Why Pharma Needs to Futureproof the Lab


According to the International Federation of Pharmaceuticals, the industry spends almost $150 billion per year on research and development. 1This enormous investment, however, hasn’t increased scientific productivity. A PwC report titled “Pharma 2020: From Vision to Decision” reveals that scientific productivity has remained flat over the last decade.2

Pharmaceutical companies need to stay organized and be innovative to protect the lab from potential threats—and gain a competitive advantage. The lab of the future will contain more modern tech and greater access to scientific content with instruments that are more aware of necessary settings, protocols, and processing. The ability to adjust to future business, technology, and security changes will improve productivity, reduce risk, and accelerate drug discovery.

What is futureproofing?

For the purposes of this article, “futureproofing” is a process of continuous improvement essential to protecting your investment and adapting to new business needs, emerging technology, and security changes. It’s also the ability to keep the lab safe from potential threats both in the present and future.

What strategies are available to futureproof a lab?

Below we will explore three strategies to futureproof a lab, focusing on informatics technology, service models, and data security.

Flexible informatics technology

The lab is constantly changing at a rapid pace. Creating a flexible, adaptable space that’s equipped with the right lab instruments and data visualization technology is essential to futureproofing. More informatics professionals are investing in cloud-based tools to manage data from multiple sources that leads to better informed decision making. Cloud-based informatics tools can improve current practices and process efficiencies by:

  • Providing advanced data visualization, regardless of the source. This allows for swapping underlying instrument or software technologies as new techniques and technologies emerge.
  • Connecting data from multiple data sources. Cross-referencing insights from multiple sources brings in an influx of valuable information.
  • Driving scientific collaboration. Cloud-based software gives scientists the avenue to collaborate and improve productivity, which can ultimately lead to faster drug discovery.

Some examples of useful tools include TIBCO Spotfire and cloud-based E-notebooks. These products are designed to provide analytics and management solutions in the lab by taking manual tasks away from scientists. These tools ensure scientists can focus on project end results instead of manually assembling data from multiple sources or using inefficient collaboration tools.

Flexible service model

Optimizing lab service operations is another way to ensure a sustainable future in the lab. Reports show that around 25% of research scientists spend time taking care of non-lab activities that add little to no value to data and their specific line of work. 3Removing the obligation to handle basic housekeeping tasks from researchers and scientists can lead to future success, and that starts with innovative thinking in terms of who’s operating inside of the lab.

Consider a flexible service model and insource an operations plan with a strategic partner to:

  • Optimize instrument maintenance and operational analytics. This ensures the extraction of maximum value from instrument investment.
  • Support the lab computing team with a strong lab IT focus. IT in the lab has its own unique needs. Computers in the lab use scientific software applications and are integrated with instruments that require specialized knowledge. Working with a strategic partner that understands this environment can reduce instrument downtime and allow the corporate IT team to focus on office computers which are much less diverse.
  • Redistribute basic scientific services. Allow your scientific team to focus on its core mission. Working with a strategic partner to handle routine work gives more time to your scientific staff to focus on science.

Flexible service models are exemplified by multi-vendor laboratory programs. They are designed to optimize your lab through increased productivity, allowing your team to focus on science. This model also adjusts well to changes in business needs or technology and is a key component to a futureproofing strategy.

IT security technology

One of the most important aspects of futureproofing is doing everything possible to protect the most valuable asset in the lab: data. Various tools and practices are available to ensure data integrity and data privacy, and protect the lab against external and internal threats.

Like Lab IT itself (discussed above) a good Lab IT security strategy needs to take into account the unique nature of the Laboratory environment. Finding a partner that understands lab security vulnerabilities with solutions to address them is a key component of a futureproofing strategy.

How Lab as a Service (LaaS) makes futureproofing simple

While there are various individual strategies to futureproof the lab, the LaaS model brings all of these components together into a streamlined solution. A LaaS model can include instrumentation, instrumentation maintenance, Lab IT services, Scientific Services, and Cyber security services in multiple combinations wrapped in a flexible financial model. This allows users to more efficiently manage lab operations and adjust to changing business needs.

Increased agility in the lab is valuable in an ever-changing technology environment. The LaaS model may also provide an opportunity to convert traditional Capex funding to Opex, something that many organizations are looking to achieve where possible.

Futureproofing adds significant value to a pharmaceutical company by optimizing the deployment of staff, instrumentation and services to enhance laboratory productivity, reduce risk, and accelerate drug discovery. With innovative technologies, a team of experts and a robust strategy, pharmaceutical companies can properly adapt to industry changes through the long drug development lifecycle and respond proactively to new opportunities to best utilize the lab.