Digitally powered smart labs are the future of biopharma R&D: Experts

Leading biopharmaceutical scientists and industry leaders shared their valuable insights at the e-Conference on ‘Digital Laboratories: The Emerging Era of High-Tech R&D’ organized by BioVoice News on March 30, 2022

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New Delhi: “The digital labs can have different annotations. If we look at biological laboratory space, the digitalization has been happening much more intensely over the last two to three years,” says Dr Anil Koul, Vice President-Global Public Health Discovery, Johnson & Johnson.
“Digitalization for me is looking at data management from a discovery setup as it means that we have to be smart, efficient and create a safe environment in the lab. And at the same time it means proper resource management. I think there are several aspects to it. A lot of technologies are coming up, for example the electronic lab notebooks. Data and data archiving as well as data analysis is done through these notebooks which give access to data anywhere, helping to build a datasets and analyze datasets. One can visit any data file anytime using these electronic lab notebooks. I think that’s the future of laboratories,” elaborates Dr Koul.
Dr Koul spoke at the e- Conference on “Digital Laboratories: The Emerging Era of High-Tech R&D” organized by the BioVoice News, India’s leading digital news media platform for the coverage of Indian life sciences sector on March 30, 2022. The virtual session was moderated by Rahul Koul, Chief Editor, BioVoice News.
As per Dr Anu Singh, Chief Scientific Officer, Dabur Research Foundation, creation of smart labs and moving towards digitalization is no longer just another opportunity but rather a necessity.
“We as scientists are actually spending a lifetime on generating data. So I think the first goal, the most important thing, is that we should not lose the research and the data that we do. Now this is something that we see very often in laboratory practices on the ground. That data in the project is generated over years sometimes and it’s precious. And the versions that we change, the improvements that we do in our search for new molecules, the processes that we follow, the evolution over a period of time, very often gets lost because of the simple fact that it is stretched over a period of time. So it is likely that we need to use this electronic laboratory notebook system that is being talked about,” says Dr Singh.
Dr Prabuddha Kundu, Managing Director, Premas Biotech believes that scientists are both generators and consumers of data.
“It is when data becomes information that it becomes useful, and this is what I’ve truly believed. That and this is where smart Labs is going to make a difference, because we know our data is stuck as information in a LNB. It’s not accessible. It’s not democratic. The minute you digitize it, your democratizing data, which means, is now accessible. Across the organization, across geographies, at any time I may want it at 9:00 o’clock I may want it at 6:00 AM. It’s available to me. Then I am not dependent on anybody at any point of time to get access to that data,” opines Dr Kundu.
Sharing his perspective, Dr Taslimarif Sayied, CEO & Director, C-CAMP says, “When I learned my mammalian cell culture, we used to be in that closed chamber for hours to carry out primary cultures and then put them on a CO2 incubator and then watch them over. Nowadays, at least in a few places it is not done by humans but completely by smart machines which have taken over, which look at the health of the cells inside and decide whether the media needs to be changed. As one uses the word ‘smart’, we know the cruciality of it in terms of delegation of work. We move on to use our time to the newer heights in a way where running a simple molecular biology effort would actually be converted to a completely smart one and done automatically. Images would be taken automatically and even the first level of analytics would be done automatically.”
Emphasizing on the importance of data and its usefulness, Nicholas Tan, Head-South East Asia, Illumina informed, “As we see technology develop, the amount of information that has been managed has just increased exponentially. Genomics in healthcare is driving a lot of demand for sequencing in oncology and that has actually helped a lot of data being generated. But the issue now with data is that it is as good as what it’s useful? For example, how do we get the data out there and really make it useful? The simple thing is that the data needs to be findable, accessible, and interoperable, meaning that it needs to be able to access from different computer systems and made reusable. Here Ilumina is an authority. We have the LIMS or laboratory information management system that helps you keep track of sample information workflow analysis and some of it may actually be important in different flows. For example, in a clinical setting these things will have to be tracked and there is very little room for human error.”
The discussion points at the e-Conference included Understanding the concept and scope of digital labs; Lessons from Covid-19: Acceleration of R&D; Connected Labs & advanced automation for better outcomes; New era of digital lab equipment; Digital Labs: Catalyst for Make in India; and Industry and academia perspectives.

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Sharing the objective behind the e-Conference, Rahul Koul, Chief Editor, BioVoice News said, “Digital technology could play a huge role in helping companies to optimize their R&D outcomes. New digital technologies like blockchain and predictive analytics can be readily integrated with existing Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure to create smart labs. This e-Conference aims to highlight fresh insights on the digitally powered smart labs for the awareness of the stakeholders in biotech & biopharmaceutical R&D ecosystem.”
BioVoice News shall soon come up with a comprehensive report based on the deliberations at the event. Keep visiting our news site for the updates.
As technologies improve, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are using the facilities ranging from smart sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced options to streamline existing processes or pursue innovations. Ongoing research suggests using big data and AI could be a game-changing strategy for finding new drugs and increasing their chances of regulatory success. There’s a growing interest in using intelligent analytics tools to help make sense of the massive quantities of data collected in biotech and similar fields.
By switching to a digital lab, organizations can take one step towards being more productive and help to prevent research delays due to missing access to needed info. Automation will make it easier for lab managers to focus on more specialized tasks and responsibilities. It doesn’t just eliminate human error but also helps scientists spend their valuable time and energy in the right direction and be more productive.