1 November 2022

Back to the Lab Post-Covid: New Ways of Working

Covid and the Impact on the Lab

Since the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe, remote working has become the new normal and every industry has been forced to adapt. But while it’s easy enough to discuss ideas over a Zoom chat or work together on a report using Google Docs, for those of us involved in research and development, the new ways of working present particular challenges. Social distancing requirements impose limits on numbers of people allowed on site, with new shift arrangements or reduced working hours put in place to ensure staff safety. Restrictions on travel mean it may be impossible to visit colleagues at other locations, especially for multinational organisations.

And whilst pharmaceutical research remains a hugely expensive business - in 2018, global R&D expenditure was $179 billion - any inefficiency comes with a significant cost. According to Deloitte, returns on pharma research and development have plunged from 10.1% in 2010 to just 1.8% last year; over the same period, the cost of developing a new drug has more than doubled from $1.188bn to $2.422bn. As the analyst concluded, even before the Covid-19 pandemic: “a transformational change in R&D productivity is required to reverse declining trends in R&D returns”.

Science thrives on teamwork and seamless sharing of data and ideas, which may seem hard to achieve when you can no longer work face-to-face with your team members. But it also relies on innovation: finding new and more efficient ways to reach a goal. And just as we have rapidly become used to conducting meetings over video calls, so technology can bring chemistry into the remote working age. Deepmatter offer several products that can not only help design the synthetic pathway you wish to use, but record time course sensor data and share this in realtime with colleagues around the world.

Design: The reaction design process starts with generating a pathway to your target molecule - and this can be carried out remotely using DeepMatter™’s powerful synthesis design tool, ICSYNTH. ICSYNTH uses machine learning to suggest novel pathways, using algorithms generated from your own proprietary data as well as published reaction libraries. ICSYNTH’s web-based interface means that project teams can easily collaborate on the synthesis planning process, no matter where they are located.

Direct: Once a reaction pathway has been chosen, the next step is running this in the lab using DigitalGlassware®, the powerful cloud platform from DeepMatter®. DigitalGlassware® gives chemists the tools to create deep, context-rich chemistry protocols that standardises and encode every process and ingredient of the protocol. DigitalGlassware® makes reactions easily reproducible and shareable, wherever they were created and wherever they are going to be carried out.

Discover: DigitalGlassware® captures a rich array of data such as temperature, pressure, UV, stir rate and more is logged continuously, along with timestamped text and photo notes. All this data is transmitted and stored securely on the cloud, so you and your colleagues can analyse it anywhere you have an internet connection.

Multiple reaction runs can be compared quickly and easily, even if they were performed on different continents. This means that changes in the reaction conditions - temperature rises, colour changes and so on - can be easily correlated to a specific action taken by the chemist no matter where they are. Any deviation from the recipe can be identified, and because data can be viewed in real-time, you can spot potential problems instantly, which reduces wasted time and effort on failed reactions. Remote monitoring also means less hands-on time is required for lengthy reaction processes, improving efficiency and making the most of reduced staffing levels. Because DigitalGlassware® is cloud-based, all you need to access this wealth of information is a web browser.

Looking ahead, nobody is able to predict what the long-term implications of Covid-19 will be: the only certainty seems to be that businesses will have to cope with more uncertainty. As the management consultants McKinsey & Company put it, “the future is not what it used to be”. Businesses that had become used to seamless global operations are having to come to terms with the “return of distance”, with closed borders and perhaps a need for more local supply chains. But the benefits of DigitalGlassware® don’t end when lockdown restrictions ease. Besides the remote access capabilities, another key advantage is the sheer richness and variety of data it opens up. The RunManager software allows every aspect of your reactions to be analysed, replayed and compared between runs, giving valuable new insights into your chemistry.

Having access to your organisation’s chemistry data in real-time, from any location, and in a standardised format, minimising staffing requirements and the need for travel, is a vital component of that transformation to more efficient working practices, now more than ever.

With time on site more precious than ever, deepmatter products take your data beyond the bench, allowing your organisation to go beyond the known.