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Laboratory Pack-up & Relocation, Part 2 | Lab Relocation Timeline

female lab researcher using microscope
When it’s time to relocate your laboratory, careful planning long before the actual move date will make the difference between success and disaster. See last month’s blog for a timeline of exactly what should be done and when, but for a view from 30,000 feet of the process complete with best practices, see below:

Who’s On the Team?

Choose who you want to be involved with the move. Utilize key employees to act as “move captains” but take care to involve all staff in the process. As your timeline emerges, meet regularly with your internal team to keep everyone informed and to address issues as they arise.

Cold Storage Transport

Maintaining the integrity of your research during the move means paying attention to every detail. If you have samples or substances that require storage at exact temperature ranges and requirements, keep appropriate cold-storage transport procedures in place. Be sure to identify a backup freezer in case of emergency and make sure to have dry ice on hand the day of the move.

Hire Specialists

Most laboratory equipment is sensitive and fragile, requiring expensive re-calibrations even when you move them from one bench to the other. It’s falsely economical to trust that equipment to a cut-rate moving company, hoping against hope that they won’t damage it. Spending the money to get a qualified moving company that you can trust to move your sensitive equipment will save you a lot of money and countless staff hours in the long run.

Preserve Chain of Custody

If your lab handles evidence for law enforcement agencies or other items that need chain-of-custody documentation, be particularly careful. While expensive upfront, it may turn out to be more economical and safer in the long term to arrange an escort who can maintain the chain of custody for certain items during relocation.

Hazardous Materials

It’s not unusual for a lab to contain items that have been classified as hazardous materials by the Department of Transportation. Consult authorities to get information about the legal and safety implications of transporting any type of hazardous materials. You will need to take steps to ensure the public’s safety when transporting potentially dangerous items.

Live Animals

Live animals need food and water—a unique consideration when transporting them during a lab relocation. Hanging water bottles is a solution to keep animals hydrated, but they frequently leak during transportation—soaking the animals’ bedding and leading to hypothermia or even death. If the animals in your lab are part of an experiment, they will require chain-of-custody documentation or other provisions to ensure the integrity of scientific research.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Because cross-contamination can negatively affect the outcome of your research for years into the future, be especially careful to ensure that no items become cross-contaminated during your lab relocation.

Calibration Considerations

Confirm with your contacts at your instrumentation companies to see if your arrangement with them includes post-move calibration, even if they are not involved in packing, moving, and unpacking the instruments. Are you still indemnified even if you use a separate moving company? Ask how that process will affect your warranty.

Plan Your Route

Walk through your intended route with a tape measure and the measurements of everything that will be moved during your lab relocation. Will everything fit through doorways? If not, you will need to map out an alternate route—better to do that in advance than while the clock is ticking on moving day.

Record Specifications

Documenting the weight, dimensions, electrical connections, temperature, and humidity requirements of each item being moved will save you money. For example, you will want to know in advance if your new table is going to hold pieces of heavy new equipment before you move into the new lab. Figuring that out on the day of the move will be an expensive, time-consuming problem you don’t need.

Inform Everyone

Your team of researchers is likely data-driven like most efficient scientists. Be sure you communicate fully with them so they can plan for exactly when their equipment will no longer be available. Make sure you are aware of how long each piece of equipment will take to move and place back in operation. The facilities managers—both in the building you are vacating and the one you’re moving into—also need to be kept up to date. Keep them in the loop so they can oversee utilities connections and disconnections, provide adequate staging areas for packing crates, and make loading docks available when needed.

Understand and Comply.

Is your lab governed by GLP or GMP guidelines? Address if and how you will need to comply with federal and state regulations long before move-in day, so you can obtain needed documentation.

Any lab relocation, no matter how big or small, can be a stressful experience for everyone involved. Taking the time to plan and develop a roadmap in advance will help keep the process on the rails.

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Laboratory Pack-up & Relocation – Everything You Need To Know, Part 1

technician working in lab

When It’s Time to Move Your Lab

There’s no getting around it: moving a laboratory is a complex process that involves meticulous attention to detail, making it a stressful experience for all concerned. The actual move date will likely be preceded by 4–6 months of careful planning, even if you follow most lab managers’ recommendation that you hire an experienced lab relocation specialist. Outsourcing the project to a lab relocation specialist will minimize the move’s impact on your operation’s scientific mission and productivity.

