Using Chromatography Data Systems to Drive Control, Compliance, Productivity
Contributed Commentary by Peter Zipfell
February 17, 2021 | In the modern-day analytical laboratory, chromatography and mass spectrometry (MS) are increasingly seen working side by side. These complementary techniques provide powerful insight into the quantity, size, and structure of a wide range of analytes and are used across various industries, from food testing to environmental investigation and drug discovery. Despite the combined power of these systems, the practical instrumentation, data management and reporting are often anything but connected. And, where siloed data and disparate workflows exist, productivity is stifled and compliance becomes more complex.
Next-generation chromatography data systems (CDS) have evolved to mitigate these challenges. Single software platforms now exist to control both chromatography and MS equipment, delivering automated data measurement, data analysis, and reporting to provide the much-needed connection between two mutually beneficial, yet disparate, analytical powerhouses. The result: better control, compliance, productivity, and accessibility.
Multiple Software Platforms Introduce Compliance Challenges
It’s no surprise that chromatography and MS systems have a history of disconnection. CDS software was created exclusively for chromatography control and analysis, while MS, now more commonly used as a detection technique with a wider range of laboratories, has notoriously large datasets that require different workflows and additional network management. Yet in modern laboratories, there is no space for disconnection; isolated systems and local, PC-based storage introduce risk in terms of data backup and data security, driving laboratories to take a more centralized approach.
Separate software platforms require individual management and additional training, with a heavy reliance on specialist knowledge. Since both instrument operation and data processing is performed on the same PC, bottlenecks may arise from a lack of availability. Lean and efficient laboratories are moving toward a more unified and flexible approach, with automated, integrated and standardized workflows and remote access to instruments and data.
Moreover, in the pharmaceutical industry, drugs are changing — many are now biological in origin and far more complex than they used to be. Identification techniques need greater sensitivity, selectivity, and accuracy, and although many MS software platforms do have a degree of compliance, CDS software is typically more comprehensive and better meets the regulatory requirements for data integrity. Separate software, PC-based storage and more complex processes combine to create potential compliance challenges for pharmaceutical developers and manufacturers.
With a PC-based approach to chromatography and MS instrument operation, a centralised view is lost and data integrity and security is compromised; data acquisition and associated audit trails are predominantly siloed and generic logins prevent full data transparency and traceability. This combination increases the risk of audits missing vital information or data being lost. MS software can lack the capabilities to meet the most stringent data integrity requirements, and with more highly experienced technicians needed to work on different software platforms or conduct complex audit trail reviews, resource is duplicated and inefficiencies are introduced.
With these challenges, there is a clear need for a single advanced software solution for both MS and chromatography.
One Data System for Control and Compliance
The latest innovations in CDS technology provide the essential bridge between MS and chromatography systems. Next-generation CDS software creates an enterprise environment for complete instrument control, data visibility, processing and reporting. Laboratories are already shifting to next-generation CDS. In one high-throughput laboratory, validating novel therapeutics for a large multinational pharmaceutical company, teams are running 140 analyses per day through liquid chromatography - ultra-violet (UV)/ mass spectrometry (MS) systems and are finding the target mass automatically in 90% of cases. With fully automated workflows provided by CDS software, analyses are now run over lunch, evenings, and weekends without human input, allowing for greater laboratory productivity with the same number of technicians.
At its core, next-generation CDS software tackles four pain points: productivity, compliance, accessibility and flexibility.
Busy laboratories may receive thousands of analysis samples a day, so even small efficiency gains can have a large impact on productivity. By managing multiple chromatography and MS systems through a single software platform, next-generation CDS can automate workflows, freeing technicians from manual and repetitive tasks and leveraging time that might otherwise be spent on training or familiarising new operatives. Automation, combined with remote instrument access and real-time data observation, reduces the number of people that need to be on-site, as scientists don’t have to be in front of the instrument at all times and can review data from remote locations. A central data repository means that information can be remotely accessed from anywhere, teams can work together more efficiently, specialised technicians can provide cross-divisional support and, together, teams can resolve issues more quickly. In addition, built-in tools such as workflow automation, instant data processing and reporting, and automated system suitability testing including corrective actions help provide results that are right the first time, further increasing productivity.
By their very nature, laboratories are a source of objective, fact-based truth; data integrity and security are everything and methodology and results must be protected to ensure product quality. A secure relational database with unique logins and restricted privileges ensures that individual actions are attributable, and equipment and data are accessible only to those who need it. With one single software platform, access can be more easily administered and controlled. Furthermore, centrally created and stored audit trails automatically log instrumentation, users, and tasks for a complete, connected picture of every action and result; data origination is protected with electronic date stamps and signatures, and data compliance is ensured.
When data is moved from a localised PC-based system to a centralized, enterprise network, collaboration can flourish, and teams can more easily observe data trends and share information and methods across the company. Centralized storage lifts geographical limitations, allowing teams to access equipment and data in distant laboratories, providing they have the necessary privileges. Both assets and staff availability are maximised, which is especially useful for companies with wide laboratory networks. Moreover, technicians and IT managers can easily access instruments and data, allowing performance to be measured remotely for the optimization of preventative maintenance schedules. Additionally, network failure protection provides the security for 24/7 access to ensure continuous operation.
Modular CDS software allows unlimited scalability. Additional laboratories and equipment are easily slotted into the network, with all data and equipment centrally controlled and connected to the wider laboratory information management system. This flexibility provides greater business agility, as processes easily scale to meet demand and laboratories can quickly react to new opportunities.
Ever-expanding teams have the flexibility to collaborate when analysing results, promoting best practice and, by optimising data handling and performance across a network, even large MS datasets can be acquired, stored and accessed.
Confronting complexity with next-generation CDS technology
Delivering a seamless software solution for chromatography and MS means laboratories can achieve increased productivity, flexibility, accessibility, and compliance. To realize the full potential of the research or analytical testing laboratory, next-generation CDS software must be used to connect technologies and workflows to acquire, control and process high-resolution data.
Next-generation CDS provide the technology to realize efficiencies, automate workflows, secure data, and attain high-quality measurements. By connecting technicians, technology, workflows, and disparate data, CDS software delivers a collaborative climate for even the most complex analyses, while maintaining the very highest levels of data integrity.
For the past 20 years Peter has worked extensively with chromatography hardware and software, transitioning from LC-MS method development through HPLC technical support to Chromatography Data Systems. Working with Thermo Scientific Chromeleon CDS for over 10 years, he has been involved with supporting customers across multiple industries through providing software solutions to enable them to improve their current workflows and increase productivity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.