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.

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/

Scimcon reduces carbon emissions for another year?

Scimcon continues to meet the criteria for Carbon Neutral Britain for a second time in 2022. This has been attained through conducting the required measuring, calculating, and offsetting carbon emissions between the period of June 2021 and May 2022.  

After first receiving the initial award in 2021, we are proud to have maintained this title throughout the following year, underpinning Scimcon’s global commitment to a sustainable future.  

Our commitment to carbon footprint 

Co-founder of Scimcon Geoff Parker recognises the global nature of the company after first obtaining the award in 2021; “Our customer base consists of a diverse range of lab-centric organisations including large pharma and biopharma companies internationally. As Scimcon sees further expansion and more on-site projects in 2022, we are keen to drive our sustainability initiative through the global projects taking place all over the world. Carbon Neutral Britain pledged to offset our remaining carbon usage with accredited global projects that reduce the amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. After gauging the environmental impact of our operations, we knew this would be a priority of ours moving forward.” 

Global projects  

We renewed our Carbon Neutral Britain certification by offsetting against four international projects set up by our awarding sponsor. The Burgos Wind Project is the largest wind farm in the Philippines. This project produces clean energy, omitting sources that contribute pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions to the environment. Also, the Rice Husk Power Project, the first renewable energy scheme to utilize rice husk as biomass fuel for electricity generation in Cambodia. Not forgetting the remaining two projects, the Andes Mountains Hydro Power in Chile, and the Huaneng Changyi Wind Farm Project. All equally as impactful, we recognise that offsetting our carbon usage against projects like these is vital for our own global strategy here at Scimcon. 

Our impact  

As we continue to operate in the complex lab informatics field, Scimcon’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions must continue to benefit our customers. Scimcon will continue to responsibly balance the very real need for on-site client interaction with the use of innovative communications, thereby reducing the impact of unnecessary travel. If taking part in auditory assessments and remediations like this one offsets our necessary emissions and contributes to a more sustainable future, the Scimcon team is more than dedicated to its requirements.  

For more information about how we originally achieved our certification, visit our blog. To learn how Scimcon can help support your business with its IS strategy, contact us.

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 Oxford Global’s SmartLabs UK?

SmartLabs UK is just days away from taking place in the capital of the country, and we’re proud to be sponsoring the 4th Annual SmartLabs Congress 2022 in London this year. Here, we explore what the two-day event will entail.

On the 8th and 9th September 2022, the Novotel London West will open its doors in welcoming leading experts of the lab informatics field to educate, inform and excite. From technical presentations to think-tank roundtable discussions, we had to join in.

The progress of laboratory digitalisation

Within a post-pandemic society, our reliance upon digital technology is greater than ever. In the field of life sciences, lab scientists are seeking better ways of consolidating and storing data. While paper-based labs are largely a thing of the past, many are filled with isolated information systems and nonstructured approaches, such as experimental workflows based at least partly in Excel.

Not only do such environments risk human error in transcription and duplication they restrict the organisations’ ability to search and mine data for critical insights.

Removing these disjointed workflows and dataflows are a key part of the wider digitalisation processes which are taking place throughout the lab space. It is no longer enough for laboratories to solely rely on LIMS, ELN, SDMS and instrument data systems.  

It is important for the Scimcon team to stay ahead of the zeitgeist from customer-to-customer. Keeping up to date with current trends in lab informatics is at the heart of what we do.

What has this got to do with Oxford Global’s SmartLabs UK? The event will be split into two easy-to-follow streams, featuring all things lab informatics. If you’re unsure of what the latest innovations are, SmartLabs UK will provide the latest updates via over 50 cutting-edge presentations and a series of interactive discussions.

Why attend SmartLabs UK?

With virtual events becoming the norm in recent years, it is exciting for attendees to be given the opportunity of an in-person, collaborative experience. Day one of Oxford Global’s SmartLabs UK involves the exploration of monitoring and operational tools, and virtual reality tech demonstrations. Day two will delve into data standardisation and governance in lab informatics, and this is just the beginning. Some of the confirmed leading experts attending the event include the Genentech Director, Erik Bierwagen and Goldsmiths University professor, Larisa Soldatova.

If you think you’ve heard all of the latest informatics tools and technologies that are available, one of the benefits of attending SmartLabs UK will be the advice given on how to use these systems to leverage your data. After all, it is vital to understand how to put theory into practice. Taking advantage of the event’s opportunity for interaction, the 4th annual congress will provide an Event App. This will allow attendees to watch selected presentations on-demand, and contains extensive networking features. The benefits of using the app include; a dynamic agenda in which you will receive notifications of any changes to the day, a chance to the view the profiles of all speakers and organisations and a personalisation tool that allows you to organise and plan your schedule. There will also be an Event App prize draw for those participating in specified activities throughout the event.

