Finding the Best ELN

Many Biotech companies and academic labs are searching to replace the paper notebook to an ELN. There are many companies in the market that offer ELNs and it is not easy to find the best ELN that will suit your needs. You should probably take into consideration that there isn’t one product that will satisfy all your needs. When searching for the best ELN for your company, you should make a list of the most important features for your research R&D lab and check the various companies out there to see what is the right ELN solution for you.

With the above said, it is important to state that the term ELN is somewhat obsolete. What we call an ELN is actually much more today. Some of the solutions out there offer a combination of an electronic notebook (ELN), LIMS, informatics and calibration management. Looking for the right ELN will require you to create a preference list. 

Best ELN – Defining Criteria 

A particular laboratory’s needs will determine how to grade each of the ELN features provided. For example, if the aim is to reduce human errors while increasing reproducibility, consider using an electronic notebook with comprehensive form building capabilities, SOP features, and embedded automated processes.

Reporting and Query Capabilities

An ELN solution should be more than just a collection of experimental results. It should allow the user a method to easily query information and automatically generate required reports. Following these criteria, the following features were identified in providing a robust and efficient daily workload solution: 

  • Report builder
  • Dashboard
  • Gantt developer
  • Rest API and webhook integration
  • R or Python integration 
  • Datasets
  • Data visualization capabilities

Molecular Tools and Chemical Expertise

An ELN should include the necessary collection of resources to facilitate in the recording and review of experimental data and results. Depending on the subject of research, special molecular tools could be required, such as plasmid map, sequence alignment or CRISPR design, or chemical entities such as reaction diagram, stoichiometric table, and substructure search. Under certain instances, an ELN might be needed to master each of these methods. It is important to define in advance what kind of tools are relevant to your lab. Some labs deal only with molecular biology, some only with chemistry and others need a combination of biology and chemistry notebooks and tools. 

molecular biology- plasmid map

Molecular Biology- plasmid map

LIMS Integration

Linking your inventory management system with your ELN allows you to fully capture what is done in the lab and increase laboratory productivity and data integrity. A solution that offers organic integration has a great advantage of running two separate systems. Using an integrated system will easily allow integration of a sample management system as part of the LIMS.

Functionalities such as sample registration by scanning, customizable collections, low stock alert and batch import/export functions, stock scanning capabilities, or stock inventory and storage location knowledge, save a significant amount of time and materials. 

It is recommended to choose an ELN which allows sufficient flexibility to create custom lab procedures that best meet a laboratory’s specific needs. This will maximize the amount of freedom to adjust as needed as the business develops and progresses.

Equipment Management 

Experiment results are likely to come from various instruments. Ensuring that research is being performed on maintained and validated equipment is important for accurate results and interpretation. Integrating between the ELN and the laboratory equipment assists in maintaining accurate data. Ensuring that the findings are automatically imported from the equipment to the corresponding experiment improves data integrity while decreasing human error. 

Equipment calendar

Equipment Calendar

Team Communication

COVID-19 forced most of us to work remotely and required labs to find good communication tools to facilitate teamwork and to make sure that lab work continues even remotely. No doubt, that today, when searching for the best ELN for your lab, look for an ELN that provides team communication tools. In order to easily track and understand the progress of your team, you will want the opportunity to comment and discuss within context. If you’re reviewing work, you might want to comment online, open a discussion or even start a meeting. Search for an ELN that facilitates this kind of communication and comments. Today, while we are all still coping with remote work due to COVID-19, we all know how important tools for meeting and sharing capabilities are. 

Lab Automation

Today, technology helps people to be more efficient and effective by automating routine procedures. Increasing the productivity of your lab by utilizing an ELN that offers automation tools. We recommend using an ELN that allows you to build your own custom automation process. The most flexible and customizable it is, the better it is. Look for an easy interface that allows your team to build an automated process without the need to assist the IT department to do so.

Structuring Data

Structuring data in controlled and pre-defined format enables to collect data and analyze it in a methodical form. Predefining the way results are being documented by creating a structured form makes it easy to supervise the ongoing work in the lab. Forms minimize errors by defining limitations in advance, such as offering limited options to choose from on certain fields, thus forcing lab members to follow a predefined format, minimizing the option to enter data freely. 

Additional Features

In addition to the above, there are more functionalities that can be found in various ELNs which can enhance workload and maximize laboratory functionality. There are additional features that are not necessarily a key feature of the ELN but can certainly improve the overall efficiency of the laboratory and protect data integrity. For example,  module request, integrated support, on-board training for new lab members, two-factor authentication, private domain, and more. 

Last but not least – Support

All the above-mentioned features are the core of an ELN system. However, when choosing the best ELN for you, check the ease of use, support and documentation offered. Find out what level of support you will get and who are the people behind the software. You will want to know that you can trust the most valuable information with a trustworthy company. You want to know that you have a good level of support and that you matter. 

So, what’s the best ELN?

If you read the article, you probably know that the right question you should ask is “ What is the best ELN for my lab”. Of course, we at Labguru think we have a great product and best integrative solution of ELN, LIMS and Informatics system. We also have a great team of application scientists that will always back you up and will want to hear what else you need to support your research. 

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