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The Future of Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN)

Many companies are endeavoring on a digital transformation with their laboratories by levering automation, and reducing the use of manual, paper-based processes.  A tremendous amount of data is generated and recorded in a lab, and it is common for lab analysts and technicians to document this information in a lab notebook. Therefore, a key element of a digital laboratory is an Electronic Laboratory Notebook solution or ELN.

An ELN is an experiment and project centric application that allows for the storage and retrieval of both structured and unstructured data in basic and novel research and discovery.  ELNs have been historically focused on protecting Intellection Property and patents, and managing experiments in chemistry labs, including traceability of instruments and raw materials.  Now ELNs also offer functionality that is focused on data sharing, innovation, and collaboration, as well as accelerating regulatory filings.  ELNs are most frequently used in Research and Development labs but can also create a more controlled environment in other areas such as QC Manufacturing labs.

Implementing an ELN solution can offer several returns on investment, including improved efficiency, capacity, and compliance, as well as cost avoidance and cost reduction.  These returns will be achieved through improved data accuracy, efficient error identification and resolution, quicker laboratory throughput, increased data searchability, less manual transcription, and eliminating experiment duplications.

When Adding Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN) to Your Digital Strategy

There are several opportunities and considerations:

Continued expansion beyond R&D can bring similar benefits to other areas.  Consider implementing LES or other procedural execution capabilities to support right-first-time initiatives and allow for “review by exception” in manufacturing environments.

Integrating or consolidating legacy ELN, LIMS and LES into one system can create a solution that is more suitable for deployment across the organization and to contract vendors and partners. Evaluate complexity, effort, and cost of keeping multiple systems integrated and ensure that the system’s technology is capable of supporting your digital laboratory strategy. Consider selecting a LIMS vendor that offers an integrated ELN module, which avoids having to interface to a 3rd party system.

SaaS-based Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN) solutions can be implemented faster and reduce capital costs, reduce IT and validation complexity, and support globalization.  These platforms are still evolving and adjusting to customer expectations, including comfort levels with storing data and IP in cloud servers.  There are often differences in features between cloud-based offerings and those that are on-premises. Assess each vendors alignment with your process and strategy before committing to a solution.

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Contributions by Taylor Slack and Ken Alves

Tags: Quality and Compliance Technology, Digital, LIMS