How Scimcon supports SmartLabs UK

As programme sponsor of Oxford Global’s SmartLabs UK, we are thrilled to assist in paving the way to laboratory digitalisation through automation, cutting-edge informatics tools and technologies. We believe that the digitisation of your laboratory projects should be done with the best advice and trusted expertise behind you. In turn, this is vital for the healthy reproduction of the life sciences industry.

Throughout the event, you can expect to receive this information in an engaging, illuminating way and through a variety of mediums. We will help to deliver think-tank discussions as well as trusted, face-to-face conversations with our team members who have direct lab experience. For those who prefer independent research and networking, we support the use of the Event App for all your lab informatics queries.

To organise a meeting with our team at the event, or to learn more about how Scimcon can support your digital lab transformation, contact us today. To learn more about lab informatics read more on our blogs via our website.

What can we expect from Lab of the Future??

 The Lab of the Future is a concept that we have discussed at length during our time in supporting life science organisations around the globe, and that is gaining significant traction with the growth in digital transformation of the lab. So it was an easy decision that when we came across Open Pharma Research’s bi-annual event – Lab of the Future – that we had to get involved.

With the March congress on the horizon, we take a look at some of the trends within the industry over the last year, and what to expect from the March event.

The increasingly digital laboratory

It’s not a surprise that, with the impact of the pandemic, the importance of digitisation has been heavily reinforced. In early 2020, we reflected on Scimcon’s experience of providing remote support to clients and some of the changes we witnessed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now almost two years on, we’re seeing a new way of working across labs and organisations.

With digital transformation hot on the global agenda, what’s next for analytical and clinical laboratories? What will the lab of the future look like? Lab of the Future’s March congress aims to answer that question.

What will Lab of the Future deliver?

With a selection of activities scheduled across the 2-day event, there is no shortage of opportunity for attendees to get involved – whether that’s in-person in the Boston, MA event, or from the comfort of their own workspace via virtual attendance.

The agenda features a range of roundtables and presentations, including plenary sessions, as well as more focussed discussions on specific topics, from the digital lab to the connected innovation lab. The tradeshow will also feature plenty of networking session throughout, allowing individuals to form valuable new connections and learn more about some of the key players and innovation across the industry.

The event also welcomes a wide of speakers presenting and hosting discussions during the 2-day period. With confirmed speakers from GSK, Merck, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Astrazeneca, amongst many others, it’s guaranteed to be an event filled with interesting discussions from some of the organisations that have become household names over the last 24 months.

In addition to discussions, the event is also hosting technology showcases, for leading solution providers to demonstrate some of the latest and most disruptive innovation that they’ve been perfecting behind the scenes. Focussed work tracks also allow attendees to take a more in-depth look at some of the latest technologies and trends in 4 key areas – lab automation, digitalisation, connectivity, and innovation.

How Scimcon supports the Lab of the Future

Lab of the Future is an insightful event, and one that we look forward to as well as sponsor each year. The in-person aspect of the event will make for a refreshing change following the pandemic restrictions experienced worldwide, but the additional virtual element of the tradeshow means that users around the globe can participate and get involved, regardless of restrictions and concerns surrounding COVID-19 and travel.

However, in addition to the event, the lab of the future is a concept. Our team at Scimcon has over 20 years of experience in laboratory informatics, and with many of our team members having direct lab experience, we can help you get your digitisation and laboratory informatics project off the ground, whilst understanding the questions and concerns faced by scientists every day.

Scimcon is proud to be sponsoring the Lab of the Future March congress, taking place both virtually and in-person at Hilton Back Bay, Boston, MA on 22nd-23rd March 2022. To organise a meeting and to learn more about how Scimcon can take your lab to the future, contact us today.

Meet Scimcon: Jon Fielding?

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What do you enjoy the most about working at Scimcon?

I didn’t really fit into the company I was in before, so firstly, I think to enjoy any role the people you work with are important. Realistically, I probably spend more time speaking with my colleagues than I do my own wife and kids, so having great colleagues definitely makes Scimcon enjoyable.

