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Successful Biotechs Rely on Streamlined Operations

Staying competitive in the biotech world requires focusing your time and resources on development and discovery, enabled by fast, efficient lab logistics, and supply management solutions

by Quartzy
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Labs can’t succeed without supplies and efficient supply management. It’s a simple truth that causes frustrations and delays at the best of times. Amidst the recent global supply chain disruptions, difficulty sourcing supplies has been more acutely felt by scientists everywhere. While completing graduate research, Adam Regelmann, MD, PhD, experienced these disruptions too often. On many occasions Adam found himself midway through an experiment when he discovered a critical reagent was missing or freshly depleted by a labmate, delaying progress until replacement stock arrived. For some protocols, that interruption meant having to completely start over, wasting time, effort, and resources. 

These common and avoidable delays add to already lengthy research timelines. Adam and Jayant Kulkarni, PhD, a like-minded friend completing a postdoc in neuroscience at the time, were driven to act by these frustrations. “Science takes too long,” Adam explains. “We set out to solve the problem we felt.” There needed to be a better way to manage inventories and streamline operations, to save time and money in the lab. Together, they devised a solution: a lab management platform that could consolidate and accelerate workflows for key lab operations.

On the edge: the challenges in biotech

The unique pressures and challenges of the biotech industry make inventory and supply issues all the more severe. In this highly competitive industry, speed to market is critical to ensure future funding and maintain relevance with cutting-edge technology. Several concerns compete for focus and resources, from securing funding, to obtaining regulatory approvals and patents, to ensuring market access. Bringing new products to market requires significant investment in research and development. Companies need to be extremely efficient, developing streamlined, scalable processes early on to stretch resources and prepare to scale quickly. Recruiting and retaining top talent is equally important to success and requires creating and maintaining a positive, productive work environment where staff feel their skills and expertise are valued, well-utilized, and contribute to the company's objectives.

Effective lab management solutions are integral to running lean teams, accelerating product development, and minimizing time to market. While digital lab solutions like laboratory information management systems and electronic lab notebooks have become standard tools, the need for a comprehensive lab management solution is frequently overlooked, despite its critical role in improving operational efficiency. Many labs still rely on Excel spreadsheets, email, and even sticky notes to manage inventory and purchasing activity. These antiquated processes introduce high potential for error, are inefficient, and make it difficult to track orders or maintain adequate records. A comprehensive lab management solution consolidates and streamlines lab workflows, making it faster and easier across the team to: (1) request, approve, fulfill, and track orders, (2) find reagents and supplies at the best price, and (3) avoid mistakes, miscommunications, running out of stock, or overstocking. 

A better way

Whether transforming existing processes or building streamlined workflows from the start, leveraging lab management software can have a huge impact on lab operations. We talked to several biotech companies who described their challenges before Quartzy and their experience after implementing Quartzy’s lab platform solution.  

A genome-engineering R&D company that employs machine learning and automation to develop CRISPR technology for life science research transformed their processes with Quartzy, accelerating development. According to their lab management team, the greatest impact was on their ordering processes, previously tracked through a combination of email, chat, and spreadsheets. The team described the old process as confusing, time-consuming, and unreliable. More efficient requesting and ordering workflows save them hours every week, improving productivity across the lab, while the centralized communication hub makes it easier to keep everyone on the same page. 

Whether transforming existing processes or building streamlined workflows from the start, leveraging lab management software can have a huge impact on lab operations.

A large contract research organization that specializes in high-value biologics for biotech companies was faced with the need to scale up their ordering processes. They were processing more than 20 orders per day across nine departments with requests arriving through everything from in-person visits to fax. A friend in the biotech industry recommended Quartzy to their purchasing officer. They decided to deploy the software as their primary lab management tool, allowing them to consolidate requests and simplify cost evaluation amongst equivalent products. Since the roll-out, they report marked improvements to efficiency, streamlined communications, and error-free ordering—saving thousands of dollars. 

One therapeutics company with ambitious goals adopted Quartzy to streamline ordering from the start. Blending molecular biology, neuroscience, and systems biology, they are working to fully map the brain-gut connection for investigative therapeutics to treat the most challenging diseases. Once the company grew to 65 staff, they began leveraging more lab management features. Quartzy’s workflow efficiencies, like delivery notifications that let staff know when an item arrives and where to find it, have helped them accelerate development of therapeutics and save at least one to two full working days per week in staff-hours. 

The founders of a company that develops antibody therapeutics targeting inflammatory diseases knew they wanted to use Quartzy from the earliest planning stages. In their first year during the height of the pandemic, they grew from three to 11 people. Starting with streamlined processes has allowed them to run lean. They estimate the system saves them 12 staff-hours per week across their small team, since the workflow efficiencies and prevention of manual data entry errors speed up their research. The software also played a key role in supporting their operations during the early, severe lab supply shortages. For example, they worked with Quartzy’s support to coordinate orders for gloves across multiple suppliers when facing lengthy backorders and indeterminant delays, securing the earliest available stock without over-ordering. 

Risk with purpose

Organizations across the life sciences drive progress, working toward a better future. Delays that slow scientific progress affect everyone. As Adam contends, “There are so many companies leveraging new life-based technologies to create amazing products, from life-saving therapeutics and diagnostics to sustainable leather and carbon-negative plastics. They all take longer to get to market when scientists don't have the supplies they need.” Accelerating the R&D process by helping organizations ensure they always have what they need to conduct their experiments has been Quartzy’s goal from the beginning, when Adam and Jayant built it while balancing medical residency and postdoctoral research. 

From the frustration derived from lab supply logistics to the “risk with purpose” inherent in their own software venture and the companies it supports, Adam relates to the challenges faced by life science companies. Success is rarely a straight line, as he learned early on while driving across the country to meet with customers, canvas universities, and learn more about researchers’ challenges and how they might be solved. 

The software evolved from a simple inventory management tool to a full lab productivity platform, with features finely tuned to support lab management where needed most. Now there is a better alternative to spending hours hunting for stock around the lab, finding product details for ordering, and filling out requests. Scientists can effectively plan and execute experiments when they have detailed inventories and transparent internal and external order tracking. Purchasers don’t have to spend hours collating information across multiple sources or searching for equivalents.  Quartzy also has a robust integration and developer platform that connects software solutions to avoid human error, manual work, and copying and pasting data between systems. This includes simple, out-of-the-box integrations that do not require engineering work as well as open APIs that allow customers to build unique solutions for their business. Integrating with other platforms and tools means staff-hour savings on reporting and accounting, establishing a more connected lab.  

Scientific progress is also rarely a straight line. Extensive trials and failed lines of inquiry translate to incremental progress that takes time. While that may never change, unnecessary delays and losses from ineffective lab workflows can be circumvented with a well-designed lab productivity platform.