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May 01, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 9)

LIMS Streamlines Translational Science

Lab Information Management Systems Help Researchers Make the Most of Collaborations

  • Click Image To Enlarge +
    Samples often move between the hospital and the pharmaceutical company during the study. Thermo Scientific Nautilus LIMS tracks samples from the building, to the freezer shelf, down to the individual well position of the plate.

    Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Obama administration has set aside $8.2 billion in additional funding for scientific research in the hopes of stimulating the U.S. economy. As part of this funding, the NIH has created Challenge Grants in Health and Human Research for scientific disciplines, and one of the 15 areas identified for these Challenge Grants is translational science. This focus by the NIH is not new. In 2006, the NIH initiated the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium to create a collaborative environment that spans across all facets of medical research.

    Translational science, also referred to as translational medicine or research, is at its core a relatively simple concept. By taking a focused point of view, the biomedical community is able to translate what it has  learned in the laboratory into the diagnosis and clinical treatment of patients.

    While this bench-to-bedside approach holds the promise of tomorrow’s innovative and personalized medical treatments, it presents some real challenges today. To translate information from the clinic to the laboratory and back requires that researchers and clinicians integrate and collaborate on information from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, hospitals, and academia. Furthermore, the growing amounts of data associated with this research has posed enormous challenges for laboratory information management. Research labs now need flexible and robust systems to integrate and manage donors, biospecimens, workflows, sample derivatives, experiments, protocols, instruments, reagents, lab personnel, collaborators, and reporting.

    To meet these needs, organizations are  utilizing laboratory information management systems (LIMS) to facilitate information exchange without compromising the day-to-day operations of the hospital. This article discusses these developments and describes how a novel and flexible LIMS framework can facilitate collaboration and manage experimental results of clinical outcomes.

  • Key Challenges

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    Users perform a variety of actions on plates, like pooling, cherry picking, or splitting. Thermo Scientific Nautilus LIMS allows users to graphically move or split aliquots directly through the plate interface.

    Unlike most disciplines, translational research is being done in multiple locations by organizations with entirely different roles in improving human health. Research hospitals and academia are balancing their desire to move medicine forward through sponsor- or grant-funded research studies without compromising their paramount goal of improving the health of their patients.

    On the other hand, drug manufacturers need to demonstrate real results from their research. Despite their differences, these organizations share a common goal to move medical treatments forward. In order to do this, close collaboration among a variety of constituents from different disciplines, inside and outside of an organization, is an absolute requirement. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to manage all of the data and people involved in this collaboration so that the proper results are communicated to the right audiences at the right time.

    Flexibility and adaptability are key components in this effort, and the ability to attack new therapeutic areas and design new studies is crucial. Organizations also need to ensure that information is available in real-time to provide a clear view of the study’s progression and to enable researchers to make the right decisions.

    If a biomarker is showing a positive response to a drug, researchers may add an additional draw to the study to gather more data or add an additional test. If it takes them two weeks to gather these results, they may miss the opportunity to enhance the study and increase its value for both the sponsor and the hospital. A LIMS is crucial for a laboratory to provide research scientists with the information they need while managing the day-to-day responsibilities of tracking, storing, and testing physical samples.