Informatics at Pittcon 2004
More than 100 new companies joined this year's exhibitorsJohn Joyce, Ph.D.
Pittcon moved back to colder climes this year, with a return to its Chicago venue. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, and we were not snowed in (or out for that matter, which might have been even worse!). The McCormick Center gave a very different feel to the conference. With its squarer shape, it made things feel smaller even though, in a number of metrics, it has actually grown.
For the first time since 1999, attendance was actually up, climbing from 22,628 last year to 24,905 this year. The number of companies exhibiting was down slightly, dropping from 1,260 companies to 1,195, and the number of booths they occupied fell from 2,856 to 2,714. This doesn't tell the whole story, however, as the total exhibition area was about the same and the lower number of exhibitors actually included 100 new companies. This recap will focus on the informatics portion of the show. While somewhat artificial, I'll be clustering them as LIMS, informatics support, data management, CDS, statistics and graphical interpretation.
LIMSLaboratory Information Management Systems, more familiarly known as LIMS, continue to be one of the key reasons many people attend Pittcon. It is difficult to imagine any major laboratory conducting business today without a LIMS. Even if you don't need to have it for regulatory compliance purposes, it just makes handling data and results so much easier. If you take advantage of the productivity and data quality gains from interfacing your instrumentation with the LIMS and interfacing the LIMS with your Enterprise Management System, you can generate a significant competitive advantage. This, of course, assumes that you've done a good job selecting your system and doing the interfacing, which is again why many people come to Pittcon in the first place.
•Accelerated Technology Laboratories, Inc. (ATL) presented Sample Master Pro XP, which mirrors the look and feel of Windows XP. They also featured their ScreenIT Pro LIMS, designed for raw materials and manufacturing laboratories.
•Amersham Biosciences was showcasing one variety of their Scierra Laboratory Workflow System (LWS) for biological analysis. According to their literature, they allow you to implement a comprehensive LIMS in as little as three days.
•In addition to SQL*LIMS, Applied Biosystems provides specialized LIMS for DNA sequencing, gene expression, genotyping, proteomics, and forensics. They are completely Web-deployed with thin clients, making them very manageable and flexible.
•Autoscribe Ltd./Zumatrix has rewritten all of their products to use the Microsoft .NET framework. They also are offering two new products that can be used stand-alone or integrated into Matrix. These are a new training record management and a resource-planning package.
•In addition to their WinBLISS LIMS, Baytek International Inc. displayed their Process Information Management System (PIMS). They also were promoting their automation services.
•Blaze Systems Corp. featured newly released versions of their BlazeLIMS Enterprise Plus and BlazeLIMS Small Enterprise LIMS. They also were promoting their alternative acquisition process, under which they install a no-cost or obligation copy of BlazeLIMS for evaluation.
•In addition to a wide range of new instrumentation announcements, Bruker Daltonics described their Proteomics RIMS (Research Information Management System), a LIMS for expression proteomics. The system provides knowledge generation by intelligently integrating diverse proteomics instrumentation.
•Caliber LIMS LLC is a highly modularized LIMS designed for seamless integration with ERP systems. Also available is a microbiology module for culture management.
•Cardiac, a National Instruments Alliance member, displayed their IMATIS LIMS version 4.0. This LIMS is highly focused on instrument integration and was written in NI's LabVIEW product.
•ChemSW showcased their wide line of chemical software. The primary interest here is with their Sample Tracking and Inventory System — STIS, a low-cost LIMS.
•ChemWare displayed their HORIZON LIMS product. They showed confidence in the capabilities of their product by also promoting their general LIMS Resource Center.
•Green Mountain Logic described their LabPAS system as a LIMS with the attitude of process automation. It's designed to adapt to the laboratory, not adapt the laboratory to it. Its Adaptive Hook Technology allows you to integrate custom modules without sacrificing upgradeability.
•H&A Scientific featured SLIM, a LIMS targeted for stability testing developed with Metrics Inc.
•InnaPhase Corp. launched their Newton LIMS in January and announced their Thompson LIMS, designed to handle non-pharmaceutical samples. Thompson is currently targeted for an end-of-year release.
•Joven Technology LLC provides a system that is really designed to be a customer interface to a LIMS, but has sufficient functionality that some labs use it as a light-weight LIMS.
•LABLynx announced the May release of OpenLIMS system. This will allow third parties to build their own products by inheriting and modifying the LIMS screens while adding their own value-added modules.
•LabVantage Solutions featured targeted LIMS solutions, based on their Sapphire LIMS platform. These support the gamut from chemical process laboratories to proteomics and geneomics labs.
•LabWare, Inc. demonstrated their LIMS system running under Linux. Using Citrix Metaframe, they were able to demonstrate a system with a single configuration and multiple deployment (display) options.
•Metrics Inc. was demonstrating their SLIM stability LIMS and SLIMStat+ products, developed with H&A Scientific.
•PerkinElmer Life & Analytical Sciences displayed a wide range of their analytical and informatics products. These included their LABWORKS ES LIMS and Wallac Specimen Gate LIMS. The later has functionality that extends far beyond the laboratory into patient care.