Secondly, the challenges within the role are exciting. Whenever you start a new contract – as we do regularly, supporting clients in pharma and biopharma – there is either an implementation project that needs carrying out, or an issue that needs resolving. Sometimes, the task at hand is not something I am directly familiar with or have the exact experience doing, but that makes it a challenge. And it’s the challenge that I enjoy.

In my prior role, we partnered with Scimcon on a number of projects. I had been involved in building a platform for our mutual client and when they needed to take the project forward, they needed someone to train, support, and project manage the implementation of the project software. It seemed a no-brainer for me to join the consultancy team at Scimcon, and to continue to support the project and the client to help them to progress. The transition into Scimcon was seamless, and I later moved from that initial project within the vaccines space onto a biotech company in the Netherlands, whom I have been supporting on e-systems.    

My background helps me to bring people and team skills into play, so I am very suited to the Scimcon way of working, to support clients and to manage processes, SOPs, digital, and software projects for scientific companies. The client I am supporting currently was initially reluctant to appoint a lab informatics consultancy that was not local, and questions were raised as to whether or not we could perform the role from the UK without impacting the level of support we provide. As a test run, we were initially only working on a 3-month contract. Their processes are crucial to the business scale-up and growth, and our experience with other big pharma organisations has come into play helping them to navigate the decisions needed. I think we successfully demonstrated to them that it is feasible to be productive offering great support from the UK – so much so that the original 3-month project is now 30 months.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Every child has a hobby growing up, and of course in England, playing sports is probably one of the most popular activities. For me, football was my favourite pastime which evolved into more than just a hobby. It actually paved a pathway for all areas of my life.

What started out as a recreational game became a profession, as I left school at 16 to become a full-time football player, At 20, when my professional playing career finished, football again opened a window of opportunity to move to Southern California and coach football for 3 months. I returned 12 years later!

At 27, football again paid for my University education at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, where I was sponsored via a soccer scholarship to study Business and Finance. I had never even enjoyed school, never mind imagined studying at University, but football provided a unique opportunity that was too good to refuse.

During my senior year at University, while coaching football in Denver during the summer, I was introduced to my fiancé Sarah who had also – coincidentally – attended University in the USA on a football scholarship. She was almost in a parallel to me, only she was based in Florida while I was on the total opposite side of the country in California.

Sarah and I had our first child then returned to the UK shortly after, where we now have four sons – aged 10, 7, 5, and 1. Our 10 and 7-year-olds are, like their mum and dad, football-mad, so we spend our weekends travelling to watch them play. Our 5-year-old is starting to get the bug, and we are yet to see if football is something our youngest warms to, but I can’t see the apple falling too far from the tree.

I still spend every day at some sort of football activity. Both our older boys are at the football academies so they each have 3-4 days a week training and playing. Football remains our outside-of-work life, having brought us together all those years ago.   

And with the skills I learned at university, studying business and finance, as well as the team skills associated with playing sport, I am well placed to bring team leadership to the Scimcon family, and to focus on the best tactics and teams to work on a winning side.

What is your favourite travel destination?

Southern California was my home for 12 years, and having attended University in San Diego, that would be my obvious choice. We have a lot of friends and happy memories there, and we love the area – and the food!

2020/21 has been an interesting couple of years – how has it impacted you outside of work?

We made the decision to return to UK as a family when we had the boys, for the support network of close family and friends. As I have been working from home for so many years anyway, personally my life hardly changed. However, it was a terrible impact for the boys. For any young kids, that transitional age and loss of companionship has been a huge negative experience. Luckily, the boys are pretty resilient and seemed to have bounced back into the new normal without any issues.

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

Funnily enough, I am not really a techie! I use a PC and a phone, but not much else.

Does your use of technology differ outside of work?

Even though I don’t spend a great deal of time on gadgets and gizmos, I love the knowledge and benefits you can see from technology. For example, having spent so many of my formative years playing and coaching football, I am now still involved with my sons and their training and I see the technology to hand, which was never available when I was playing in the US. It’s absolutely fascinating, and there’s two pieces of tech in particular that I’m seeing used regularly at my sons’ training and matches. One is a Veo sports camera, which follows the ball and records the play, the other is an APEX GPS tag. This handy piece of kit is worn in the back of my son’s shirt when he’s playing, and all the data collected throughout the match is recorded on a smartphone, recording metrics such as speed, average position, and provides an overall performance review.

It’s amazing to see two of my previously completely separate worlds – football and technology – coming together, and it is really interesting to see how this technology is enabling football. As a coach, it also allows me to see and read the data available, so that we can then determine what is needed to improve in a game.

