By working with lab-based companies and organisations, we aim to make science more connected, which we achieve through over 20 years’ experience in the laboratory informatics. Our consultants come from scientific backgrounds, which means we understand the lab environment and day-to-day concerns. This also means we can help to deliver complex projects more smoothly, and ensure project success.
To better explain the role we play in lab informatics projects, we’ve created a short video to offer insight into the services we provide, and explain how we can support lab centred organisations with digital transformation, IS strategy, informatics projects, maintain compliance, and more.
Watch the full video here and share with your colleagues to help solve their lab informatics challenges:
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.Outsourcing a remote LIMS validation?
We’ve recently worked with Scott Stanley, Director of the University of Kentucky Equine Analytical Chemistry Lab (UK-EACL), to support him with the launch of his new lab.
Launching a LIMS implementation and validation can be a complex process at the best of times, but when the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the team at UK-EACL had to perform the validation remotely, Scimcon were on hand to guide the process and successfully finalise the implementation.
We recently spoke to Scott about his experience opening the lab and launching his new IS strategy, and you can catch up on some of our main conversations in our video here:
Over the past year we have seen a vast increase in demand for quality individuals to lead and resource laboratory digital transformation projects.
This increased demand coupled with a desire to develop the next generation of world class consultants has resulted in Scimcon creating its first Graduate Consultant Scheme, for scientific and technology graduates.
Scimcon is actively partnering with universities and attending graduate recruitment fairs to attract and recruit the right candidates to join the scheme. The candidates will be trained in the multiple disciplines that Scimcon typically work, Project Leadership, Business Analysis, Solutions Architecture and Computer Systems Validation. Additionally, they will also get exposure to a domain that combines both science and technology. From the chemistry of materials science to biologics drug discovery, our teams work in a diverse range of scientific fields.
Scimcon will introduce the successful candidates to a career as a laboratory information systems consultant. Training will be provided in a variety of project settings in multiple industries and with various software vendors. The individuals will shadow our experienced consultants to build knowledge and gain an effective understanding of what it takes to provide insightful, pragmatic and highly valued consultancy services to laboratory-based organizations. Our graduate consultants will work on exciting projects for globally recognized industry names giving them the perfect opportunity to kick start their career. As our customers are based around the globe, there is also an exciting opportunity for successful candidates to travel and work on-site with customers in Europe, the US, and beyond.
As customer-facing consultants, our team demonstrate a particular set of qualities. They are dynamic, enthusiastic, driven, conscientious with an eye for detail. They have excellent relationship building skills, but above all they demonstrate integrity consistently. We are looking for individuals that exhibit these same qualities.
If you are graduating in 2022 with a scientific or computer/technology related degree/masters/PhD and you are looking for an exciting career in informatics consultancy, please get in touch with Scimcon’s Head of Operation, David Sanders at email@example.comLaboratory IS strategies promise a step change?
Do you need improved laboratory informatics systems?
Systems such as LIMS, ELN, LES, SDMS and CDS can contribute significantly to increasing efficiency in the lab, releasing time for core science activities and enabling a wider audience to utilise valuable scientific data.
These systems, of course, come in a variety of formats suited for different industries and processes, from the earliest stages of cutting-edge research to the defined workflows in QC laboratories.
There is a myriad of drivers for adding or upgrading such systems however these drivers are nearly always linked to delivering faster decisions, that are more accurate and that are made with increased confidence.
Where should we invest next?
With a plethora of informatics systems all competing for your organisation’s attention, it can be complex to decide your next move. The existing systems landscape within a laboratory adds to this conundrum, as few labs are greenfield these days. Decisions on information systems made several years ago contribute to systems entanglement that influences todays’ direction.
Developing a laboratory information system strategy that defines the desired target state of systems can vastly assist in taking decisions in the short and medium term that deliver real impact without tying your hands in the longer term.
A great example of long-term goals effecting current decisions is a project we worked on twenty years ago. We worked with a Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company to implement a LIMS, configured to manage the day to day activities of new formulation research. A key requirement was to output the formulation candidate results to what would have been called a data warehouse back in the day. This ‘pool’ of successful and unsuccessful formulation data was to be used by statistics applications to predict interesting formulation areas. The future state being that this data analysis would reduce the number of formulations tested to produce a new product. Crucial in such a competitive space, this would ultimately reduce time to market. Interestingly, over the yearsthe LIMS used by this global company has changed several times, but the project to predict formulations is still a keystone of their information systems strategy.
This example was not chosen randomly, this challenge of balancing the provision of correct tools to support ‘bench science’ and enabling repurposing data for ‘desk-based science’ is of great significance to the life sciences industry.
Laboratory Information Systems Strategies
Information system strategies start by clearly defining what laboratory objectives are required in order to deliver the organisation’s overall business plan. Investigation workshops can then be structured with a cross section of laboratory personnel centred on both the laboratory objectives and the requirements of current and potential systems. Systems currently in place should also be evaluated typically assessing their Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).
The information gathered in the discovery phase can then be used to document the current state, develop the future state and importantly create a prioritised blueprint of how to move to the future state.
The diagram shows a typical laboratory information systems landscape.
The diagram is of course generic and simplistic, some systems will be relevant to some organisations and not to others. Even when you have a well-defined systems high level plan, there are still many details to resolve. Questions such as which processes / data do we include in ELN vs LIMS? Is one vendor for multiple systems better than multiple best of breed vendors? How master data are created and shared can derail the strategy if they are not approached with care.
Keeping the IS strategy alive and aligned to the organisation’s plans is critical to achieving long term benefits.
As the picture of the new landscape starts to become clearer, now is the time to consider the governance and maintenance of the IS strategy.
In addition to ongoing governance, it is important to keep a watchful brief on new technology. I recently heard an industry insider decry the future of ELN and LES, ‘they will wane in popularity and disappear’. While I don’t think this will happen, I can imagine a future where ELNs and LES are driven by voice commands and VR tools, such as Microsoft HoloLens, which could be used to replace existing keyboard, mouse and monitor interfaces.
Another good example is the use of vendor neutral instrument data formats. These have been touted as the future of archive and data reuse for a considerable number of years. However, with the ever-increasing emphasis on ‘desk-based science’ and the growing interest in AI and ML, this could be ‘vendor neutral data format’s’ time in the spotlight.
IS strategies develop a structured approach for IS projects and focus your budget on achievable business objectives and promise a step change in utility for scientists.
But until more companies start to adopt best practice approaches to IS strategy, they will struggle to get the most out of their investments, not to mention the knowledge, data and resources trapped in their organisations.