Digitising from the Start: The Benefits of Digitising Your New Lab 

By Jackie Tracey 4 min read 29 May 2024

Creating a biotech start-up comes with many tasks and challenges, along with the excitement of building out your company and business model. As you work in the early stages of hiring, fundraising, and meeting with investors, you also have a major operational focus on driving the science forward and building the laboratory infrastructure for your team.

Whether you are set up in a co-working/incubator space or opening a lab at a university, you’ll need to start managing inventory, equipment service schedules, ordering consumables and supplies, and more importantly, handling new samples. Typically, many fall back on old habits from previous lab environments, including spreadsheets for tracking inventory, word processors for protocols, and physical notebooks for experimental recording and calculations. With the current AI/ML-enabled world of biotech, this is analogous to using a Polaroid to (unironically!) take photos or a landline to make phone calls.

Conversely, digital lab platforms (DLPs) are the “smartphones” of your lab; an all-in-one solution that can manage samples, protocol, lab data, and files or automate data analysis, report generation, and submission to your manager. As you start your lab, consider the benefits of using a digital lab platform from the very beginning. Creating this standardisation is key as you scale and require a more collaborative and organised environment.

Below, we look at some common start-up tasks and how DLPs can help them run more efficiently.

Onboarding and Processes Training

To avoid training new team members on multiple systems and showing the complex and unique ways your company manages data and other information, you can show them one system and train them on it. For the eLabNext platform, our user guides are great references for new and experienced users to the system.* The guides have visuals and links to assist you in your eLabNext journey. 

*Pro tip: Create an eLabNext training protocol in your eLabProtocols module to help manage the training process!

User Permissions and Auditing

As you grow your team and hire, you can use your DLP to manage who has control over certain functions in the lab. Whether it is signing off on an experiment or archiving samples from your inventory, you can organise these permissions in our permissions settings. You can control these functions anytime, make changes or updates when necessary, and standardise who is responsible for what in your lab.

You can utilise eLabNext’s logs and audit trail features to keep track of all changes and updates in your lab. You can see what updates were made to a protocol or sample information. You can also view the equipment validation history. Even the most minor changes, like updating a user from “scientist” to “administrator” in your permission settings, are captured and logged in the permission change log. 

Inventory Management

Digitising lab assets from the start of your lab is important for maintaining a well-organised environment. Using a DLP like eLabInventory, you can begin setting up all your new equipment, like freezers, centrifuges, tubes, pipettes, and more, as you build out your lab. To keep organised with service maintenance and calibrations, assign locations and log the service tech’s contact information for each piece of equipment to make scheduling service simpler. Your team can utilise the equipment booking calendar to reserve equipment while using it or to view when the equipment will be in service.

As you start receiving and managing samples, you can easily track where the sample is being stored and create custom data fields to track things like quantity, collection date, sample type, and other metadata. Utilising pre-barcoded tubes or containers from the start simplifies your sample management process. With our barcode scanning feature, your team can attach barcodes to sample tubes or utilise pre-barcoded tubes and easily scan them using our Mobile App (or any 2D scanner), enabling quick viewing/editing of all sample information. 

Protocol Creation and Management

DLPs also enable you to manage all your protocols and SOPs with platforms like eLabProtocols. As you continue building your lab, standardise the team’s protocols by creating them directly in eLabProtocols, which enables you to generate formulas that make calculations easier and minimise any calculation mistakes. 

Starting a lab and building out all new protocols may seem overwhelming, but our AI Protocol Generator has made it much less daunting by facilitating the import of standard lab protocols (like Western Blotting, PCR, or buffer protocols).

ELN and Reporting

Managing and monitoring project progress is critical for ensuring your research is on track and under budget. DLPs, like eLabJournal, can help you standardise experiments and reporting and visually track which tasks have been completed. 

It also allows you to collaborate very effectively with your team, assign tasks, tag users in comments, and collaborate on different projects within your team. eLabJournal is where your inventory and protocols come together; you can capture what samples were used in an experiment, the samples generated from the experiment, and what protocols were used. 

Other experiment section types in the eLabJournal include file and image sections, where you can add files and images from your experiments, and Microsoft Office sections, which allow you to upload and/or work directly with programs like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for data reporting.

Get Started on Digitising

As I’ve highlighted above, standardising your operations to one multi-functional system (rather than many monofunctional systems) makes it much easier as you grow your team. The eLabNext platform allows users to customise the platform to their workflow and utilise the tool however it works for them. You get to define what information is captured within the system and how you want your team to use it. 

If you’d like to see how eLabJournal can benefit your new lab, schedule a free demo here!

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