Moving usually signals that new and exciting opportunities are ahead for a company, but it’s still critically important to plan correctly and take into account all aspects of the experience. For example, although it is important to plan out the logistics of the physical move, it is also important to take into account its emotional impact. A relocation is not only disruptive to the physical plant, but the introduction of a lab relocation specialist will change the dynamics of the organization. A good lab relocation manager will take the time to establish trust and respect with your entire team, and foster productive, collaborative relationships between his move team and your technicians, administrative personnel, and lab leads.

Make keeping everyone informed a top priority. So they can plan accordingly, your team will want to know not just the date for the move itself, but also when the equipment they use will no longer be available. Remember to talk to the facilities manager in the building you are vacating and your contact in the building you are moving into as soon as possible. These individuals will oversee everything from the disconnection and connection of your utilities to the availability of packing/unpacking areas and loading docks.

Every lab relocation is different with different priorities and steps needed to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. However, establishing a timeline is will help keep the process on track:

Two to Three Months Before the Move

  • Tour existing and new lab space with your lab transition planner and your architect.
  • Develop equipment binders and review responsibility matrix.
  • Dispose of old files, old chemicals, and old samples.
  • Notify vendors, the mail room, and other relevant parties that the lab has relocated.
  • Secure keys and access to the new space.
  • Identify who will pack the equipment and move it.
  • Set a start date and time-frame.
  • Establish a timeline to shut down certain pieces to prepare for move.
  • Send out RFP for specialist movers (chemical, equipment).

Two to Three Weeks Before the Move

  • Have boxes, tags, and other materials delivered to the lab so that packing can begin
  • Begin labeling each piece of equipment with a separate label that includes the name of the lab, the phase of the move in which it should be handled, and where it should be placed in the new lab.
  • Tour the new space to ensure connections are compatible with incoming equipment.
  • Identify move route for key equipment, checking door and height/weight clearances.

Day of the Move

  • Chemical movers pack up the chemicals in special containers.
  • General movers pack items not already packed.
  • Freezers are placed on the truck last so they can be unpacked first, positioned and plugged in.

Post-Move Follow Up

  • Tour the vacated lab to ensure all items have been moved.
  • Coordinate the calibration of equipment.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to have a lab relocation specialist working with you to ensure a smooth and trouble-free transition and restart. Using spreadsheets, templates, checklists and other tools, a good lab relocation specialist will create a lab transition plan that will make this complex process as clear, straightforward and incident-free as possible.

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Emerging Biotechnology Trends in 2021

scientist working in research lab
The biotechnology industry is constantly being shaped by new technological breakthroughs and advancements in knowledge. As public interest increases and more funding is granted, the following topics are emerging as biotechnology trends to watch in 2021.

Vaccine Development

The search for a COVID-19 vaccine has caused the life sciences community to reinvent the way it develops vaccines. For the first time, biopharmaceutical companies and government agencies forged strategic partnerships to accelerate the process of vaccine research and development.

For example, Moderna’s recently released COVID-19 vaccine is based on decades of previous, industry-wide research on how cells translate mRNA into proteins that fight disease. Access to this research and its evidence-based findings allowed Moderna to create its vaccine from the novel coronavirus itself, rather than using a weaker version of the attenuated virus, to elicit an immune response.

Because mRNA-based vaccines can be quickly moved through the phases of testing, Moderna was able to deliver more than one billion doses of the vaccine by early 2021. The research and development process behind the COVID-related vaccines has already provided valuable information about how to create more effective vaccines in the future.

Monoclonal Antibodies

Although monoclonal antibodies were first identified by research scientists years ago, they have recently been modified to create ADCs—Antibody-Drug Conjugates, with the ability to identify cancer cells and deliver targeted radiation more efficiently to these areas. Research conducted in 2021 will likely focus on additional ways to combine these lab-grown antibodies with drugs, creating new ways of managing conditions that currently require expensive medication or lack effective treatments.

Biosimilars

Another important ingredient in the field of biotechnology are the so-called biosimilars. Like monoclonal antibodies, scientists have been aware of biosimilars for some time; however, further research in 2021 is expected to focus on their modification to meet emerging medical needs. Because creating a biological drug made up of living organisms can be expensive and complex, scientists rely on biosimilars to simplify the process. By using different compositions that vary only slightly from existing drug brands, biosimilars can deliver the same results as current immunotherapy and targeted therapy drugs at a lower cost.

Cell and Gene Therapies

Customized medicine is one of the hottest trends in biotechnology. Cell and gene therapies, along with customized drugs, are used to treat the precise variant of an illness. They are created by manipulating human cells and genomes.

