LIMS features: What to look for when choosing a LIMS

BY Kyrstin Lulow
November 19, 2021
Share

Are you suffering from productivity droughts? It could come down to your laboratory information management system (LIMS). As your company grows, you need tools that will help your teams and lab stay productive, efficient, and organized – and not all LIMS provide the features needed to match these needs.

LIMS are commonplace in life science labs, and are meant to be a tool to manage samples, reagents, and workflows to keep R&D processes moving. However, most LIMS used today were originally built for labs developing last-gen small molecule therapeutics, and they are often unable to handle the complexities of modern life science labs without time-consuming, clunky configurations. If you’re looking for a LIMS that will work with modern chemistry and biology workflows, such as for cell and gene therapies, protein and antibody therapeutics, vaccine development, agbio, and industrial microbiology, you’ll want to make sure that your LIMS includes certain features.

Here, we discuss the top LIMS features that will upgrade your software ecosystem and how Benchling—a cloud-based platform that unifies life science R&D from end-to-end—could be the best fit for your business and user requirements.

Top LIMS features for the modern life science lab

Sample management

Sample tracking is generally considered the most basic function of every LIMS, but it can actually be one of the most complicated to configure for life science R&D labs. This is because the meaning of “sample” varies between labs, and can refer to proteins, cell lines, plasmids, miRNA, oligonucleotides, and more. Further, each of these sample types goes through different processes, generates different types of data, and is connected to diverse downstream entities and sample offspring. All of this ultimately requires unique configurations to accurately capture these distinct data types and sample histories.

To manage extensive networks of complex biological samples like plasmids, cells, and proteins, look for a LIMS that is flexible enough to easily accession, annotate, and track any of these sample types without expensive customizations.
Benchling is built from the ground up for modern life science, so you get sample management capabilities that are more flexible than those of a traditional LIMS in an easily configurable, cloud-based platform. Benchling not only lets your teams track samples and their related data, but also gives you the ability to quickly make connections and gain critical insights to drive your R&D forward. Automatically interconnect DNA with protein constructs structure parent/child relationships for any entities to power lineage tracking.
Benchling Registry
Track sample lineages and connect upstream and downstream data and entities with Benchling Registry.

 

Inventory management

Many LIMS are designed around a very narrow view of sample management, focusing on small molecules and their derivatives, and have no connection to a common database used by other necessary applications such as inventory management. To track the locations, expiration dates, lot numbers, and amounts of their reagents and consumables, modern life science labs need a LIMS with built-in inventory management capabilities. Ideally, your software should allow you to organize inventory structures and hierarchies the way you need to, and it should save you time by using label scanning and unique barcodes to track inventory entries.

To take inventory management to the next level, look for LIMS inventory management capabilities that seamlessly integrate with an electronic lab notebook (ELN). This will not only allow you to keep track of reagents and physical samples, but also link entities and reagents to protocols and notebook entries.
With Benchling, you can reduce the amount of time spent on entering the same information into multiple systems by recording data in a single, unified interface with the best inventory management capabilities found in ELNs and LIMS. Efficiently create sample or reagent containers, track samples and reagents throughout sample processing, and quickly find the precise location and quantities.
Benchling Inventory
Track the physical locations of samples, like vials, wells, and batches, and connect them to experimental data with Benchling Inventory.

 

Workflow management

Frequently, LIMS attempt to standardize life science R&D workflows but lack simplified dashboards and are incompatible with newly introduced instruments and software. This creates delays when transitioning through the commercialization lifecycle because it is difficult to review and analyze data from across the organization and a product’s history. These attempts at standardization also weaken the health of the company’s overall software infrastructure with clunky customizations and macgyvered configurations.

Biotech companies need a LIMS that allows them to standardize, organize, and track R&D workflows from discovery through bioprocessing. Since modern life science R&D is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary, companies need a LIMS with dashboards that can be tailored to the needs of different teams to track and visualize relevant processes. Ideally, you should be able to do all of this through one intuitive user-interface that is accessible by each team member.

To manage your workflows and meet your study and productivity goals, look for solutions that offer easily customizable dashboards to visualize workflows, workflow templates to standardize processes, and the ability to capture, manage, and analyze data generated from diverse instruments, software, and teams.
To maintain productivity, quickly identify bottlenecks, and forecast success and failure, workflow standardization and transparency is imperative—and achievable with Benchling Workflows. Benchling can directly integrate with most life science instruments and software and can be customized with workflow templates for every team, all housed in a unified, cloud-based platform.
Benchling Workflows
Improve productivity, efficiency, and collaboration from discovery through development with Benchling Workflows.

 

Reporting and regulatory compliance

Preparing for an audit by a regulatory body can take a lot of time and effort, especially if you need to pull records from multiple software systems. LIMS reporting tools should make this process easier, but for many organizations, the reality is not so straightforward, especially as companies scale. Invest in LIMS that can scale as your organization does while still providing a validated, compliant environment. With the right LIMS features, you can meet regulatory requirements and comply with GxP with ease.

To streamline reporting and ensure you are meeting regulatory standards, look for a LIMS that provides a validated environment, data security, standardization, and application controls that ensure user compliance.

At a minimum, your LIMS should be equipped with application controls like locking electronic signatures, restricting user access, and strict versioning of all data and protocol edits for audit trails. Even better are systems like Benchling that offer these features as well as templates for standardization and report generation, allowing teams to quickly and efficiently respond to auditor requests and prepare for IND filings.

