Isn’t it funny how the world is always changing? Just as we think that we have something figured out, the tectonic plates shift beneath us and we have to figure out how to stand up all over again. Such is the life of the biotech and life sciences industries – the topic of discussion in the new State of LabOps 2023 report.
Though an unpopular opinion, COVID-19 shone a light so bright on the scientific community that it was unavoidable for most people to ignore the striking science happening at lightning speed (e.g. Operation Warp Speed). But coming off that high has been tough for newly emerging and growing life sciences companies. On the precipice of an economic downturn, the charge for the community is now to “do more with less.”
The evolution from lab management to LabOps is a recent development based on the increasing complexity of science and the development and accessibility of technology. Working together with industry leaders, we’ve defined LabOps as:
A set of practices that combines laboratory management (Lab) and operations management (Ops). LabOps professionals aim to drive technological and scientific innovation through the implementation of standard operating procedures, thereby supporting data-driven decision-making within research, development, and clinical organizations.
Importantly, LabOps professionals provide functional support by overseeing lab infrastructure including people, processes, and assets – things that are required for any successful operation. So as the field of LabOps evolves, so too do its owners. It’s high time that LabOps professionals cease to be doers and start to be strategic partners within their organizations.
Defining LabOps Excellence
Back to doing more with less. The thing about mandates like this is that it’s hard to optimize when there are no standards in place. How can one do more when one doesn’t know the end goal? Defining best practices allows organizations, teams, and individuals to benchmark their operations and measure operational success and efficiency.
So why is this the case in LabOps? The long and short of it is that the field is nascent and covers a wide range of organizations, making the standards tricky at best and dauntingly complex at worst. Taking on this challenge head-first, the Elemental Machines team, in partnership with the LabOps Excellence Steering Committee, created the LabOps Excellence Maturity Model as a framework to help LabOps professionals improve proficiency within the six pillars of LabOps.
In the next year, we will work to refine the model and build roadmaps for various sized organizations to achieve elevated LabOps excellence.
How to Achieve LabOps Excellence
Because of the technical nature of the job, LabOps professionals need to be armed with the right tools to get the job done. In this case, technology that enables better control over physical assets in the lab and insights into how to improve performance and efficiency are key. One case is asset monitoring and alerting systems that seamlessly integrate with an organization’s data management systems to provide reliable, continuous operational metadata from the lab environment. Another example is systems that reduce the enormous time and cost burden of regulatory compliance for scientific discovery and development.
Tools like these could be the difference between the success and failure of a life sciences startup, the difference between profits and losses for established companies, or even the make or break of an organization's ability to bring life-saving medicines to market. This is the importance of LabOps in the modern-day laboratory.
At Elemental Machines, we look forward to working together to build a more connected, intelligent, and excellent future for scientific discovery.