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Lab Lessons from 2020: Managing the Data Backlog by Simplifying Lab Workflow

Lab Lessons from 2020: Managing the Data Backlog by Simplifying Lab Workflow

Both in the field and in the lab, innovative technologies will help teams get answers faster

Sample and data backlogs can cause active forensic cases to be delayed for months and put drug discovery and development on hold. Managing the volume of data at labs and in the field can be time consuming and impede the speed at which meaningful results are acquired. For example, this year has pushed the pharma R&D community to innovate like never before, especially during a time when teams and government mandates are pushing for remote work options whenever possible and working to meet public safety guidelines. It is essential that the core challenges lab managers faced in 2020 are addressed and that purpose-built tools are utilized to help create efficiencies in their workflow in 2021.

Leave behind your backlog in 2021

Pharma, biopharma, and forensic labs across the country have been overwhelmed this year with test delays. Additionally, remote work and precautions like social distancing have taken a toll on efficiencies. Many labs have had to reduce the number of people allowed in at one time to maintain vital proper distancing and public safety requirements. However, these changes have also decreased the number of people available to work in one space at any given time. While some may have planned to begin tackling their backlogs this coming year, these changes have made it far more difficult to do so.

Because timing is everything in analytics, when lab managers plan to process their samples, they should pay attention to how long it will take to receive results and if there are additional steps to confirm the results. Working within the organization to highlight areas like these that could be streamlined can help speed up not only testing times, but also show which other parts of the process are being impacted by delays.  

Increasing efficiencies in the lab and in the field will help decrease backlogs and improve turnaround time for accurate and trustworthy results. Lab managers should consider adding both digital and physical evidence technologies to help manage data accumulation and keep their teams on track for successful results.

Choosing the right technology for the lab

Biopharma and forensic labs are rightly selective of the tech they choose to implement, which is why it is vital that the devices they choose complement their workflows without draining other resources or requiring extensive training programs.

One way this can be accomplished is by looking at the techniques being used in the lab and determining what is the best technique for your task. What is best may mean what is fastest, most agile, or most accurate, but no matter what you choose, it should be effective for your task and workflow, and, in the best-case scenario, entail all three attributes. When R&D researchers are formulating life-saving medicines, they are often in need of efficient techniques, such as the use of mRNA in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, that will help formulate life-saving medicines in a productive timeframe.

To ensure the efficacy of life-saving medicines, process engineers need immediate answers on cell production. In these instances, time can mean the difference between getting medicines out to patients faster or having to start all over again. 

Keeping teams in the field safe from harm

In the field, detecting threats quickly can oftentimes mean the difference between life and death, which makes it crucial that the tools being used by first responders and investigators can deliver real-time results that can be trusted. Field deployable tech that can also transition to labs can help yield faster results of unknown substances at the scene, which, in turn, can help solve cases and hold up in court as defensible evidence.

Utilizing devices that allow responders to best understand the situation they’re facing is critical for rapid decision making. Chemical threats, explosives, priority drugs, fentanyl, and even Novichok can now all be analyzed using advanced algorithms in one device in less than five minutes. Both in the field and in the lab, innovative technologies will help teams get answers faster and keep teams and the public safe during critical situations.

The last year has been pivotal for digital transformation and innovation across industries, remembering lessons learned will help to continue addressing critical problems directly in 2021. There is still a pressing need for lab transformative solutions in conjunction with big data capabilities, advanced analytics, and machine learning. Research and technology must work together on resolving barriers to uncover the true potential of the lab of the future and empower managers to work faster and more effectively.