The NIH SBIR/STTR program provides the financial foundation to help small business go to market and to provide a path to commercialization for academic research. This concept of ‘open innovation’ is creating a common strategic framework for academic labs to partner with R&D centers on a range of activities - from early stage identification of drug targets to validation of disease models - leveraging different areas of expertise towards a common goal.
Looking at the application guidelines for SBIR/STTR grants, we found key strategic symbioses between what the NIH are expecting and what Labguru provides. These complementary aspects will, we believe, benefit both funder and awardee, enabling collaboration at a much higher level.
Research Strategy -
Section 12 (pg I-138) of the SBIR/STTR SF424 (R&R) Application Guide outlines what is necessary for a good research strategy. In part (c) approach the application calls for a tentative sequence or timetable for the proposed project, including how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted as well as a resource sharing plan.
Labguru offers all the project management components within the system:
- A milestone based folder system that allows you to move from completed, to current, to planned steps.
- A flexible calendar that can be synced with Google accounts
- Task management & delegation to disparate teams
- Shared specimen and collection repositories within an account, streamlining tracking
In addition to these general project management tools, Labguru’s protocol and task structure ensures the ability to complete complex protocols that may not be taking place in the same physical location.
Alon Wellner, a customer from Forrest Innovation states,
One research step is being taken in Brazil. The next step is being taken in Israel, and so on with a ping-pong effect. Labguru helps us keep track and document everything. It is priceless for us to be able to do this in real time as it keeps everybody on the same page.
Enhancing communications for multiple PD/PI collaborations –
Section 12 (pg I-138) of the SBIR/STTR SF424 (R&R) Application Guide outlines the specifications for applications designating multiple PD/PIs. The guide specifically calls for organizational structure of the team along with leadership and communication plans. With Labguru, roles are defined in advance, ensuring access control and clear delineation of tasks (which can be assigned), data input into Labguru guarantees that all relevant information is delivered to all parties, in real time.
Kathy Ivey, Director of Stem Cell Core at The J. David Gladstone Institute says,
It’s like a Venn diagram and Labguru access is organized by experiment and by person. Staff only see the projects that are relevant to them but the Principal Investigator can see everything.
Section 2 (pg I-131) of the SBIR/STTR SF424 (R&R) Application Guide outlines the need to specify milestones for each aim. In Labguru research projects are broken down into milestones and folders, giving users the opportunity to maintain a clear vision of what each milestone is and the steps needed to reach it. If milestones change, Labguru tracks these changes, giving the support and backup to rationalize a shift of focus.
Data Sharing –
Section 215(pg I-141) of the SBIR/STTR SF424 (R&R) Application Guide specifies the need for a data-sharing plan. Investigators seeking more than $500,000 in funding need to include a provision on how data will be shared. Data sharing can become a huge burden when data exists across spreadsheets on disparate, and unsearchable paper lab notebooks. Labguru’s cloud technology, access controls, and intuitive interface ensures that all research data is kept together, structured and always immediately export-ready. Data exported from Labguru includes:
- Spreadsheets of specimen and materials data
- Rich text documents
- PDF documents
- All data and files uploaded to Labguru are available for download in their original format
When ready to share, simply export data and deliver to appropriate repositories.
Research continuity from phase 1 to phase 2 -
By definition, Phase II grant awardees will be dealing with the complexities of growing and scaling an operation with an aim to take it to market. Protocols, results, specimen, and analyses are critical to ensuring the success of the project in phase II and at scale. We propose that when used properly, Labguru gives awardees, researchers, and eventually, the commercial business the best chance at minimizing data loss and maximizing data capture, enabling effective transitions of personnel and data. David Nicholls, Enabling Capabilities Manager, Discovery Sciences Group, Innovative Sciences Unit, AstraZeneca on the importance of electronic systems for commercialization and academia-pharma alliances,
The potential of Labguru is that we (AstraZeneca) can partner more effectively with any academic group anywhere.
Research continuity from phase 1 to phase 2 -
The business strategy portion of the application requires scientists to think about the operations, logistics, and business needs of their research project. Part of this is to understand how they will work with their industrial partners. Historically, in order to demonstrate their thinking around this, grant applicants rely on letters of intent from prospective commercial partners that indicate a willingness to cooperate and a sense of optimism around the technology without providing detail about how the collaboration will work.
We’ve spoken to multi-award recipients of the SBIR and STTR and believe that providing a communication strategy with Labguru is a far stronger solution for this portion of the grant application.
Why the NIH SBIR/STTR should require an electronic solution
If the goal of the program is commercialization, then the NIH SBIR/STTR should prepare and provide researchers with tools that are a part of the commercial infrastructure. Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) and Lab Information Management Systems (LIMS) have been deployed in big pharma and biotech companies for years. Now is the time for academia to adopt these tools.
Labguru is uniquely poised to solve this problem as it was born in academia (i.e small flexible lab environments – the environments SBIR/STTR awardees often come from) and combines traditional ELN and LIMS features, together creating the foundation for technology transfer and collaboration.
The NIH SBIR/STTR committee could also see benefits - well documented, searchable research is easier to analyze and understand the future of and careful reagent/equipment expenditure tracking and order management adds another useful data set to an audit of how money from the grant was spent. All applicants moving from phase 1 to phase 2 have to undergo an audit and having documented purchases and tracking makes it easier to see how dollars were spent.
Research project management, with goals, milestones and timelines differs greatly from the structure of traditional academic grants like RO1s where the goal is publications. A research management app like Labguru can prepare scientists for a commercial future.