Scimcon is not a technology company, it is a people company that helps to solve the technology challenges for our clients, whether they be implementation, process or project-related. I am happy that I am not a techie, but very much a team and a people-person who can always learn and bring new skills to the table.

Hosting tradeshows in a virtual world – Lab of the Future LIVE?

2020 saw the migration of in-person events to virtual. Although this was a difficult decision for many organisers, online events do present organisers with the opportunity to reach their audience in new and innovative ways.

As a follow up to his first blog, we caught up with Luke Gibson, Founding Director of Open Pharma Research, about his experience moving Lab of the Future online in April 2021.

2020 was an odd year, especially in tradeshows – do you expect to remain online or return to in-person events?

We debated going virtual for quite a long time, whilst many events organisers around us made the jump quite quickly. We looked at a lot of different platforms but had some doubts, as we are very sensitive about putting out a poor quality product and we know that you can’t just mimic online what you offer in person.

So, we decided to dip our toe in the water with our range of Digital Dialogues, which are essentially a variety of debates and discussions which keep us talking with our community. Following the success of these, we took the plunge and went ahead with our virtual conference in April 2021. It went really well, and not only did we learn a lot from the event, but we managed to reach a lot of people as well – we had 1,500 registrants, and at any one time we had over 550 people online in at the same time.

It sounds like the move online paid off for Lab of the Future this year – does this mean you’ll be continuing with the virtual approach?

It definitely appeals to us to explore this approach further. We were growing anyway, and every time we hosted a new Digital Dialogue we were reaching new people, so there are definitely positives to moving online – you get a wider audience, it’s more accessible for a lot of people, and it does really allow you to go global.

On the flip side, the interactivity isn’t the same as with an in-person event. Physical events gather a lot of momentum each year they take place, and we had exciting growth expectations, which do tend to flatline when you pause physical activity. Stimulating the activity of people online takes a lot more management as well, but there are definitely elements we can take forward. On the whole though, I think people are looking forward to a return to physical events.

What did you find were the main differences in terms of virtual vs in-person experiences?

In terms of technology, the conference industry has actually had the opportunity to go virtual for around 20 years now. Although we’ve known that everything can be delivered online, we’ve continued with physical events, and it’s because they give you that human interactivity which can’t be mirrored online. The same sentiment can be applied to concerts – it’s just not the same streaming a live show as it is being in the crowd, and there is also a higher level of technology risk, such as those experienced in the recent Glastonbury event where users weren’t able to log in.

Virtual events don’t allow you to break down barriers the way that comes naturally in a physical environment, such as just chatting with someone in the coffee queue. Because you have that shared experience of being at the same event, you already have that common ground that opens up communication. A lot of people attend conferences due to the networking aspect, which can only occur when you’re surrounded by like-minded people.

So I think the value of physical conferences has been reinforced by their absence. However, our Digital Dialogues have been wonderful and relatively easy to do, so we’ve gained from this experience and will definitely look to continue those in the future. The debate we face now is what would hybrid events look like? There is a lot to consider; the main thing is that, rather than compromising and delivering an event that is part virtual and part physical, you need to offer a virtual component in addition to a full physical event. For example, you want to be able to host an event that is open to people who may not necessarily be able to travel or attend in person, so that would be an addition to the event. What you don’t want is people deciding to host talks and keynotes from the comfort of their own office because it is easier than making the trip, losing the network opportunity. Physical events would be the goal, with virtual access as an added opportunity.

Have scientists changed over the last 12 months?

The speed at which vaccines were brought to market to target COVID-19 has been an incredible win over the last 12 months. It has allowed us to break down the assumption of “we have to do things this way because that’s how we’ve always done it.” If we use the COVID-19 vaccine development as a case study, we can apply this attitude to other areas within life science. What else can we do in half the time? How can we unlock innovation?

This goes further still in showing us that scientists are able to work in different environments too. I think a lot of scientists have been surprised by what they’ve managed to achieve even when they’ve not been able to go to the lab. When people have an appetite to see the job through, and are trusted to deliver on their objectives, its remarkable to see how they can adapt and push through. It creates a whole other mindset, which feeds into notions of what the Lab of the Future looks like.

What’s in the future for Lab of the Future?

Realistically, we’ve always been focused on the innovation and the people. We’ve looked at the data and the technology, but it’s the people that make everything happen. This whole experience of 2020 and 2021 so far has been a disruption, and any disruption that makes you stop and think differently about how people work is part of Lab of the Future.