It is also important to consider the level of effort needed to reconfigure and update the LIMS to meet the changing needs of an evolving organization. Ideally, the vendor will provide support for configurations and validation lifecycle including Release Impact Assessment and IQ/OQ documentation.

Through Benchling’s unified platform, standardization features, and application controls, you can confidently operate in regulated environments, efficiently deliver audit reports, and easily control user access and engagement within the platform. And our team of experts is here to streamline the validation process as we release new updates.

Benchling Validated Cloud
Benchling provides greater control and compliance with validated environments.

 

Instrument and software integration

Life science R&D labs can involve dozens of diverse, data-generating instruments and complex software that all fuel operational insights and breakthrough discoveries. Integrating a LIMS with a network of instruments and software can automate data recording and analysis, bolstering data integrity, productivity, and scientific insights. However, current LIMS are often unable to integrate with many instruments and software. This disconnect leads to data silos and repetitive manual tasks that ultimately keep scientists away from what matters most—the science bringing products to market.

To combine your workflows and data collection with sample management, inventory management, and ELN capabilities, look for a LIMS that can interface with your laboratory instruments, software, and databases and incorporate the data from these sources.

Ideally, you’ll be able to connect every instrument, every team, and every dataset to increase efficiency and data integrity. You can accomplish this with Benchling, a single, cloud-based information system built on rest APIs and designed to integrate with many tools found in the lab.

Here are some examples of systems we’ve integrated with

Software

  • Informatics systems (ex. IDBS, Core LIMS, Genedata, Biovia, Sapio, CDDVault, Chromeleon, custom registries, custom LIMS)
  • Molecular biology tools (ex. Snapgene, Geneious, Vector NTI)
  • Analytics tools (ex. FlowJo, Prism, Spotfire, Tableau)

Databases

  • Amazon S3 buckets
  • Egnyte databases
  • NCBI gene database
  • Custom network file systems

Instruments

  • Freezers (ex. Askion)
  • Fermenters and bioreactors (ex. Eppendorf)
  • Liquid handlers (ex. Tecan, PAA, Hamilton, Echo, and Biomek)
  • Printers (ex. Zebra)
  • Barcode scanners
  • Materials testing machines (ex. DMA machines, Zwick machines, and light microscopes)
  • qPCR machines and DNA sequencing machines (ex. Eppendorf)
  • Plate readers and FACS machines (ex. Molecular Devices)

 

Customization

Each lab, and oftentimes each team, has specific instrument, software, and process requirements. So, a LIMS solution must be highly configurable and adaptable to meet each team’s needs. However, these configurations can take time and may be more of a burden than a benefit. While getting a LIMS with customization capabilities that meet the specifics of your workflow is important, we suggest also taking a close look at the amount of time and effort it will take to make it a perfect fit that can also adapt as your teams’ needs evolve.

To ensure the LIMS will work and grow with your team, look for a LIMS that seamlessly integrates with your instruments and software, is useful for multiple departments within your organization, and minimizes the burden on your IT support team.

Codeless configurations, cloud-based platforms, and a supportive tech partner that will help you deploy your LIMS are signs of easier customizations and updates.

Benchling works with hundreds of customers across the life sciences, from biopharmaceutical companies to biomaterials startups, and it can be tailored to your specific needs. Our annual renewal rate of over 99% exemplifies our customer’s satisfaction with Benchling’s flexibility and utility.

Benchling as a LIMS

Existing legacy LIMS lack the breadth of capabilities required to support modern life science R&D end-to-end from early research to late-stage development. Benchling is built from the ground up with the top LIMS features for modern life science R&D. From managing complex biological materials and workflows to integrating with your existing and future ecosystem of instrumentation and software, Benchling delivers the top LIMS features needed to keep life science R&D labs productive, organized, and compliant.

Here’s how we do it:

Unified platform – Benchling is built on a unified platform, so all capabilities operate from a common user experience and a single data warehouse. It can be used by many teams even if the workflow configurations and application requirements vary.

Sample and process intelligence – Benchling’s unified data model persists throughout all Benchling capabilities, and users can quickly trace samples, process steps, locations, and results back to the underlying biological and chemical entities.

Modern user experience – Benchling UI/UX is intuitive, easy-to-use, and designed to make R&D teams more productive, which leads to higher adoption, better data integrity, and improved scientific decision support.

Modern cloud architecture – Benchling is cloud-native, built on modern development platforms, has enterprise-grade security at every level (infrastructure, platform, application), and helps teams scale quickly and confidently. It has a full developer platform with APIs, Events, and a Data Warehouse to ensure Benchling can be connected to existing IT infrastructure such as data foundries, instruments, and ancillary software systems.

Codeless configuration – Benchling’s permissions, data types, and workflows can be configured and re-configured by designated administrators, without any code or vendor involvement necessary, which leads to quick prototyping, full deployment, and fast time to value. With codeless configuration, Benchling adapts to your R&D processes, no matter how quickly they evolve.

Supportive data management partners – It’s our philosophy to treat all implementations as the start of an ongoing partnership, where your evolving needs are our evolving needs, and your success is our success. Benchling is deployed by our experienced professional services teams who are scientifically trained and knowledgeable in best practices for a wide range of use cases.


Learn More About Using Benchling as a LIMS

Read the eBook

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER Get monthly updates from our blog