Kymriah, the first gene therapy approved by the FDA in 2017, uses a patient’s own white blood cells to treat acute lymphatic leukemia. Yescarta, another gene therapy approved in 2017, has resulted in remission for 72 percent of patients with non-Hodgkins lymphoma enrolled in clinical trials.

Over the past four years, the development of cell and gene therapies have doubled in growth. Starting in 2021, industry experts anticipate steady growth in the area of cell and gene therapies as companies continue to respond to increased public interest and demand. In fact, the FDA expects to confer 10 to 20 approvals annually related to gene therapy and cell-therapies in 2021 and beyond.

These four emerging trends for 2021 are important because they remind people of the critical role that biotechnology plays in developing new medicines, guiding healthcare, best practices, and supporting the health and well-being of people all over the world.

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Top Life Sciences Industry Trends To Watch For in 2021

blue dna

The life sciences industry is the umbrella term for companies, businesses, and research institutions dedicated to improving protection and improvement of human, animal, and natural life. It includes cell biology, biophysics, environmental sciences, biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, nutraceuticals, neuroscience, and countless others. As you might imagine, this is a frontier that moves rapidly, constantly driven by change and technological advancements.

Looking ahead to 2021 indicates that the following trends will play a key role in shaping the life sciences industry:

Personalized medicine through advancements in genetics

As researchers continue to discover the genetic coding component of some conditions, the possibilities for personalizing medicine and healthcare procedures based on each person’s particular DNA information or other genome features become greater and more exciting.

Collaborative Innovation of Various Life Sciences Companies

In May of 2019, Arzeda, Twist Bioscience, Labcyte, and TeselaGen joined forces to create a state-of-the-art assembly platform for the DNA molecule. This is just one example of how highly collaborative the life sciences industry is, and what the possibilities are when health science organizations work together to push the boundaries of research and development.

Advancement of Drug Research

Smart technology will allow for better integration of data from assessment devices such as patient monitors, laboratory equipment, and MRI scans to more accurately prescribe medication for patients for more objective, evidence-based results.

Increased Volume of Life Sciences Research

In the field of precision surgery, studies connecting robotics to improve surgical methods are on the rise. Artificial intelligence can provide doctors insight in the most accurate treatment plans and which procedures will result in the best outcomes.

Increased Digitized Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Patients

Digital transformation has paved a way for better consumer access and improved marketing strategies for companies. The life sciences industry is expected to see an increase of digitalization through online assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of patients in 2021.

Value-based Pricing of Products

As more laws are being passed to drive down the prices of products especially in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries, more companies will continue to work hard to demonstrate a drug’s effectiveness so that consumers can see the true value of the product. This can help drive down the cost of medications while providing evidence-based information for people to whom the drug’s efficacy matters most.

Data Management and Integration

Continued innovation of and improvements to cloud management strategies will enable data analysts to more easily gather, organize, and interpret information that is pertinent for life sciences research and system operations.

Incorporation of Genetics in Treatment

Expect more integration of genetic information into the assessment and treatment of disorders. In time, gene technology will make it possible for researchers to identify genome sequences that can predict disorders in humans and animals.

Heightened Focus on Immune Cell Function

A better understanding of immunity will inform how diseases and viruses are spread—especially important in light of the recent pandemic. Researchers are interested in certain attributes of cells demonstrated to be immune to certain types of viruses and bacteria. These studies will bring about profound implications in the field of immunotherapy.

Trends that are expected to affect the life sciences industry in 2021 are exciting and ever changing. Countries including the United States have increased funding in the research areas of science, technology, and healthcare, demonstrating the world’s commitment to innovations within the life sciences industry. Continued innovation and advancement will improve the welfare of those of us who are living today, as well as those for generations to come.

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Laboratory Relocation Tips For Success

cold storage units and researcher in lab
Whether you’re renovating, consolidating, decommissioning, or expanding your laboratory into a brand new space, use a detailed transition plan to ensure a smooth move and protect your projects. After all, the stakes are high– and missteps have the potential to cause more than temporary inconvenience – so be sure to pay close attention to every detail.

The process can be so complex that some labs hire “transition planners.” Using a set of proprietary templates, checklists, and work plans, these professional planners forecast a timeline for the entire transition, day by day, complete with all the decisions and activities that will need to be made. If you’re anticipating a lab relocation, consider whether or not to hire a transition planner in light of the following points:

Expertise.