Going forward, we would prefer to hold fire as opposed to putting something out that’s only halfway there. So, we’ve decided that we’ll be hosting virtual again in the Autumn, on 26th & 27th October 2021, and return to physical events in Boston, MA in Spring 2022 on 22nd & 23rd March, and Amsterdam, Europe on 3rd & 4th October 2022.

What were some of the main take-aways from Lab of the Future Spring 2021?

One thing we did note was that the energy of the keynote speakers was truly remarkable. We felt it was important to host our talks live, so our presenters were collaborating on developing their presentations, so they got a lot out of it, and that was really reflected in the enthusiasm of their messages. Working together provided energy, which really came across, and having these events live and interactive definitely added to the buzz of these talks.

Another key take-away was the role played by attendance analysis. Although it is useful being able to monitor activity through analytics, it has a potential flip side. We had to really blend our conversations with any product discussion to ensure that it wasn’t a case of people ‘skipping the ads’ in a sense and only tuning into case studies. We blended discussions on the variety of solutions with operational content from life science practitioners to make it one conversation, so this wasn’t an issue.

I think a lot of events organisers may have some trepidation around the use of data, as it can give you perhaps more information than you want to know. But a bonus on that point for us is that you gain a real insight into customer profiles, which in turn makes it easier to communicate and highlight relevant areas. We’ve definitely learnt from our experience of hosting the event virtually, and I think we’ve proven to ourselves that it is possible to deliver a great product, at times different to our expectation and our business plan! We’ve found a new way of working, and even with 30 years of experience each, we’ve challenged our past learnings and we’re now looking at how this could shape our future – which is exactly what Lab of the Future sets out to achieve.


Scimcon is proud to sponsor Lab of the Future, and we can’t wait to see you at the Autumn virtual congress on 26-27th October 2021. Contact us today to learn more about our participation in the event, and visit part 1 of our conversation with Luke to learn more about Lab of the Future.

Industry leader interviews: Mark Elsley?

Mark, please introduce yourself

I am Mark Elsley, a Senior Clinical Research / Data Management Executive with 30 years’ experience working within the pharmaceutical sector worldwide for companies including IQVIA, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novo Nordisk and GSK Vaccines. I am skilled in leading multi-disciplinary teams on projects through full lifecycles to conduct a breadth of clinical studies including Real World Evidence (RWE) research. My specialist area of expertise is in clinical data management, and I have published a book on this topic called “A Guide to GCP for Clinical Data Management” which is published by Brookwood Global.

Please can you explain what data quality means to you?

Data quality is a passion of mine and now receives a lot of focus from the regulators, especially since the updated requirements for source data in the latest revision of ICH-GCP. It is a concept which is often ill-understood, leading to organisations continuing to collect poor quality data whilst risking their potential rejection by the regulators.

White and Gonzalez1 created a data quality equation which I think is a really good definition: They suggested that Data Quality = Data Integrity + Data Management. Data integrity is made up of many components. In the new version of ICH-GCP it states that source data should be attributable, legible, contemporaneous, original, accurate, and complete. The Data Management part of the equation refers to the people who work with the data, the systems they use and the processes they follow. Put simply, staff working with clinical data must be qualified and trained on the systems and processes, processes must be clearly documented in SOPs and systems must be validated. Everyone working in clinical research must have a data focus… Data management is not just for data managers!

By adopting effective strategies to maximise data quality, the variability of the data are reduced. This means study teams will need to enrol fewer patients because of sufficient statistical power (which also has a knock-on impact on the cost of managing trials).2 Fewer participants also leads to quicker conclusions being drawn, which ultimately allows new therapies to reach patients sooner.

Why is data quality such an important asset in pharma?

I believe that clinical trials data are vitally important. These assets are the sole attribute that regulators use to decide whether to approve a marketing authorization application or not, which ultimately allows us to improve patient outcomes by getting new, effective drugs to market faster. For a pharmaceutical company, the success of clinical trial data can influence the stock price and hence the value of a pharmaceutical company3 by billions of dollars. On average, positive trials will lead to a 9.4% increase while negative trials contribute to a 4.5% decrease. The cost of managing clinical trials amounts to a median cost per patient of US$ 41,4134 or US$ 69 per data point (based on 599 data points per patient).5. In short, clinical data have a huge impact on the economics of the pharmaceutical industry.

Why is the prioritization of data quality so important for healthcare organizations?

