At a company called TetraScience, an IoT platform for R&D has been developed to connect lab equipment, take research to the cloud, and drive the development of what the company calls ‘Digital Biotech’.
Research labs are geared towards expanding the frontiers of their industry. They are in many ways at the forefront of human ingenuity and scientific endeavour. It’s somewhat surprising, therefore, that research and development facilities, particularly in the world of biotech, haven’t been quicker to integrate the IoT into their processes.
For years, researchers have leant on little-altered tools for recording and sharing their findings. Now, an IoT platform for R&D, created by TetraScience, aims to change this by connecting lab equipment to the cloud, for more efficient and accurate research.
The startup was co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate Siping Wang, alongside former Harvard University post-docs Salvatore Savo and Alok Tayi. Wang was recently named in Forbes 30 Under 30 list of innovators and it is easy to see why.
TetraScience’s IoT platform for R&D
The company’s data integration platform can connect disparate types of lab equipment, and their associated software, and aggregate that information on the cloud. Researchers can then monitor, mange and automate their experiments remotely. This streamlines processes that have historically taken up valuable time and resources, and eases data collection and collaboration.
“Software and hardware systems [in labs] cannot communicate with each other in a consistent way,” said Wang, in a MIT report. “Data flows through systems in a very fragmented manner and there are a lot of siloed data sets [created] in the life sciences. Humans must manually copy and paste information or write it down on paper, [which] is a lengthy manual process that’s error prone.”
Over 60 major pharmaceutical and biotech firms have adopted the platform (including more than half of the world’s top 20 such companies), as well as labs at MIT and Harvard, becoming what TetraScience refers to a Digital Biotech companies. These corporations are data-driven, agile, and collaborate externally.
“Our technology is establishing a ‘data highway’ system between different entities, software and hardware, within life sciences labs. We make facilitating data seamless, faster, more accurate, and more efficient,” said Wang.
Moving beyond the lab
During his research as an undergraduate (working in the Cornell Semiconducting RF Lab on high-energy physics research), Wang was hampered by the time and effort required to manually record data, so he developed a system that connected and controlled multiple instruments.
At the scale of a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company, where instruments and their different software can number in the hundreds, the benefits of an IoT platform are even more stark. Not only does TetraScience eliminate much of the busywork of recording data in multiple locations, it also cuts out the risk of human error that comes with this process.
This goes beyond data recording too. Notable Labs uses TetraScience Monitoring throughout its lab, where they carry out research on live patient tumor samples, in the search for effective drug combinations.
When an outside lab technician tripped over a power cord and failed to notice they had unplugged an incubator, bioengineer Transon Nyugen was immediately notified by the IoT platform (via email and text) that there was a critical change in the incubator’s environmental conditions.
“If we hadn’t caught that the incubator had been unplugged, our entire screen would have failed due to the sample being compromised,” emphasized Transon. “This could have directly compromised our research. Live patient samples are precious and we couldn’t just go back to the oncologist and ask for another one.”
The platform also has potential uses beyond the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Sectors that similarly rely on tightly controlled and monitored processes, such as oil and gas, brewing and chemistry, would also benefit from the control and efficiency gains offered by TetraScience.