Believe it or not, some laboratory transitions take up to six months of planning before a single piece of equipment is moved. With that level of detail to consider, even if you feel you have the resources in-house, you may want to hire an experienced professional planner dedicated to this one task only. This will allow your research staff to continue working on their projects virtually uninterrupted, while your transition planner manages the logistics of the upcoming move.

Experience.

It bears repeating because it’s the most critical thing to account for when managing a laboratory relocation: maintaining the integrity of ongoing research is the most important aspect of any transition. This means your transition planner needs to fully understand the environment your lab is moving into. Where will each piece of equipment be located? Is the proper electrical, mechanical, and plumbing infrastructure in place? If you deal in live specimens, what sort of climate and humidity controls need to be implemented?

The following 10 best practices are highly recommended when transitioning your lab:

Choose Your Internal Team.

It’s likely everyone will play a role, but selecting key people to act as team captains will help keep things on the rails. At your first meeting, identify important dates and a project timeline that you can share with the rest of the staff. Set up regular meetings with your core team so everyone stays informed and any emerging issues can be nipped in the bud before they become problems.

Find a Qualified Equipment Mover.

Don’t rely on regular home or business moving companies to handle your sensitive lab equipment. We don’t have to tell you that these items are delicate and easy to damage. Spend the money and hire someone who specializes in moving lab equipment– the extra investment is well worth it.

Monitor Calibration of Instrumentation.

Talk to your vendors/service contractors to determine under what conditions they will calibrate your equipment after your move. Will they recalibrate or re-certify instrumentation after the move, or does your Agreement with them require that they crate, pack, move and uncrate the equipment in order to maintain your indemnification and guarantee?

Determine Cold Storage Needs.

A regular freezer truck probably isn’t going to do it if you are moving items that require cold storage. Any laboratories contain items, samples, or substances that must be kept in cold storage. Factor in the exact temperature ranges and requirements that the items involved in your research require. Have a back-up freezer on hand the day of the move. Dry ice is also a good idea “just in case.” T

Observe the Chain of Custody.

Do you handle evidence for law-enforcement agencies? Pay particular attention to documenting any chain-of-custody considerations during transport.

Special Permits for Hazardous Materials.

Chances are your lab uses items classified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) as hazardous. Make sure you’re adhering to any legal requirements as well as safety concerns while in transit.

Avoid Cross-Contamination.

Your lab’s reputation is on the line. Take every step to ensure that the outcome of your future research is scientifically valid by being accurate and thorough with every item in your lab. Live animals are a special consideration.

Comply with GMP Requirements.

The need to meet regulatory compliance requirements (especially GLP/GMP guidelines) both before and after relocation– is essential. You will need to fill out and file all the appropriate documentation, which can be extensive– so be sure you do your due diligence very early in the lab relocation process.

Plan Your Route.

You may find that doorways and corridors are not large enough to accommodate bulky lab equipment. Measure equipment and consider your route carefully– find alternatives if you have an issue.

Anticipate Your Needs.

Replacing the benches at your new lab? Make sure they look more than look great. If they won’t bear the weight of tabletop equipment, you’ll have big problems on your hands. How about electric outlets and cord lengths? Again, these issues are easy to address in advance, but very inconvenient the day-of.

The most important thing to remember is that laboratory relocation is never routine. The process is complex and the stakes are high. So whether you hire a transition planner, appoint someone from inside your organization, or take the job on yourself, pay careful attention to the details by using these suggested best practices as your guide!

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What You Need To Know Before Moving Your Laboratory

scientist working in a lab
Relocating your lab safely and efficiently can be complicated, time-consuming, and labor intensive. You may be aware of the obvious things that need to be done, like packing and labeling chemicals and other items on the shelves, transporting them safely to their new location, and decontaminating everything thoroughly when you’re down to the bare walls.

However, you should be aware of a few less obvious things. You need to be performing all these tasks according to the compliance and regulatory issues from the EPA, OSHA, DOT, IATA, and any other regulatory bodies that pertain to your laboratory relocation.

Therein lies the $64,000 question: which regulatory guidelines apply to you based on the size of your lab, the work you do, and multiple other factors? In some circumstances, ignoring any required steps could cause employee injury or property damage, and result in thousands of dollars in fines…but not all circumstances. To make it clear to you which regulations and compliance measures apply to the relocation of your lab, and to ensure a safe relocation of your lab according to all the pertinent compliance measures and regulations, it makes sense to reach out to your local regulatory bodies to ask what’s expected of you during your move. Hiring an experienced partner like BaneBio to consult on the logistics of the project could prove to be one of the most helpful things you can do to save time while keeping the project compliant.

