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ExonHit Bets on Sapio LIMS


Commercial LIMS has the flexibility for the job.

By John Russell

Oct. 8, 2008 | What Heather Jordan found in her search for a LIMS for biotech ExonHit was a nuanced marketplace that fulfilled and defied its stereotype. In the end, the director of operations for ExonHit Therapeutics was able to find a solid commercial offering—Exemplar from Sapio Sciences—whose key strengths were flexibility, ease of use, and fast deployment.

“We evaluated 8 to 10 different vendors,” says Jordan. The chief challenge was to find a LIMS suitable for ExonHit’s growing microarray processing work and which would be compliant with 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulatory requirements.

ExonHit is a small Paris-based biotech founded in 1997; the U.S. staff is of roughly 20 and there are 50 in Paris. Its proprietary technology—DATAS (Differential Analysis of Transcripts of Alternative Splicing)—monitors alternative RNA splicing events. ExonHit developed a novel design of probes to monitor the differences of highly similar transcripts, received patents on this probe configuration, and in addition to independent research currently runs a service operation that provides researchers with analyzed expression data on individual transcripts.

Regulatory compliance led the list of Jordan’s LIMS criteria, as the company is very focused on achieving Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) status. With LIMS users in both the U.S. and Paris offices, she also wanted a single LIMS accessible to folks on either side of the Atlantic.

“We didn’t want to worry about installing two different software packages. We just wanted one server that we could both access and not have issues with that. We wanted sample tracking, bar coding, reagent inventory, all of the items that go along with the electronic lab notebook, all the protocol tracking, from sample inventory, and quality assessment to QC [quality control] data,” Jordan says.

The LIMS also needed to be flexible. “The majority of our clients at this point are academic labs… We have a portal on our website where researchers can go and select their favorite gene and get a splicing microarray designed for them. These customers have smaller projects, 2, 4, 8, 20 arrays. [But] we also have some pharma with large projects, hundreds of arrays.”

The result is the need to track projects that can have either hundreds of samples or projects that have two to four samples, “so we needed something that was very flexible. We needed something that was capable of not only tracking the samples that came in… but we needed to be able to ensure that we could track [samples] from receipt all the way through an array hybridization experiment.”

Compatibility with ExonHit’s workflow and speedy deployment were also important. “Exemplar had a lot of array protocols and procedures already programmed in for both Affy and Agilent. It allowed for import of the data files... We were really happy we could hit the ground running,” she says.

In the end Jordan found two offerings that were suitable, but preferred Exemplar for its functionality and proximity (Sapio Sciences is roughly an hour away). Deployment took a few weeks, says Jordan, and was surprisingly painless for such a big piece of software. The main challenge turned out to be something she hadn’t anticipated: rethinking workflows to take advantage of the LIMS.

“I would say we’re saving maybe 40 percent of time involved in non-experimental processes. A lot of my time used to be spent writing reports and taking the output files and sorting them for people, burning them on DVDs, all that kind of stuff. Now I can set up a custom report and just click a button and it consolidates all the data and generates a report for me,” she says. 

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This article appeared in Bio-IT World Magazine.

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