Healthcare organizations generate and use immense amounts of data, and use of good study data can go on to significantly reduce healthcare costs 6, 7. Capturing, sharing, and storing vast amounts of healthcare data and transactions, as well as the expeditious processing of big data tools, have transformed the healthcare industry by improving patient outcomes while reducing costs. Data quality is not just a nice-to-have – the prioritization of high-quality data should be the emphasis for any healthcare organization.

However, when data quality is not seen as a top priority in health organizations, subsequently large negative impacts can be seen. For example, Public Health England recently reported that nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases went unreported in England. When outputs such as this are unreliable, guesswork and risk in decision making are heightened. This exemplifies that the better the data quality, the more confidence users will have in the outputs they produce, lowering risk in the outcomes, and increasing efficiency. 

Data quality, where should organisations start?

ICH-GCP8 for interventional studies and GPP9 for non-interventional studies contain many requirements with respect to clinical data so a thorough understanding of those is essential. It is impossible to achieve 100% data quality so a risk-based approach will help you decide which areas to focus on. The most important data in a clinical trial are patient safety and primary end point data so the study team should consider the risks to these data in detail. For example, for adverse event data, one of the risks to consider could include the recall period of the patient if they visit the site infrequently. A patient is unlikely to have a detailed recollection of a minor event that happened a month ago. Collection of symptoms via an electronic diary could significantly decrease the risk and improve the data quality in this example. Risks should be routinely reviewed and updated as needed. By following the guidelines and adopting a risk-based approach to data collection and management, you can be sure that analysis of the key parameters of the study is robust and trust-worthy.

If you were to give just one tip for ensuring data quality in clinical trials, what would it be?

Aside from the risk-based approach which I mentioned before, another area which I feel is important is to only collect the data you need; anything more is a waste of money, and results in delays getting drugs to patients. If you over-burden sites and clinical research teams with huge volumes of data this increases the risks of mistakes. I still see many studies where data are collected but are never analysed. It is better to only collect the data you need and dedicate the time saved towards increasing the quality of that smaller dataset.

Did you know that:

In 2016, the FDA published guidance12 for late stage/post approval studies, stating that excessive safety data collection may discourage the conduct of these types of trials by increasing the resources needed to perform them and could be a disincentive to investigator and patient participation in clinical trials.

The guidance also stated that selective safety data collection may facilitate the conduct of larger trials without compromising the integrity and the validity of trial results. It also has the potential to facilitate investigators and patients’ participation in clinical trials and help contain costs by making more-efficient use of clinical trial resources.

What is the role of technology on data quality?

Technology, such as Electronic Health Records (HER) and electronic patient reported outcomes (ePRO), drug safety systems and other digital-based emerging technologies are currently being used in many areas of healthcare. Technology such as these can increase data quality but simultaneously increase the number of factors involved. It impacts costs, involves the management of vendors and adds to the compliance burden, especially in the areas of vendor qualification, system validation, and transfer validation.

I may be biased as my job title includes the word ‘Data’ but I firmly believe that data are the most important assets in clinical research, and I have data to prove it!

Scimcon is proud to support clients around the globe with managing data at its highest quality. For more information, contact us.


References

1White, Christopher H., and Lizzandra Rivrea González. “The Data Quality Equation—A Pragmatic Approach to Data Integrity.” Www.Ivtnetwork.Com, 17 Aug. 2015, www.ivtnetwork.com/article/data-quality-equation%E2%80%94-pragmatic-approach-data-integrity#:~:text=Data%20quality%20may%20be%20explained. Accessed 25 Sept. 2020.

2Alsumidaie, Moe, and Artem Andrianov. “How Do We Define Clinical Trial Data Quality If No Guidelines Exist?” Applied Clinical Trials Online, 19 May 2015, www.appliedclinicaltrialsonline.com/view/how-do-we-define-clinical-trial-data-quality-if-no-guidelines-exist. Accessed 26 Sept. 2020.

3Rothenstein, Jeffrey & Tomlinson, George & Tannock, Ian & Detsky, Allan. (2011). Company Stock Prices Before and After Public Announcements Related to Oncology Drugs. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 103. 1507-12. 10.1093/jnci/djr338.

4Moore, T. J., Heyward, J., Anderson, G., & Alexander, G. C. (2020). Variation in the estimated costs of pivotal clinical benefit trials supporting the US approval of new therapeutic agents, 2015-2017: a cross-sectional study. BMJ open, 10(6), e038863. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-038863

5O’Leary E, Seow H, Julian J, Levine M, Pond GR. Data collection in cancer clinical trials: Too much of a good thing? Clin Trials. 2013 Aug;10(4):624-32. doi: 10.1177/1740774513491337. PMID: 23785066.

