If you’re starting a pharma or biotech company, you are faced with many business decisions. You have a grand vision for a solution that will change the world for the better, but there are still some tedious yet inevitable tasks to take care of, including the question of research data management. Will you record your experiments on paper, or implement an ELN (Electronic Laboratory Notebook)? Starting from paper can seem very tempting, despite its clear disadvantages (risk of information loss, not searchable and accessible, not structured). “Paper notebooks are a simple and cheap temporary solution,” you might be thinking, “we can always switch to an ELN later on.”
However, starting with an Electronic Lab Notebook is highly recommended. In the past, implementing an ELN was a long and complex procedure. Nowadays, you can have an ELN customized and working to simplify processes in your lab within a day. Knowing this, consider the following benefits of using an ELN from the start:
Securing intellectual property (IP) is critical for startups to protect their research data from competitors and in order to receive a patent on an invention. Inventors have full documentation of their research work as proof of ownership over the invention. Unlike excel spreadsheets and emails which put your IP at risk, an ELN stores all your information in a protected cloud, with high encryption standards for all communications. An ELN helps scientists record all of their research data accurately and sign and witness experiments in regulatory compliance. Additionally, all entries and changes in data are recorded and time-stamped, making processes completely traceable. When requested by a potential licensing partner or when participating in an M&A discussion, you will have a full audit trail for your IP only a click away.
Additionally, if a paper notebook gets damaged or lost, there is no recovering the data. The best ELNs will save your information to several different locations, allowing you to recover all your information in case of disaster.
MyPlant Bio uses an ELN (Labguru) for IP protection. Keren Gueta Milshtein, Development Manager at MyPlant Bio, explains about the two features that help them manage IP: “The first feature is signing and witnessing: the person who conducted the experiment signs it first, then passes it on to the administrator for witnessing (second signature). After the witnessing, the experiment is locked and can’t be edited anymore. It’s like the procedure of signing a page in a paper notebook, only in a higher level of validity and compliance, since it’s electronic and the software makes sure nobody edits the entry after signing.
The second feature is a full audit trail. Every action that takes place in the system is recorded. If anyone tries to edit an experiment with malicious intent or accidentally, we can always see it.”
Though it might seem far away, there will come a time when you need to access your research information from the very beginning of your research process.
“When you start regulation processes with the FDA and have to provide raw data,” says Keren, “or simply when you need to find results from old experiments for comparison, sometimes you have to go ten years back and search through the records of someone who is no longer in the company. People often take notes in a way that is completely incomprehensible to anyone else, and you have to somehow decipher it and extract useful information. It’s sisyphean work. That’s why I told our lab members that while we might have to work a little harder during the onboarding of an ELN, later on we would be grateful that we did so.”
Implementing an Electronic Laboratory Notebook from the start will make sure that you will always have access to information from all stages of your research, and will ensure research continuity even as people leave the lab and others arrive. You can also use ELN protocol and experiment templates to establish a standardized format for data collection, making your data much easier to search and follow.
Keeping an organized lab increases productivity, as there are fewer distractions and there’s no need to waste time searching for stuff. It’s much easier to set an organization system from the start, instead of adopting one later on, after people have already gotten used to working in an unorganized way. A good Electronic Laboratory Notebook will include lab management software, which can be used to register storerooms, fridges, boxes, and tubes, and assign a location to each stock item. We recommend discussing with your lab members to decide on the best place for each item, storing supplies within easy reach of the equipment and workstations where they will be stored. This will make sure your laboratory is organized from the beginning and you’ll know where to find what you need.
“We decided that we must do it the right way from the get-go to prevent information loss and make sure everything is organized,” Keren says. “We’re very strict about proper research lab management methods… When you receive an order, use up a supply or move it, you immediately write it down in Labguru. This way we always know when to make a new order and not wait until the last minute and be left without a crucial supply. When returning items after use, everything goes to the location it was assigned within the system, and this way everything flows seamlessly with no errors, duplicates, or losses.”
However, remember that your organization system might need to change and evolve as your lab grows and introduces new storage spaces, equipment or work procedures. When selecting an ELN, look for one that helps you create structure, but is also flexible enough to allow growth.
Every penny counts when you’re only starting out, and smart management of inventory can save a beginner startup large sums of money. An Electronic Laboratory Notebook with lab management features can be used to track every vial and box of supplies and mark them as consumed when they’re used up, as well as register expiry dates, making sure you always know exactly how much you have left in stock, and when it will expire. This allows you to make informed decisions of when and how much to order, so that you don’t accidentally buy too much, and don’t waste money on items that will expire before you get to use them.
Using an ELN can also help you receive funding — investors will find you more responsible and trustworthy if your research data is organized properly, since it lets them know that their money will be spent in a calculated way.
As a startup with limited resources, you must prioritize the projects that lead to progress as quickly as possible. To understand which experiments hold the most potential and are worth investing in, you need to be able to see the bigger picture of processes and progress, comparing results from different experiments in a comprehensive way, instead of looking at results one at a time. The best ELN for a startup should include research data management tools for BI, such as creating and visualizing reports from raw data and structuring information in dataset tables in order to derive data-driven decisions, guiding your laboratory in the right direction.
Labguru is an ideal all-in-one solution for R&D startups. By starting out with Labguru, you make sure to receive maximum ROI — Labguru centralizes all your needs in one place: recording and managing laboratory data, storage, and inventory; structuring, sharing, and analyzing research data; automation of lab processes; providing insight into research data, and more. Labguru harnesses state-of-the-art technology to keep your IP secure, providing a full audit trail. Labguru is created by scientists for scientists, structured to help you work in a more organized way, but flexible enough to adapt to your complex processes.
Using Labguru, you can optimize your use of resources from day one and receive BI (Business Intelligence) insights to help you build your startup in the best way possible.
Labguru offers an Accelerator Plan for startups. Receive Labguru at a discount price and have the flexibility for your lab to grow without any additional payment in the first year, as we understand that you are on a budget. The plan includes additional support — our team of Application Scientists will help you implement Labguru and make sure you get the most out of it.
To find out if you qualify for the Startup Accelerator program, click here: