one of the poorest outcomes. The researchers will identify better treatment targets, test the potential for repurposing existing drugs, and develop new ways to predict which patients will respond to current treatments.

They are also funding research that will look at how a key gene drives cancer development in children with Down’s Syndrome. Two Lymphoma teams will look at the role of the Epstein Barr Virus in the development of lymphomas, focusing on lymphomas and other blood cancers that develop as a result of treatment in people who have had an organ transplant. Blood Cancer UK also funded new research in myeloma, that will look at how myeloma develops and how patients respond to immunotherapies.

Thanks to previously funded research, there were 117 papers published in scientific journals during 2019/20. These papers covered a wide range of science, from laboratory research to clinical trials, and covered the full range of blood cancers. Geoff explains “In our small way, Scimcon might be working with companies who contribute to this mammoth effort. Our customers in laboratories worldwide are part of this great community, and Scimcon believes that money is only part of the effort to save lives. We are proud to be associated with Blood Cancer UK as our charity of choice.”

To learn more about the life-saving work Blood Cancer UK does, visit www.bloodcancer.org.uk

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