6Khunti K, Alsifri S, Aronson R, et al. Rates and predictors of hypoglycaemia in 27 585 people from 24 countries with insulin-treated type 1 and type 2 diabetes: the global HAT study. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2016;18(9):907-915. doi:10.1111/dom.12689

7Evans M, Moes RGJ, Pedersen KS, Gundgaard J, Pieber TR. Cost-Effectiveness of Insulin Degludec Versus Insulin Glargine U300 in the Netherlands: Evidence From a Randomised Controlled Trial. Adv Ther. 2020;37(5):2413-2426. doi:10.1007/s12325-020-01332-y

8Ema.europa.eu. 2016. Guideline for good clinical practice E6(R2). [online] Available at: https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/scientific-guideline/ich-e-6-r2-guideline-good-clinical-practice-step-5_en.pdf [Accessed 10 May 2021].

9Pharmacoepi.org. 2020. Guidelines For Good Pharmacoepidemiology Practices (GPP) – International Society For Pharmacoepidemiology. [online] Available at: https://www.pharmacoepi.org/resources/policies/guidelines-08027/ [Accessed 31 October 2020].

10Medical Device Innovation Consortium. Medical Device Innovation Consortium Project Report: Excessive Data Collection in Medical Device Clinical Trials. 19 Aug. 2016. https://mdic.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/MDIC-Excessive-Data-Collection-in-Clinical-Trials-report.pdf

11O’Leary E, Seow H, Julian J, Levine M, Pond GR. Data collection in cancer clinical trials: Too much of a good thing? Clin Trials. 2013 Aug;10(4):624-32. doi: 10.1177/1740774513491337. PMID: 23785066.

12FDA. Determining the Extent of Safety Data Collection Needed in Late-Stage Premarket and Postapproval Clinical Investigations Guidance for Industry. Feb. 2016.

How to work effectively with informatics consultants in life sciences?

As a leader in a pharmaceutical or life sciences organisation, getting the most out of your team and resources is always a top priority. After making the decision to proceed with a critical investment in consulting services, there may even be more pressure to find the optimal use of these time-limited external resources. So, how can you make sure you are using these resources to their full potential? In this blog, our industry expert Micah Rimer will show you how.

During Micah’s 20 years’ working at big pharma & vaccines corporations, including Bayer, Chiron, Novartis and GSK, he has successfully deployed consultancy groups within lab informatics and clinical projects. Micah has worked with Scimcon to support his teams on high profile critical projects

Frame the problem – what does your implementation project need to achieve?

As with any business situation, it is important that there is a common goal that everyone is aligned around.

It is essential that you do not waste valuable time revisiting the same conversations. Ask yourself: “Is it obvious what problem we are trying to solve?” Often, issues can arise when people are arguing about implementing a solution, whilst losing sight of the challenge at hand. 

Take the example of Remote Clinical Monitoring: You might decide that it would be beneficial to have your Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) track and monitor the progress of a clinical study without traveling to clinical sites. That sounds like it could be very promising, but what is the problem that needs to be solved?

Without clear goals on what you want to accomplish with Remote Clinical Monitoring, it will be difficult to declare an implementation a success. In addition, if you and your organisation do not know what you are trying to achieve with a particular technical solution, it will be impossible to give your informatics consultants a clear set of deliverables.

So, first things first, agree on the problem statement!

One of the first times I hired Scimcon to support me with an informatics project, I had recently joined a pharma company and found myself in the middle of conflicting department objectives, with what seemed to be no clear path out of the mess I had inherited. The organisation had purchased an expensive new software system that had already become a failed implementation. After spending a year continuously configuring and programming it, it was no closer to meeting the business needs than when the project had started. There were two loud criticisms to address on that point:

This also highlighted a far wider range of issues, such as some people who felt their skills were not being properly utilised while problems went unsolved, and that the bioinformatics department might not have the right goals to begin with.

To solve this challenge, we sat down with Scimcon to identify all the different problems associated with the inherited project, and to clarify what we needed to do to turn it into a success. In taking time to review the situation and without too much effort, we were able to come up with four key areas to address: 

  1. Understand how bioinformatics/ IT priorities should map to the organisation’s priorities – before we spent any more time and money, what did the organisation actually need?
  2. Solve the bioinformatics problem that the software had been purchased for (assuming that was indeed a verified need).  
  3. Determine how roles and work could be shifted and changed so that we were utilising the talents and the resources in the department.
  4. If possible, put the purchased software to use! 