Financial Management

Depending on the size and distance of the move, lab relocations can be costly. Rather than hiring a different contractor for each step, a good way to cut costs safely is by hiring one contractor to go through the entire process with you. This will improve the efficiency of the project and decrease the overall price.

Hiring and Team Management

Your logistics consultant will help you assemble the appropriate relocation team based on the size and particulars of your lab. You may need to assemble a team made up of experts in all aspects of a lab relocation that represent key internal and external stakeholders, including team leaders, environmental consultants, project managers, and supply chain vendors.You may not need a team like this, but your logistics consultant can help you determine an alternate way to stay organized and on track during your relocation.

Waste Disposal

Rely on the knowledge of either on-site team members or logistical consultants who have a deep knowledge of hazardous waste disposal. To reduce liability, you will want to dispose of unnecessary hazmat rather than transport it. Assess all chemicals prior to transportation, and dispose of any that will not be used at the new facility.

Hazmat Transportation

Despite your best efforts, it is likely that some hazmat will need to be transported during a lab relocation. If your logistics consultant advises, be sure to adequately pack, label, and transport hazmat all within PHMSA regulations.

Lab Decontamination

It is standard practice to decontaminate the facility you are vacating according to ANSI guidelines. Again, your logistics consultant can advise you on appropriate decommissioning methodology based on the work you have been doing.

Sampling and Reporting

Once again, if advised by your logistics consultant, qualify and document the decontamination of the lab you are vacating through sampling and reporting using real time sampling as well as laboratory analysis. Summarize the decontamination methodology, activities, and sampling results into a report that your company can use to demonstrate and quantify your decontamination efforts.

Considering a lab relocation? Unsure which compliance guidelines and regulations apply to you? BaneBio can help!

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Choosing the Right Incubator for Your Lab

thermo scientific heracell incubators

The CO2 incubator is a critical piece of lab equipment designed to create and reliably maintain a sterile, pH-optimized, humidified, in vitro environment for the culture of living tissues or cells. 

There are two main types of incubators: direct heat and water jacket. In order to determine which type of incubator best suits your needs, it’s important to review and evaluate the advantages and drawbacks of each. Because different cell types respond differently to temperature fluctuations, hypoxia, and vibrations, it is also critical to review your choices of incubator in light of which types of cells you plan to incubate, and where you plan to place the incubator within your lab. 

Once you have determined the ideal living conditions for your cells, and where the incubator will be placed within your lab, use the five considerations below to choose the right incubator for your needs:  

Know the advantages and drawbacks of direct heat vs. water jacket incubators.
A water jacket incubator has a water-filled layer, or “jacket”, surrounding the growth chamber. The water within the jacket circulates, creating a relatively uniform interior temperature and thermal buffer against outside air fluctuations. Because water jacket incubators can hold heat up to five times longer than direct heat units, they are especially advantageous in the event of a power outage. A water jacket also reduces vibrations, which is valuable when you are working with sensitive cells. 

Keep in mind, however, that water jacket incubators are very heavy when filled, and can take up to 24 hours to reach a stable operating temperature. Also, because they are not designed to operate at temperatures high enough to sterilize or decontaminate, gas decontamination may be required.

Like water jacket units, direct heat incubators also heat the inner chamber through conduction; however the inner walls of the unit have direct contact with heating coils instead of the water jacket. This results in more rapid temperature changes. Rather than the 24 hours a water-jacket unit takes to reach required temperature, setup of a direct heat incubator takes only eight hours. Its heating coils can also reach temperatures to sufficiently sterilize and decontaminate. 

On the other hand, because the direct heat incubator’s heating coils have very specific contact points on the inner walls, the inner chambers of this type of incubator are less uniformly heated and are more susceptible to changing ambient air temperature and temperature fluctuations. When temperature stability is critical, a water jacket incubator may be more suitable for your needs.

Determine where within the lab the incubator will be located.
Because the environment that surrounds the incubator affects the way it functions, determining where the unit will be located is important before you make a decision. A water jacket incubator works best in a “hot spot” or if the ambient temperature of the lab changes frequently. The water conduction system is significantly more resistant to external temperature changes than are the coils of a direct heat incubator. If the incubator is to be placed near equipment that vibrates heavily such as a centrifuge, a water jacket unit will minimize this movement. 

