Barrier Busting: Bringing ELN and LIMS Scientific Data Together

An interview with Yonggan Wu, CEO, Labii
|
June 27, 2022

Seeing possibilities where others don’t and combining that with an entrepreneurial spirit led Yonggan Wu to found Labii Inc., a barrier-busting research platform that combines both Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) and Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) functionality in one product. We welcome Yonggan and Labii to the Tetra Partner Network and are delighted to share more insight into both. 

Please tell us about your background and what inspired you to found Labii?

I trained in Biology for my undergraduate studies and in Bioinformatics for my graduate studies. Having experience in both bench work and coding was the foundation for my desire to create a research platform for Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) and Laboratory information management systems (LIMS)

As a graduate student, I used paper notebooks and Word to create protocols and experiments. When I finished an experiment, I printed it and glued it to a notebook. Can you believe it? At that time, I desperately wished that I had some sort of platform that would enable me to manage all my research and improve productivity. My lab managers also repeatedly asked me to come up with a better way than Excel to manage inventory, so I created a dummy database. It worked but was not ideal. 

After graduation, I got a job at Stanford University. From there, I was inspired to create Labii, which was originally named LabII (Lab Two), but we changed the name to Labii to make it easier to pronounce.

Historically ELNs, Inventory Management, and LIMS have been separate products.  You’ve combined their functionality.  Why did you do this and what’s the benefit to customers?

As everyone knows, ELNs are used to document experiments, Inventory Management to manage supply stocks, and LIMS to manage other types of data such as sample testing workflow. Because of this, scientists are forced to use 3 different products, often with 3 different interfaces, to accomplish daily research activity. As a result, companies often hire 3 different employees to manage each of the products. Rather than gaining efficiency and productivity, labs end up increasing costs and delaying product development further. 

Labii believes that scientists should be able to increase productivity with one product to manage all their research data, such as notebooks, stock levels, and workflows.

Labii believes that scientists should be able to increase productivity with one product to manage all their research data, such as notebooks, stock levels, and workflows. The Labii ELN & LIMS are designed for this ideology. This functionality is achieved by programming the product with the concept of "DRY", which stands for "Don't Repeat Yourself". Since lab notebooks, inventory management, and LIMS all store and display a list of data, their functions overlap significantly. By implementing flexibility attributions, Labii is able to manage the data of ELN, inventory management, and LIMS in separate tables with the same interface. 

This brings huge benefits to our customers: 1) they save a lot of money, as they don't need to purchase two different systems. 2) Data integration is much more efficient. Instead of using multiple systems, Labii already links different types of data together (project manager, ELN, LIM). 3) reduced learning curve. A user who has learned how to use Labii's ELN component will have no problems using it for LIMS as well.

How are your customers using Labii?  In what areas?

The use of Labii can be divided into three types. One set of customers use Electronic Laboratory Notebook functionality only. Most of them work in Research and development (R&D) of a biotech company. The focus of their research is usually on innovations and proof of concepts.  Scientists would prefer that research results are captured as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible and tend to just write down what they did on one particular day. We designed the Labii Electronic Lab Notebook for R&D specifically for this use case. 

The second set of customers use ELN for production. Most of them are the contract research organization (CRO). The CRO usually follows strict procedures when conducting research. Every experiment for one particular service looks the same, and certain data needs to be captured specifically for a particular step. Labii breaks down the experiment into sections and releases Electronic Lab Notebook for production for this use case. 

Our other customer set are more advanced users. They are mid-sized biotech companies with multiple departments looking for an integrated system to manage all their research data. They fully utilize Labii's customizability capabilities  to create tables for each type of research data. The relationship between Labii and these customers is symbiotic: They provide feedback to Labii to help Labii improve, and Labii develops new functionality based on their feedback to facilitate their research.

You’ve created a fascinating capability called a widget.  How do your widgets work and how do they advance scientific research?

Labii is built for a variety of disciplines, offering the toolset needed by biologists, chemists, and many other professionals. A widget is a small function Labii developed that works with columns and sections to display and collect data. By using different widgets, we can satisfy the spectra of every experiment. We have developed hundreds of widgets to facilitate scientific research, and more are on the way.

A widget is a small function Labii developed that works with columns and sections to display and collect data. By using different widgets, we can satisfy the spectra of every experiment.

We provide two types of widgets.

Column widgets for all types of structured data. Column widgets are used to define and customize structured data columns. They are similar to the data types in MySQL, but are more powerful in that functions can be attached. It covers the categories of form, file, calculation, chemistry, and reference manager, allowing you to accurately record the results of your scientific research.

Example of column widgets. From top to bottom: Rating widget, SMILES drawing widget, ForeignKey widget.

Section widgets to fulfill research needs. Labii records can be divided into sections, and each section is powered by a section widget. A section widget lets you view and edit a particular file type. There's a widget to suit every need, whether it's molecular biology, or chemical structure drawing.

The 96-well plate is an example of a section widget to display the layout of a 96-well.



Using widgets has many advantages:

  1. Widgets can be applied to automate the documentation process to increase the efficiency of research. For example, with ELISA data analysis, all the processes like averaging blanks, normalizing data, and predicting data can be done with just one click. It takes seconds instead of hours. 
  2. By eliminating human errors, the widgets can also generate more accurate results. For example, users can use widgets to automatically calculate the number of vials available.

Oftentimes, software provides more capability than a customer needs. Is Labii able to help customers customize capabilities to their unique needs?

Labii can be fully customized. Because of the sheer diversity of interests, workflows, and preferences within the research community, scientists of various fields of study and research labs find it impossible to prescribe a single product for use in the company, campus, college, department or research group levels. Labii is built to address such problems with high customization and flexibility. Labii can be customized on three levels.

Because of the sheer diversity of interests, workflows, and preferences within the research community, scientists of various fields of study and research labs find it impossible to prescribe a single product for use in the company, campus, college, department or research group levels. Labii is built to address such problems with high customization and flexibility.
  1. Users can specify the type of data to be stored. When customers reach out to Labii, they already have data stored in excel files. Labii allows customers to create a table for each excel sheet. If a user wants to document SOPs, a protocols table can be created. If a user wants to manage equipment, the equipment table can be generated.
  2. Users can customize columns to store different types of attributes for each table. They can specify whether the column is required, constraints, help text, default values for each column.
  3. The sections can be customized for each record in Labii. As an example, if an experiment produces additional data, sections can easily be added to host the data.

Labii's customization can be tailored to meet the needs of customers now and in the future. While some companies are still small when they start using Labii, as the company grows, they can add more tables to store more types of data. They can also change the columns to increase efficiency.

We always work with our customers to understand their needs and help them customize the platform. Learn more at https://www.labii.com/customization/

What are the benefits of being part of the Tetra Partner Network?

We are a group of researchers with biology backgrounds, but we have limited knowledge of laboratory equipment and other machines. By partnering with Tetra, we can extend our ability to load data from lab equipment using Tetra Data, thus adding even more value to customers.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

With a focus on science, both Labii and TetraScience aim to facilitate research and promote the next big scientific discoveries.

In contrast to the other industry, most scientific research tools are either missing or difficult to use. With a focus on science, both Labii and TetraScience aim to facilitate research and promote the next big scientific discoveries.

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