•Promium, formerly Element Data Systems, said their main focus is still on environmental labs, with a strong focus on the QA aspects of the laboratory.
•Quality Systems International (QSI) displayed enhanced security, ranging from enhanced 21 CFR Part 11 compliance to support for the Internet's Secure Socket Layer (SSL) model. They also featured a new formulations module targeted for food and R&D environments.
•Siemens Energy and Automation was showcasing their SIMATIC IT Unilab LIMS. According to an ARC Advisory Group study, Siemens is the largest supplier of LIMS to the food and beverage industry.
•STARLIMS Corp., formerly L.I.M.S. (USA), in addition to featuring links to their full-blown document management system, the company was promoting LIMS interoperability with other applications via Web services.
•In addition to other informatics products, Thermo Electron Corp. displayed both its SampleManager and Nautilus LIMS. The former has the strongest integrating capabilities, while the later comes into its own in the R&D lab.
•VI Engineering, also a National Instruments Alliance partner, participated as a value-added reseller of the Cardiac IMATIS LIMS.
•With their purchase of Creon, Waters Corp. was able to add the electronic laboratory notebook application to their product line under the name Waters eLab Notebook.
•Wavefront Software's Wavefront LIMS provides a highly configurable, Web-based LIMS solution. It also can be used to provide a Web interface to a legacy LIMS.
Informatics supportThe informatics support group is much more ambiguous, but it basically constitutes all those vendors providing support for laboratory informatics.
•Promoting themselves as a developer of software that enables the process of discovery for chemists, Advanced Chemistry Development, was on hand to demonstrate their library of products. These ranged from Chromatography Laboratory, allowing simulation of both GC and LC chromatograms, to tools that allow creation and searching of chemical structures, including ACD/ChemPalm to allow viewing of structures on a PDA.
•Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. launched an Internet-based platform for spectral searching, based on their KnowItAll client. The company also announced an on-demand purchase option for the academic version of KnowItAll.
•Brady Corp. displayed a wide range of bar code products. Of particular interest were their small Ethernet-capable thermal transfer bar code printers.
•While Computype featured a full line of bar code equipment, primary emphasis was on their new LAP4500 automatic printer-applicator for tubes and vials.
•Coridian Technologies, Inc. distributes a line of bar code equipment designed to support the medical technology industry.
•CSols provides laboratory integration and instrument interfacing services. They recently hired David Boucher, formerly of Orion Pharmaceuticals, as their new CEO.
•Datect provides automated data validation, eliminating much of the manual qualification of data. Modules for a wide variety of instruments are available, including HPLC, MS, LC/MS and microArray.
•Digital Consulting and Software Services is a professional services company that specializes in migration and integration, although they also perform system validations.
•IBM showcased their infrastructure support for LIMS. This included both blade server support and data management, such as Tivoli.
•Laboratory Automation Solutions (LAS), Inc. is an independent LIMS consulting firm. They perform requirements solicitation for their clients, which are then used to prepare an RFP.
•In addition to their LIMSLink CDS, Labtronics, Inc. featured their Nexxis Information Integration System for instrument interfacing and automated SOP control.
•In addition to their own products, National Instruments hosted a number of their partners who used their equipment, a particularly interesting one being CardiacLIMS. Also interesting was their LabVIEW development software running on Pocket PC and Palm devices.
•Palisade Mass Spectrometry featured a library of 600K+ mass spectra. Available via subscription, it is an extremely comprehensive library of electron ionization mass spectra.
•TAL Technologies Inc. displayed a range of software products, including WinWedge, TCP-Wedge, CE-Wedge File-Wedge. They also displayed a selection of bar coding products, including software packages.
•TechScan Corp. exhibited a line of hand-held bar code scanners, as well as magnetic strip and smart card readers.
•Tracking Solutions featured a wide line of bar code-related products, as well as their consulting capabilities.
•VelQuest's SmartLab is an automated compliance system to ensure that labs follow their SOPs. Their SmartShell product is used to bring almost any PC-based instrument into 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.
•Vertére exhibited their scientific materials inventory tracking system, as well as a Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) inventory system.
Data managementNext is a tricky subgroup, as everyone seems to have their own name and acronym for it — perhaps due to many of the vendors having a slightly different focus from each other. Phrases you'll hear include Scientific Data Information Management System (SDIMS), Scientific Data/Document Management System (SDMS), and Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS), among others. While this market started with stand-alone vendors selling just their SDIMS to LIMS and other users, this market has continued to evolve.
•LabVantage announced the release of their SafeData scientific data managment operational archiving system, designed to automate storage of data in its native format.
•NuGenesis SDMS, now Waters NuGenesis SDMS, was showcased as an integrated part of Waters informatics strategy, in conjunction with their Empower CDS and their recently acquired Creon Q/DIS LIMS.
•Scientific Software described their explorations into mapping CyberLAB ECMS v3 into products outside the lab.
•Shimadzu used their Class Agent software to record instrument configuration and results to make all electronic records 21 CFR Part 11 compliant.
•STARLIMS featured the integration of their STARLIMS product with their new STARLIMS Document Manager system.
