Digital Lab Transformation | New Laboratory Technology | Corning

Although many of today's scientists are comfortable with a paper laboratory notebook, life science researchers are unlocking the potential that digital transformation brings with new laboratory technology. This may already be happening in your lab, where machines "talk" to one another, data is seamlessly uploaded, analyzed, and shared without physical notebooks, and quality control and inventory management seem to happen automatically. Welcome to the new digital laboratory of the Industry 4.0 era!

Why Choose Digital Transformation?

The benefits of digitization are immense, from quality control and consistency to ease of data visualization and sharing. For example, having laboratory equipment connected digitally can monitor lab operations. Web-based wireless monitoring systems alert lab managers before losing precious samples and reagents to malfunctioning cold storage units.

Digitized data collection, storage, and analysis can save labs countless hours. Not only can automated lab equipment run standard processes, but they can also collect data, bypassing printouts and the paper lab notebook. In addition to saving time, data upload reduces error and makes the information more widely available and more easily retrieved.

Sharing to the Cloud

With an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), the days of corralling endless paper notes, journal pages, and other scraps may well and truly be in the past. Since modern lab equipment now seamlessly records and transfers data sets digitally, ELN technology is replacing the need for paper print-outs or handwritten notes. Although scanning paper notebooks is possible, software specifically designed for the task often delivers extra features.

These smart electronic journals capture experimental input from lab activity, keeping track of experimental details, results, and user notes digitally. When asked to re-create past experiments, the ELN is fully searchable and shareable within a laboratory team, and without the difficulty of interpreting the lead investigator's handwriting. Another benefit is safety; storing data in the cloud saves it from fire and flood in a physical location.

Digital Transformation for Consistency

Digitizing or automating routine tasks makes them faster, easier, and less prone to error. Cell counting, for example, can be a rigorous procedure in cell culture labs . Traditionally, scientists have calculated cell concentrations and carried out viability assays manually with a grided hemocytometer. However, utilizing the automated Corning® Cell Counter, in conjunction with its cloud-based machine learning approach, makes cell counting data outputs faster, more consistent, and less prone to user error. After image acquisition the algorithm processes a result in less than three seconds and leverages the cloud for unlimited experiment storage.

Repetitive tasks are also prime for automation. With many assays and lab procedures scaling up, repetitive tasks not only cause operator fatigue and injury through repetitive strain issues, but they also increase the chance of error. Machines, if programmed correctly, minimize error and remove the tedium.

Multiwell plate handling is much easier and more efficient when using equipment such as the Corning® Lambda™ EliteMax Semi-automated Benchtop Pipettor. Automation within a small footprint offers 96-well plate filling, transfer and serial dilution at the touch of a button, releasing lab personnel and reducing operator error.

Digitization also helps bulk manipulation. Production intensification for adherent cell growth using stacked growth surfaces means larger harvests. Platforms such as Corning's CellSTACK® and HYPERStack® systems offer easily scalable and consistent processing routines. Automated and programmable manipulation saves lab time and error for a number of critical fluid handling steps, including filling, equilibration and harvesting. Not only does this save time and increase efficiency with reduced error, but it can also be safer for lab workers.

Visualizing Large Data Arrays

Handling large data sets is easier with new laboratory technology. For example, tandem mass spectrometry for proteomics analysis returns enormous data sets. Specialized software not only collects this data but also visualizes the arrays for analysis. The software not only computes the values but also handles normalization, looks for discrepancies, and may even apply machine learning to improve the analysis.

Visualization also operates in reverse; tools such as the Corning® Matribot® Bioprinter translate complex tissue architecture data into 3D bio prints for a number of pharmaceutical and precision medicine strategies. Being able to automate the process also helps. Having consistent organoid and spheroid structures, for example, is also good for quality control that translates into more valid experimental data.

The Corning Ascent FBR system allows for the visualization of live process data through remote instrument access. The Ascent FBR displays data trends in real time, while remote instrument access also allows users to access the data and initiate automated functions without having to be in the lab, thus enhancing ease of use and efficiency.

LIMS and More for Efficient Lab Management

Supplies, consumables, and remote instrument monitoring are other areas labs can increase efficiency through digitization. For example, remote monitoring not only lets you know when equipment breaks down, but it also acts as a good record of storage conditions.

An effective laboratory information management system (LIMS) helps with data and lab management. There are various LIMS platforms available; in addition to sample handling and data acquisition, some also manage inventory and equipment maintenance schedules. Scientific Computing suggests that users take a look at what they hope to achieve before choosing a LIMS, looking at factors such as scale and sample handling, for example, before making a decision.

Digitization and automation are extremely useful. Something as simple as barcoding samples helps avoid error in addition to faster operations. Ensuring efficient data transfer can even optimize drug discovery workflows in R&D labs, even though the work is less routine.

When thinking of new laboratory technology, digital transformation could make your lab run faster and more efficiently, with fewer errors. As reported in a study from Accenture investing in digitalization adds significant value in terms of faster access to data and a reduction in manual handling processes. This process is heavily dependent on skills, talent and having the right people in place. The report also notes increased collaboration. Digital transformation in your lab is certainly worth the investment.