Assess the humidity controls of the incubator.
The ability to maintain the ideal humidity within the incubator is critical because it prevents evaporation from the cell culture. When water evaporates from the media, the concentration of amino acids, salts, and metabolites spikes, causing osmotic pressure to rise and subsequent damage to cells. Regulating the amount and type of airflow that occurs within the chamber also affects the rate of evaporation. Some incubators have introduced systems to slow the airflow to minimize evaporation and avoid drying out cell cultures. When comparing incubators based on this feature, look for the number of air exchanges over time within the inner chamber.

Decide if hypoxic control is necessary and determine accuracy of gas sensors.
Preserving a healthy level of carbon dioxide within an incubator is important because the interaction of CO2 with the cell culture media determines the media’s pH. Many incubators use conventional thermal conductivity (TC) sensors, but newer models rely on a type of infrared (IR) sensor that is less sensitive to chamber humidity and temperature. 

Oxygen levels can also have drastic effects on the growth of some cultures such as stem cells or primary tissues. An incubator with O2 controls uses nitrogen gas to lower the concentration of O2 within the growth chamber. Evaluating the need in your lab for this type of gas control measure is an important consideration when purchasing an incubator.

Consider options for constant contamination control.
Contaminants can be entered into the incubator simply by opening the door. When an incubator is maintained with positive pressure within the growth chamber, airflow into the chamber is minimized—preventing airborne contamination. Internal air is then forced through a HEPA filter to provide an extra layer of sterilization. 

Note that a HEPA filter installed inside the growth chamber can be problematic, especially if the blower’s motor stops, causing contaminants from the filter to fall on your cultures. Consider an externally mounted HEPA filter for easier service and repair, and to protect cells from potential contaminants. If sterility of cultures is a top priority, be especially mindful of an incubator’s contamination controls prior to purchase. 

A well-designed, properly functioning laboratory often includes incubators to keep cells growing well and protected from contaminants. Taking the time to assess your needs in light of these five considerations will help you make an appropriate choice.

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Your Laboratory Equipment: Why a Contract Service Agreement Just Makes Sense

laboratory equipment preventative maintenance
No matter what your core business is, you need the right tools in good working order to deliver accurate results on time and on budget.

Never is this more evident than inside a laboratory. Having the right equipment—and keeping it running smoothly and calibrated accurately—is what makes it possible for your staff to do their jobs.

Fortunately, unlike some of the challenges laboratories have dealt with in the past six months, controlling downtime due to faulty instrumentation is one factor that affects your business that is within your control as a lab owner or manager.

There are four reasons why contracting with an experienced industry partner for an ongoing laboratory service agreement makes sense for you as a lab owner or manager:

1. Mitigates Downtime

First and foremost, if your equipment isn’t working, your lab’s productivity grinds to a halt. When your instrumentation is down, your staff can’t work. Having your equipment properly maintained on a regular basis is the most effective way to fix that. Knowing your instrumentation is being evaluated and maintained by a service contract team will enhance your team’s performance, mitigate downtime, and give you peace of mind.

2. Reduces Costs

With your lab instrumentation and equipment as with so many other things, an ounce of prevention is well worth a pound of cure. When you have periodic, regular maintenance through a service agreement, it is much more likely that problems with your equipment will be caught and addressed before they turn into larger issues. Letting one of these issues with your instrumentation go unheeded and unaddressed can take a big toll on your productivity, compromising your production schedule and deliverables. And if any of your lab equipment needs to be repaired, your service partner will be available to fix it—and that means you can manage your timelines better, meet your deadlines, and keep costs under control.

3. Allocates Resources Effectively

Are you currently relying on your bench scientists to keep their own equipment running well? While it may be true that some of your staff have the skills and experience needed to maintain and calibrate their lab equipment, does it make sense to ask them to? Assigning these more routine maintenance and repair tasks to a team of experts whose only job is to keep your equipment in good working order will allow your team to focus on the higher level of tasks you hired them to do.

4. Saves Time

Having a single point of contact when you need equipment maintained or repaired will save you from the lost time that results from having to manage different vendors and various maintenance schedules for each of your departments. A contract service agreement simplifies this often-complex administrative process and gives you and your team more time to focus on accomplishing the deliverables and other tasks at hand.

When you contract with an experienced and reliable service partner, you will have the assurance that your investment in your equipment and instrumentation is being protected properly. In addition to having the peace of mind that your assets will be in top working order when you need them to be, you will be able to mitigate downtime, reduce costs, allocate your resources more effectively, and save time—all important strategic advantages that your lab can leverage to benefit your laboratory operation and results.