•While Thermo Electron Corp. indicated that the real value of their eRecordManager is that it assures the long-term viability of data, they also indicated that they see the main use of it in pharmaceutical and research labs, not production labs.
CDSChromatography Data Systems (CDS) are the core of many laboratories. This section lists nearly a dozen vendors who participated in Pittcon. Several of the firms exhibiting last year, such as Spectro BIONOVA were no longer found on the list of Pittcon exhibitors.
•Agilent Technologies displayed their Cerity v.A.0202, released in January 2004. It features enhanced internal calculations and a General Instrument Control module, which allows inclusion of other vendors' instrument control codes. It scales to 150 instruments and 200 users.
•Ampersand Ltd. offers integration packages to users, but generally sells to OEMs. This 15-year-old company writes the major CDS package used in Russia.
•Dionex Corp. introduced Chromeleon 6.6, which adds support for 30 more instruments. The company also demonstrated a Virtual Column tool for ion chromatography simulation.
•Justice Laboratory Software, a division of Justice Innovations, was showcasing their Chrom Perfect CDS as chromatographic data processing without regard to the generating instrument and without requiring the addition of non-standard hardware to the network.
•Metrohm-Peak, Inc. in addition to their ion chromatography instrumentation, featured their IC Net and IC Cap software packages for instrument control and data analysis.
•With over 58,000 installations of their EZChrom Elite software, Scientific Software, Inc. announced the addition of 35 new control options. They also promoted OpenLAB, a .NET laboratory software framework to allow you to write your own instrument control module.
•In addition to their other scientific instrumentation, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Inc. featured their CLASS-VP 7 client/server chromatography software. This features a single compound data file holding all analytical information, which can simplify both interfacing and troubleshooting.
•Thermo Electron Corp. displayed their newly released Atlas v.2003 CDS software. This includes a device development kit (DDK) that allows the user to develop their own instrument control modules.
•Varian, Inc., along with their other instruments and software applications, featured their Galaxie Chromatography Data System. This is available in both a client/server configuration and as a workstation application.
•Waters Corp. featured their Empower ease-of-use CDS and emphasized the potential synergies with their newly acquired NuGenesis SDMS and Creon eLab Notebook.
StatisticsA number of statistics packages, other than those embedded in CDS and LIMS, were on display at Pittcon 2004, including the following:
•CAMO featured The Unscrambler multivariate data analysis software, along with their other Optimizer tools.
•H&A Scientific featured their SLIMStat+, a standalone product for statistical analysis. While it can be integrated with their SLIM, it also can be linked with many other SQL*Server and Oracle LIMS, via ODBC.
•JMP, a business unit of SAS, was showcasing their JMP v.5.1 software. This is a complete statistical analysis software package designed for those that need to use statistics, without being statisticians. It runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux machines.
•Minitab Inc. was promoting their Minitab 14 statistical software and Quality Companion quality improvement project tool.
•SeaSolve Software, Inc. was formed by Ron Brown, the original author of AutoSignal, PeakFit and TableCurve, to distribute his programs and develop advanced applications for quantification of hidden or partially resolved peaks in spectroscopy and chromatography.
•StatSoft, Inc. showcased their Statistica Data Miner data mining suite.
•Systat Software, Inc. displayed statistics and analytical graphics software, including their flagship product, SYSTAT.
Graphical interpretationA number of vendors specializing in graphical interpretation and display of data also were scattered throughout the exposition. These included the following:
•CambridgeSoft Corp. produces the popular ChemOffice suite of products. This includes ChemDraw for structure drawing and Chem3D for molecular modeling.
•ChemImage featured a variety of products for chemical analysis, such as ChemAnalyze Software for Image Analysis & Chemometrics.
•Clemex Technologies provides a variety of image analysis applications for quantitative microscopy. Uses range from particle sizing to grain size characterization and porosity analysis.
•OriginLab Corp. featured their Origin 7.5 and OriginPro 7.5 scientific graphing and analysis software. Both of these allow you to incorporate your own analysis routines into the package via a built-in C compiler.
Having the Laboratory Informatics Zone made it somewhat easier to find many of the vendors, but a good fraction of them were still not located there. In some cases, this was a business decision, where the vendor may have feared being pigeon-holed or where informatics was only a small part of their product line. In other cases, it was simply due to all of the allotted booths being taken.
There were plenty of laboratory informatics articles at the Pittcon sessions and, of course, a hard core of them at the LI conference sessions. In addition to the papers, which covered the gamut of laboratory automation, the conference also hosted a number of very interesting workshops. These ranged from an Introduction to LIMS to Validation of Chromatography Data Systems. The most intriguing, which should have been of interest to both LIMS users and vendors, was the EPA-targeted Workshop on SEDD: The Electronic Data Deliverable Format for the New Millenium. With so much data eventually finding it's way up to the EPA, this may end up being a generally supported reporting format.
Next year, Pittcon returns to Orlando, FL, and will take place earlier than usual, with the gauntlet running from February 27 through March 4, 2005. It promises to be another exciting show. Just remember to bring your sun screen!
John Joyce is the LIMS manager for Virginia's State Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org