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CDS/LIMS interfaces: easier to implement and use: this widespread use of chromatography as a primary form of analysis, with chromatography data systems as primary sources of data, has created a problem--how to manage the large volume of data that is being produced. (Keywords: data management * chromatography * software).

For most laboratories, a laboratory information management system (LIMS) is used as the means for assembling data, associating it with samples, and generating reports. Therefore it is critical that there is an effective and secure means for transferring chromatography data systems (CDS) data into the LIMS. As LIMS and CDS have become increasingly complex and sophisticated, the requirements for instrument interfacing have also become more complex while the end user is still looking for the most efficient and transparent interfacing solution they can find.

While there are a number of solutions available, until now it has been difficult to strike a balance between the increasing complexity and the desire for a solution that is easy to implement and work with. Add regulatory compliance requirements into the picture and the task becomes even more difficult. Today, new advances in application technology are making it easier than ever to implement and use secure, bidirectional interfaces between CDS and LIMS.

Not another IT projects!

In some cases there can be a perception that an interfacing solution is going to involve a lengthy and complex development and implementation process. This can be particularly true in cases where the lab has just gone through a LIMS implementation project.

A LIMS implementation, particularly one that turns out to be longer and more complicated than originally planned, can take up a lot of time, resources, and energy in the laboratory. When it reaches the point where the lab is ready to look at instrument interfacing, there may be a lack of initiative to start into what may appear to be yet another drawnout IT project. While a lot of that pain can be eliminated by including instrument interfacing as a critical component in the LIMS planning from day one, there is still room for interfacing solutions that are designed to reduce the amount of time and resources required for implementation. New technologies have made those solutions a reality.

Another application to work with?

Another challenge to overcome is the concern that instrument interfacing may add another layer of complexity to the analyst's already challenging job. Already familiar with the CDS he works with, the analyst probably has a pretty good working knowledge of the LIMS client. Will another software application make them more productive?

Fortunately, new technologies allow for the creation of a transparent interface that the analyst does not have to directly interact with. All of the interfacing activity can now take place right from the CDS.

Data solution

Researchers and administrators may not yet fully understand the capabilities and benefits of a good instrument to LIMS interfacing solution. They may think of instrument/LIMS interfacing as simply transferring data from points A to B.

What they may not realize is that as CDS and LIMS have become more sophisticated, instrument interfacing has kept pace, providing more functionality ranging from data review and limit checking to automatically notifying users that results have been successfully transferred to the LIMS.

Despite the challenges facing CDS/LIMS interfacing, these new technologies are changing the way that these interfaces are being implemented and utilized.

Reducing time and resources

In the past, a drawback to many interfacing projects has been the amount of custom code and development work that needs to be done to provide a good working interface. Whether the work is done using internal resources or is contracted out to a third party, custom coding is typically a long and involved process.

From start to finish, resources need to be dedicated to specifying the requirements, developing and testing the code, implementing the code, and then tweaking the end result to make sure it meets the end users needs. At the end of the day, the lab will have a working interface but it will have taken a lot of effort to get to that point and there will be a reluctance to try and introduce any changes or modifications.

The introduction of off-the-shelf interfacing products, like Lims[Link.sup.CDS] from Labtronics Inc., Guelph, Ontario, has already reduced the amount of custom code that needs to be written for an interface. This type of LIMS interfacing application provides an environment where the interface does not have to be coded from scratch--all of the groundwork for providing the interface is already done.

With that framework already in place, the focus of the implementation project is on adapting the interface to the specific requirements of the customer. Users do not have to concern themselves with continually developing and enhancing the underlying framework--that is taken care of by the developer that has created the interfacing application.

The introduction of configurable interfaces takes this concept one step further. Setup screens can be used to identify key parameters that are specific to interfacing with a certain instrument application (e.g., a specific type of CDS). Drop down menus and check boxes are used to configure parameters such as instrument methods and logon routines that are being used by the CDS. Being able to define these defaults without having to "reprogram" the interface simplifies implementation and provides maximum flexibility for the end user.

Putting the interface where it belongs

Advances in application technology now allow for the interface to be embedded as a menu item within the CDS. From the CDS, the analyst can select this menu item and use it to launch the interface and connect the CDS directly to the LIMS. The analyst does not have to leave the instrument data system to interact with the LIMS, which gives him access to the interface at the most logical point--from the application that is running the analysis.

Because the interface is now an integral part of the CDS it is able to integrate with that application's security and audit trail. This, combined with the fileless transfer of information both to and from the LIMS, simplifies 21 CFR Part 11 compliance and reduces validation requirements.

Sample list become sequence file

A bi-directional interface that can query the LIMS for a list of samples and import that list into a CDS is a concept that has been around for a while. While this is an improvement over a manual system, the task of creating a complete CDS sample set or sequence file is not as simple as just transferring the sample list from the LIMS.

For example, there can be additional samples such as standards and control samples that need to be added at specific points in the run. Or laboratory procedures may call for the analysis of multiple replicates of each sample. A sample worklist that is produced by the LIMS is not likely to account for these requirements.

The new generation of instrument interfaces includes a powerful expansion function that automatically builds a full sequence file using the samples it collects from the LIMS. Standards, controls, and replicates are automatically included to expand the original sample list into a complete sequence file that fulfills all of the requirements of the run protocol.

Sending the data to LIMS

Technology now exists that allows the instrument interface to electronically capture any report that is output from an instrument data system. The interface can automatically extract the required data from the report and send that data directly to the LIMS.

Using this technology, analysts can transfer data from the CDS without having to introduce new reporting procedures. They simply follow their regular routine for generating their printed report and the report data is automatically transferred to the LIMS. Because the report information is transferred directly to the LIMS, without creating any files, this is an ideal solution for laboratories working in a regulated environment.

A good time to connect

Easier implementation, full integration between applications and a transparent interface with LIMS--these are the goals that the new advances in interfacing technology are helping to achieve. For laboratories that have not yet fully integrated their CDS with their LIMS, there has never been a better time to start interfacing. With the new advanced technologies that are available, researchers can be sure that they will get a solution that works for them.


Labtronics Inc., 519-767-1061,

Configurable interfaces can:

* Reduce the time and resources required to implement the interface

* Provide flexibility without requiring programming

* Provide an "at a glance" view of the interface configuration

* Make it easier to maintain or modify the interface

Steve Bolton Marketing Manager of Labtronics, Inc.
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Title Annotation:laboratory information management systems
Comment:CDS/LIMS interfaces: easier to implement and use: this widespread use of chromatography as a primary form of analysis, with chromatography data systems as primary sources of data, has created a problem--how to manage the large volume of data that is being produced. (Keywords: data management * chromatography * software).(laboratory information
Author:Bolton, Steve
Publication:R & D
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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