Celgene’s LabAlert System Focuses On Scientific Workflow Efficiency, User Experience

June 18, 2018

By Maxine Bookbinder

June 18, 2018 | 2018 Bio-IT World Best Practices Award-Winner | Innovative mobile technology that quickly sends warnings and error notifications to users’ mobile devices won a Bio-IT World 2018 Best Practices Award.

The Celgene Lab Instrument Mobile Alert (LabAlert) system integrates into the laboratory environment to generate, manage, and report real-time alerts from lab instruments to mobile devices. It combines digital technologies, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cloud Native application framework, and corporate mobile application platforms, increases planning, efficiency, and productivity of scientific procedures, and decreases the cost and timeline of drug development and discovery.

This is visionary technology already in the lab. “The Mobile Alert app helps us to optimize both equipment utilization and our bench scientist’s time,” said Laurie Phillips, Senior Director, Drug Discovery Operations and Strategy, Executive Research, in the award entry. “No longer do they need to remain with an instrument during a run to monitor for errors to know when the run is complete. Users can move on to other tasks, including those that take them out of the lab for data processing, without risking loss of precious samples. If an instrument error occurs, they are quickly notified and can return to the lab to intervene. For longer run times, they can know precisely when a run is complete and the instrument is available for reloading or their data is ready for analysis.”

The system was built in six weeks at the company’s Drug Discovery and Alliance Development Center; more than 1,000 alert notifications were processed and delivered within the following three months. It is designed to send alerts to scientists immediately when laboratory equipment malfunctions. Approximately 5-10% of all experiments are potentially impacted by setbacks such as sample prep, operator error, automation component errors, instrument parameter settings, data acquisition, or environmental changes. Quick detection and subsequent rapid repair can prevent prolonged equipment down time.

Researchers no longer need to worry about checking instrumentation in person and can complete tasks outside their labs during experiments, since the system continuously monitors instrument and application statuses.

Key lab systems, such as refrigerators storing biospecimens and incubators with cell cultures, need 24/7 monitoring. Although they are usually connected to a Building Monitoring System, only limited conditions can be monitored and only lab managers or security personnel receive notifications. In contrast, LabAlert notifies end users, who can then take appropriate actions based on the experiment they are running. 

The app is available for Android and iPhones and is highly configurable. For example, scientists can delineate primary and secondary recipients, to be alerted in that order, and re-send an alert at desired intervals until it is acknowledged or the threshold is reached, resolved, and closed. Comments can be added to the alert to keep interested parties apprised.  The app leverages cloud technology and uses a RESTful API to easily integrate with any hardware or software that captures an error event.

In addition, alerts from different instruments can spot trends, error-prone equipment, and other instrument key performance indicators (KPIs). An investigator can also monitor instrument performance to compare operational procedures among various vendors and instrument models.

The project is part of the Celgene Laboratory Computing Environment program. Its success leads the digital transformation of traditional labs into SmartLabs, focusing on scientific workflow efficiency, automation, and fluid user experience. Possible future projects include other Celgene sites with Non-Clinical Development, CAR-T Development, and Translational organizations.