The choice of a LIMS software solution is a critical element of a laboratory automation strategy. The Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is the laboratory operating system. This article provides a brief overview of the LIMS market in 2021.
Selecting the best LIMS software for your lab
The development of GenoFAB has roots in our experience using various LIMS solutions. It includes modules that are commonly found in laboratory information management systems.
All the software packages listed below include laboratory management features such as sample tracking. That's what these systems are all about. Most of them also include tools to help lab managers and laboratory personnel streamline relations with vendors of reagents and supplies.
Over the last decade, there has been a convergence between LIMS applications and Electronic Laboratory Notebooks. LIMS vendors have added ELN features to their laboratory information management product while ELN vendors have made it easier to add links to LIMS records lab notebook entries.
It is a common misconception that lab information management systems are data management solutions. It may be more accurate to see them as one component of a data management system. They serve a very specific purpose but they need to communicate with other data services to maximize the value of the data they keep.
Choosing a laboratory information management system (LIMS) is a critical and difficult decision for a research team. That’s because LIMS are hard to properly evaluate before they’re used in the lab setting; only after they’ve been implemented can their efficacy be confirmed fully.
Once an organization has adopted a LIMS, it can be very difficult to transition to a new LIMS system despite the shortcomings of the current system. We recommend a progressive deployment rather than converting the whole company at once. In our experience, a project-based deployment allows the team to assess a system in realistic conditions. It minimizes risk and maximizes the return on investment.
Each team has to evaluate what laboratory management system is best suited to meet its needs. Special aspects of lab operation like animal colony management are best handled by specialized applications. Here is a list of options worth considering.
The GenoFAB LIMS
GenoFAB is different from any other LIMS system in several ways.
Label printing: Printing labels to identify laboratory samples is one of the most important features of any LIMS. It is also one of the main weaknesses of most LIMS products. To the best of our knowledge, GenoFAB provides the only label printing solution that is completely web-based.
Increase reproducibility: Most LIMS systems tend to organize data for human consumption rather than for data analysis. GenoFAB helps users organize their data to maximize reproducibility.
No limit: LIMS companies have broken down their offerings in confusing product lines whose only justification seems to create upselling opportunities. In addition to artificially limiting access to features, they also limit the number of users who can access their system. All GenoFAB labs have access to all the features they need. They can invite any number of users to join their accounts.
Transparent pricing: One of the challenges of evaluating LIMS solutions is that LIMS vendors do not disclose their prices. Potential users need to request quotes that can difficult to understand. The long-term evolution of the LIMS prices can be difficult to anticipate. GenoFAB transparent pricing makes it very easy for potential users to anticipate their LIMS expenses.
Fair pricing: It does not require users to sign an annual contract to access the software. Many potential users of LIMS struggle to justify the annual cost of commercial LIMS. Instead, GenoFAB offers a model in which the cost of the LIMS is directly aligned with the activities of the labs using GenoFAB.
Other Commercial LIMS Systems
LabVantage is one of the leaders of the LIMS market. They claim the mantle of “the most modern LIMS platform available,” which, while admittedly a little vague, is backed up with tight integration between their electronic lab notebook (ELN) offering, their lab execution system (LES), and the LIMS solution. The offering is specifically geared toward making the work of lab managers easier, with features including work assignment and research planning functionality. The solution also includes automated issue tracking, bulk data upload, and data management capabilities.
CoreLIMS is a product of Core Informatics, a division of ThermoFisher since 2017. It has a modern architecture that takes advantage of scalable cloud technologies. They allow third-party developers to develop specialized applications that complement the LIMS core functionality. To our knowledge, Core Informatics is the only LIMS provider that has succeeded at developing a vibrant app marketplace but the recent evolution of this marketplace under Thermo leadership is unclear.
STARLIMS, a product of Abbott Informatics, bills itself as a comprehensive LIMS solution replete with complete lifecycle management. It promises to do it all, “from sample intake to delivery of accurate results, [to] driving smarter decision making for your business and customers throughout the entire process.” They also offer logistics management – product inventory, storage capacity, and more.
eLABNext, formerly eLabJournal is a product developed by Bio-ITech BV who is now part of Eppendorf. The platform is composed of several products for sample tracking, lab notebooks, and protocol management.
LABWORKS claims to be is the most robust, flexible, easy to use, and easy-to-implement LIMS solution available.
LabCollector is software developed by AgileBio, a French software company. When it was released in 2002, LabCollector was probably the first LIMS to offer both a browser-based interface and a price accessible to small organizations.
BioVIA LIMS claims to be execution-centric rather than sample-centric. This solution appears to better geared toward the biomanufacturing industry rather than preclinical research.
Examplar Research LIMS is a product of Sapio Sciences. The company provides different flavors of this product for various industries, such as research, sequencing, histopathology. Little information is available on the vendor website regarding the product architecture, deployment options, and features.
Autoscribe Informatics Matrix Gemini is a LIMS. that helps laboratories manage large volumes of data to strict standards, while at the same time improving efficiencies, automation, and turnaround times. One of the main features of Autoscribe's LIMS software is a set of configuration tools designed to efficiently create optimized, yet highly adaptable, workflows.
iLab is Agilent's laboratory management software solution. The focus of this product is the management of resources more than the management of data.
LabWare has been one of the LIMS market pioneers. Today they provide both a desktop and cloud version of their LIMS.
BSI provides a web-based specimen management solution.
Free LIMS Solutions
There are a few open sources and free LIMS options worth considering for research groups on a budget. Research groups with solid IT supports may find open source LIMS solutions particularly attractive.
BikaLIMS: This open-source project led by a team out of South Africa has been active since 2002. This platform can be customized for different industries. Our research indicates that it may be suited for production labs rather than for research labs.
Aquarium LIMS: This LIMS is under active development by the Klavins lab at the University of Washington. It’s a process-centric software that has been successfully deployed by a number of synthetic biology labs.
LeafLIMS is another process-centric LIMS designed with synthetic biology in mind.
Quartzy is a completely free solution to handle a very specific aspect of laboratory management: the procurement of supplies. It does not include other LIMS features like sample management.