Tetra Partner Network: An Interview with Klemen Zupancic, CEO, SciNote

Helping customers implement a fully digital culture
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February 16, 2022

We welcome SciNote to the Tetra Partner Network and are delighted to share a recent interview with Klemen Zupancic, Ph.D., CEO of SciNote, maker of a powerful Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN).

Klemen Zupancic, Ph.D. CEO, SciNote
Klemen Zupancic, Ph.D. - CEO, SciNote

Please tell us a little bit about your background.

My background is in stem cell research and molecular biology. I did my Ph.D. at the National Institute of Biology in Slovenia, where we worked with Matjaž Hren, Ph.D., our VP of product development, on early detection of glioblastoma multiforme.

With Matjaž, we shared an office, lab notebook and frustration with how poorly the software was designed and incorporated into the everyday life of a scientist. We decided to change our career paths and founded SciNote in order to help scientists organize their scientific research in a more efficient and sustainable way.

In the world of informatics providers, SciNote is a relative newcomer, having been founded in 2015. Why was SciNote created? 

The two main pain points that spurred us into action were the excessive use of paper and poorly designed scientific software.

Matjaž is a very diligent person with terrible handwriting, while my handwriting is ok, but I tend to forget important details. We therefore spent a lot of time just trying to figure out what the other person had discovered and to coordinate our work.

Secondly, we were thoroughly disappointed with how poorly the software for science was designed. From data analytics to software that controls instruments, the software was always buggy and no attention was given to user experience. It’s like having a Ferrari with the steering wheel of a Pontiac.

This is one of the reasons why we are so excited about the partnership with TetraScience, since it brings an additional user-friendly connection on top of scientific instruments.

You’ve talked about “safeguarding scientific data for future generations of scientists.”  Why is this so important to you and how is SciNote accomplishing this?

Work in science in research in both academia and industry is often project-based. This means that once a project is completed, we, the researchers, tend to switch our focus to a new project and often do not spend enough effort on properly documenting the information, i.e., the data from the previous project. So even within the same company or department the storage, accessibility and findability of data is problematic. ELNs are a great tool to solve this challenge, however good data management practices including planning the data model in advance by researchers are essential.

With SciNote we’ve been keen on enforcing at least basic structure into the scientific and research data that is documented in SciNote, stimulating the users to adhere to the structure and take it to the next level. Good data management practices will speed up the discovery of new knowledge in existing data.

Good data management practices will speed up the discovery of new knowledge in existing data.

There are many different workflows and processes in Discovery.  How do you create efficiency for scientists in these areas?

It is a challenge striking the right balance between flexibility and structure. The way we think of it is that we try to fix the structure that is important for science and leave everything else flexible. We try to think about what basic structure a record should have so that it can be understood by a third party. Everything else is made as flexible as possible.

One of the advantages of a digital system compared to paper is that it can cater to non-linear workflows. Most of the flexibility of SciNote comes from that because the users can create very simple or very complex experiments. Their execution and data collection are, however, standardized in order to assure as much traceability as possible and to encourage proper data management.

How is being a part of the Tetra Partner Network a benefit to your customers?

We want to be excellent at what we do; helping scientists organize their research. For everything else we want to partner with other companies in the field that work on other challenges, such as instrument integration with the same goal in mind: more reproducible and efficient science. Therefore, partnering with TetraScience is a natural fit for our company and our customers since they can streamline their work from instrument control to seamless data collection.

Partnering with TetraScience is a natural fit for our company and our customers since they can streamline their work from instrument control to seamless data collection.

What changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years in the life sciences industry and how are you preparing your customers for them?

We believe we will see a complete removal of paper and moving to digital systems, which will result in more data standardization, which will in turn enable a much more global collaboration. Research will be much more decentralized, since it will no longer be done in the confinement of a single lab, but rather as a collaborative approach of hundreds if not thousands of labs worldwide. This will enable the scientific community to take on much more complex projects and deliver useful results much faster and in a much more transparent way.

For those same reasons we believe that the line between academic and industrial research will be further blurred; the difference will be only in funding sources and data sharing rights, but ultimately who does what should become less relevant. The main challenge will be coordination of such a decentralized system, which will also have to be decentralized and organized by software platforms, much like we see in other complex industries.

The first step we are doing with our customers is to get them fully digital and implement not only SciNote, but a digital culture in their organization. With partnerships like the one with TetraScience we also show them what is possible once one starts to think beyond paper and the walls of their own lab.

To learn more about SciNote and this partnership, read Mataz Hren’s blog, Software Development and the Digitalization of Laboratories

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