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How COVID-19 Is Impacting Lab Operations

scientists talking at a laboratory table
The unemployment rate in the United States is currently hovering around 15%, the worst since the Great Depression. Women, Hispanics, and African Americans have been especially hard-hit and employment in the hospitality and retail sectors has also seen a sharp decline. According to a study conducted in April by market research firm BioInformatics, a partner of The Science Advisory Board, scientists and researchers are also concerned about what the immediate future holds for their employment outlook.

Of the 1,178 participants in the BioInformatics study, 74% were academic researchers and 26% were pharmaceutical or biotech scientists. On a regional basis, 33% of participants were based in North America, 31% in Europe, 24% in Asia, and the remaining 12% were from various other locations around the world.

Although many scientists are classified as essential employees, there are many who are not— and whose livelihoods have been adversely affected during the last 2–3 months by state and local stay-at-home orders. Following the trend set by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, many programs classified as non-essential have been temporarily shut down. In addition, many scientific researchers rely on grants to conduct their research— a funding source that has been all but curtailed during the quarantine. Many researchers have indicated that funds previously used to fund their ongoing studies have been diverted to maintain current animal studies and to pay core staff.

Today, approximately three months from the initial stay-at-home orders, many labs remain closed. The situation has especially dire implications for academic scientists, only 10% of whom responded that their labs were fully operational. More than 56% of academic laboratories remain affected— many more than pharmaceutical or industry laboratories, 27% of which are still closed. Of the remaining 612 labs that are partially or fully operational, 32% conduct research related to infectious diseases, compared with 68% that are not involved in infectious disease research. Surprisingly, a full 71% of research labs dedicated to infectious disease research report running at reduced capacity.

The productivity of those labs who have remained open has been adversely affected by physical distancing and other public health measures put in place to slow or minimize the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. Unlike many industries who have been able to stay connected through video conferencing platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting, this alternative has been far less effective in sustaining the collaborative efforts of scientists and researchers engaged in multidisciplinary projects

In April, according to the rating scale on the initial survey, scientists indicated that their work had been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant number of survey participants indicated that a severe economic downturn directly resulting from the outbreak would limit their ability to work. When broken down by research focus, infectious disease researchers working at operational labs reported slightly less concern over their ability to work than did their colleagues at academic labs or those involved in other types of research.

Very few areas of modern life have remained untouched by the pandemic, and the livelihoods of scientists and researchers are no exception. However, despite their current concern about how the pandemic and related economic crisis will affect their employment in the short-term, most expect to get back to conducting their research after the crisis passes. According to the recently updated U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, updated last September, epidemiologists, medical, biological, and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, biochemists and biophysicists, microbiologists, and medical and research scientists are and will continue to be among the fastest-growing jobs between now and 2028.

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How The Life Sciences Industry May Look After COVID-19

scientist holding test tube blood sample

Almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives has been retooled. When it comes to the economy, a slowdown of epic proportions has already begun. How will the days, weeks, and months ahead affect the life sciences industry? Analyzing how life sciences companies have fared though the past three recessions reveals some encouraging news.

It’s important to realize that, unlike the vast majority of businesses, the core business of life science companies is more in-demand than ever before. This is good news for the individuals who work for life sciences companies, as well as the vast network of businesses—like BaneBio and many others—that support them.

The savings and loan crisis of the early 1990s, the post-9/11 dot.com bust, or the Great Recession of 2008 and beyond give us a context for how life sciences companies perform in the face of economic crisis. If the steadiness performance of the industry during the severe economic downturns precipitated by these events are any indication, life sciences businesses are in a good position to continue to serve the marketplace well in the foreseeable future.

Some Good News

History would appear to indicate that the life sciences industry is less affected by market fluctuations than other types of businesses during periods of recession and/or economic slowdown.
• Following the savings and loan crisis in 1991, transactions negotiated within the life sciences environment grew 54%; that volume decline by an average of 2.4% for all other sectors.
• In 2001 after the attack on America, transactions within the life sciences arena grew by 18%, while our colleagues in all other businesses suffered a decline in deal volume at the rate of 32%.
• During the Great Recession of 2008, the life sciences industry’s deal volume declined by 25%, still an improvement over the 30% decline in deal activity for all other sectors.

As we stare down the barrel of the current pandemic, history would indicate that several factors are likely to at least partially insulate the life sciences industry from disastrous losses.