With the help of Scimcon, we were able to define these problems and then focus on finding answers to each of the questions. In the end it turned out to be one of our most successful engagements together, award winning even. By just asking senior management what their biggest challenge was, we found their overriding priority was to have an overview of all the R&D projects going on. And while the new software was not particularly well suited for solving the bioinformatics problem that it had been acquired for, it could easily be used to map out the R&D process for portfolio tracking. Then, we turned our attention to the bioinformatics problem, which was easily solved by a bit of custom code from one of the bioinformatics programmers who felt that previously his skills were not being properly utilised.

Once we knew where we were, and where we wanted to get to, all we had to do was get there one challenge at a time.

Manage internal expectations – how will the informatics consultants work with your clincial/analytical teams?

Once you have identified and agreed on the problem that you want to solve, the next step is making sure the organisation is ready to work with your consultants. As with all relationships, business or otherwise, a crucial step is to make sure that everyone has the same expectations, and that all the relevant stakeholders are on the same page.

People have many different perspectives on why consultants are brought in.

As there can be so many different roles and perspectives on the use of consultants, you need to make sure that you address all the different stakeholder perspectives. It is important to establish a positive situation, as you want the consultants to be able to work with your teams without unnecessary tension.

When I was just starting out with my first LIMS implementation (Laboratory Information Management System), I remember being impressed that you could hire someone who had the specific experience and expertise to guide you on something they had done before but that was new to you. I wondered, “why was that not done all the time? Why do so many implementation projects fail when you can bring people in who had solved that particular problem before?” When I asked Russell Hall, a consultant at Scimcon for us on that first project, he said that not everyone is comfortable admitting they need help. As my career has progressed, I have come to value that feedback more and more. There are many people who are highly competent and effective in their jobs, but are not comfortable with the appearance that they are not sufficient on their own. It is always important to manage for those situations, rather than assuming that everyone will welcome external help.

Lastly, it is also critical to manage expectations, regarding the use of consultants. Your boss may need to defend the budget, or be prepared to stand behind recommendations or conclusions that are delivered from people outside of the organisation. It should also be considered that management might not readily accept something that might seem obvious to employees working at a different level. By liaising with senior leaders from the outset, you can make sure both parties are aligned how the consultants will interact with people in the company, and what their role will be. This is important both to achieve what you want internally and also to make sure the consultants have a proper expectation of how their efforts will be utilised. 

Communicate and adjust – how is your information managed between your team and consultants?

While it can be very tempting to feel that you can leave the majority of the project to the experts, the reality is things rarely go as smoothly as planned. As the life science business and information management have advanced over the last few decades, the amount of complexity and details has grown tremendously. It is more and more difficult for a single person to maintain an overview of all the relevant facts. The only way to be successful is to communicate and make sure that the right people have the right information at the right time. Your consultants are no different. 

Many organisations have challenges in terms of taking decisions and communicating them effectively. For your consultants who do not typically have all the same access and networks in the organisation that internal staff do, it is imperative that you make sure they are kept up to date. You want to avoid them spending valuable time on focusing on areas and deliverables that have shifted to being less important. Finding ways to keep consultants informed on all the latest developments is absolutely necessary for them to be able to deliver successfully. Figure out what makes sense by considering the organisation culture and the consulting engagement setup. Whether it is by use of frequent check-ins or online collaboration, be prepared to put in additional efforts to make sure that the information gets to where it needs to go.

As well as good communication, organisations have to be able to adjust as needed. Occasionally everything does work out according to plan, but that is more the exception than the rule when it comes to complex life science informatics projects. While timelines and commitments are critical, it is important to view any project as a collaboration. There will be unexpected software issues. There will be unplanned organisational changes and problems. People get sick, life happens. By having open and continuous dialogue, you can be best prepared to make the adjustments needed to find solutions together to unexpected problems.

Ensuring success in your informatics projects

Consultants can be hugely valuable to you and your organisation.

But you have to setup the right conditions for everything to work out well.

  1. Know what the problem you are trying to solve is, and make sure you have as much alignment around the problem statement as possible.  
  2. Make sure the organisation is ready for the collaboration by ensuring that your team and management know what to expect out of the engagement, and that your consultants similarly know the scope and what their mission is.
  3. Lastly, you need to keep in constant communication and make sure that you are ready to work together to adjust to the inevitable bumps that will come up on the road.

Working together, you can get to where you need to go.

If you’re interested in working with Scimcon on your upcoming informatics project, contact us today for a no-commitment chat about how we can help you succeed.

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