Cloud Cover: Evolution of Cloud-Based Collaboration in the Laboratory

Managing Editor

A Logical Evolution

Elements Electronic Laboratory Notebook In the early 2000s, the research and development laboratory segment sought more automation in terms of recording and tracking data. Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) platforms became more visible. However, with automation comes the inherent risk of unpredictability, incompatibility, instability, and loss. Many attempts have been made at streamlining the ELN concept. Recently, American Laboratory had the privilege of speaking with Clive Higgins, Vice President of Marketing and Informatics at PerkinElmer, a true spokesperson for the forefront of ELN innovation. PerkinElmer’s “Elements” platform (elements.perkinelmer.com) has been designed to reach beyond the scope of traditional ELN systems by allowing users to safely input and share data in the cloud. The ultimate objectives are enhanced collaboration and faster decision making—with the benefits of lowering costs and increasing security. 

Distinguishing Innovations

The Elements ELN platform easily interfaces with PerkinElmer instruments (as well as others). Unlike other ELN systems, Elements is 100% cloud-based, and it has been adapted for use on computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices. It eliminates the need for specific hardware, and its accessibility lends to its true portability. Historically, ELN systems have typically been expensive to deploy. However, the Elements platform offers a premium model pricing structure, starting with free access for basic use. Beta software testing was performed at academic institutions, whose feedback allowed for real-time optimization and enhancement to the ELN platform. More advanced companies who might not elect to purchase an expensive enterprise-wide system will greatly benefit from the affordability and convenience of the Elements system. Best of all, Elements works harmoniously with other popular CambridgeSoft laboratory software, such as ChemDraw, BioAssay, Inventory, and more.

Collaboration and Clinical Trials in the Cloud

Elements users from different institutions can share or exchange experimental data and notes through the platform. Elements is designed to suit the needs of collaborative groups, such as those working in drug discovery, or on clinical trials. For example, a certain big pharma company has about 6,000 users of ELNs: the great challenge to date has been permitting collaboration among these users. From the academic research setting all the way to big pharma environments, Elements promotes the spirit of collaboration.

No Need to Compromise Security for Convenience: Elements Offers Both

In a traditional physical laboratory notebook, researchers typically record data and carefully indicate any changes such as deletions, insertions, and corrections by seeking approval and/or initialing, signing, or dating by hand. The Elements ELN platform protects against the risk of tampering or data fraud with its employment of specialized security designs. These include highly secured access to data, real-time monitoring/tracking of changes, and validating functions such as providing the ability to sign and close experimental results, as well as verifying witness of an experiment. Data is safely stored with Elements—unlike the traditional notebook archiving and translating system, the data is automatically available, more organized, readily available, and secure.

Trusted Innovation

There is a bright future ahead of cloud-based computing in the lab. Elements ELN platform was formally launched to great fanfare at the 247th ACS National Meeting and Exposition in Dallas, TX in March 2014. According to a company spokesperson, “the PerkinElmer Elements launch and booth was bustling with activity.” And do researchers trust the idea of cloud-based computing in the laboratory? Establishing trust is a journey. PerkinElmer is doing its own research to seek the trust of a new wave of scientific professionals along their innovation journey. 

Emilia Raszkiewicz is Managing Editor, American Laboratory; e-mail: eraszkiewicz@comparenetworks.com.

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