First, biopharmaceutical companies will continue to produce medications at a similar or better rate as in the pre-COVID world. Chronic disease and acute illness will proceed unchecked by the presence of coronavirus, necessitating steady if not accelerated production of drugs used in their prevention and treatment.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, while most in the business world are impaled on the horns of the coronavirus dilemma, those of us in the life sciences cohort are firmly engaged in finding some of the most important solutions of our time. Our collective focus is on supporting rapid diagnostic testing, better treatment, and eventually the development of a safe and effective vaccine.

Three Areas of Concentration

There is no instruction manual for handling the current and long-term effects of the pandemic on global trade and commerce. However, early indications are that life sciences companies should mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in three ways:

Manage the Change

Despite the continued demand for the service of the life sciences cohort, the way services are delivered will continue to be very different. As many have already experienced, the impact on your workforce as employees try to set priorities, stay focused, and manage their production schedules and deliverables while working remotely is significant.

Whenever possible, the challenge for leadership will be to get out in front of issues, creating policies and procedures that work well for your shop rather than reacting to news as it happens. How will you configure your workspace if physical distancing requirements are relaxed to allow partial or limited reopening? Will you test your employees daily? How will you ensure that communication among team members sharing responsibilities and goals is seamless and effective?

Meanwhile, pharma companies are feverishly checking their medicinal archives for anti-viral activity related to COVID-19 using innovative combinations. In parallel, diagnostic companies are racing to get rapid tests approved and scaled up, working through private-public partnerships. Medical supply manufacturers and distributors are scrambling to avoid backlogs and get personal protective equipment and medical supplies to healthcare professionals who are in dire need.

Look Ahead

Several months into the pandemic, the changes it has driven have given us both insight into its current effects on our businesses and a window into the future. Use this time to analyze and evaluate the measures taken to manage the effect the pandemic has had on your business. Leverage that insight to design and implement a more long-term plan that includes both an extended period of illness and closure and the things you are likely to encounter in the post-COVID 19 world. Are there, or will there be, opportunities that did not exist before? Identify these and act accordingly.

Revamp Your Business Plan

Building on the previous suggestion, a post-COVID world is likely to offer opportunities that were unavailable just last year, especially to small and mid-sized companies. On the other hand, we will have learned lessons from the experience that wise business owners and CEOs should bring to bear on future planning, including:

Review Your Contingency Planning: You know that employee in Accounting who was always advocating keeping a higher percentage of revenue in reserve for a “Rainy Day”? Even if you couldn’t agree with their abundance of caution before, history has proven them right. Having significant reserves for the unthinkable has turned out to be very prudent. Instead of going through cursory “in case of emergency” financial exercises, consider making real, detailed “worst case scenario planning” a priority. Take the time to summarize and implement the lessons learned during COVID-19 to create a guidebook for future public health or other emergencies while the events are still fresh in your mind.

Plan for Increased Digital Interaction: In-person interactions between patients and clients and healthcare providers, customer service representatives, and more was already rapidly decreasing prior to the onset of the pandemic. The public health measures put in place to slow the spread of the disease taught us that video-conferencing and other forms of remote access can work…and work well. Like the majority of industries, life sciences companies need to find ways to integrate digital interaction into their daily operations and long-term business models.

Evaluate Information Technology: What used to be an appropriate IT function will likely prove to be inadequate in a more digital, post-COVID world. With video-conferencing and other interactive applications now in use on a much wider scale, stricter cybersecurity measures need to be deployed as quickly as possible. Breaches and vulnerabilities have already been exposed early due to the increased use of these collaborative apps. Systematic IT strategies to address these are in order.

Analyze Your Supply Chain: Commerce has had access to a global marketplace for at least 20 years. Despite the significant savings often realized by businesses when securing products from other countries, prepare for that to possibly change in a post-COVID environment. On the heels of “supply chain repatriation” activity in Europe, there is a bill currently in front of the US Senate that would provide incentives for companies to secure needed products—including medicinal devices and medical supplies so important to the life sciences industry—without going outside the country.

Adjust for Pipeline Delays: The pandemic has resulted in significant disruptions to the typical schedule for the testing, approval, and subsequent launch of biopharmaceuticals. Clinical trials already in progress have been stopped or postponed. Fewer patients are enrolling in the small number of trials that are still moving forward, and the changes in Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policies and procedures driven by the need to comply with physical distancing and other public health measures are also resulting in considerable delays to market.

Life sciences companies are dealing with the same “unprecedented” crisis as the rest of the business sector, but a review of the last three decades would indicate that the industry has some unique characteristics that will help it survive economically while contributing significantly to the solution the world is waiting for.