I’m sure you are very familiar with the adage: “A chain is as strong as its weakest link.” Unfortunately though, in biotech drug development, guess who the weakest link is?
In 2011 and 2012, both industry leading companies Bayer and Amgen took random samplings of drug development studies from peer-reviewed journals and tried to reproduce the experiments in their own labs.
What happened? Bayer could only reproduce 25% of the results, while Amgen could only replicate 11%.
It’s not that the original results were wrong. It’s just that the traditional means of reproduction is very subject to human error… and also very expensive!
“The Internet of Things,” or machine-to-machine communication, could change that. With so many electronic devices in our lives linked together for communication, we have networks that will allow the industry to completely automate complex processes at whole new levels.
Currently, biotech researchers in traditional labs sit at benches hand-writing detailed parameters such as temperature, pH, oxygen, and content, tediously moving and labeling hundreds of small volume samples at a time.
When these same processes are performed with robots and automation software, errors in execution virtually go to zero, and reproducibility goes through the roof!
Labs across the country are starting to embrace the “Internet of Things” by employing massive facilities armed with robots connected to a complex infrastructure of lab testing software and databases. Everything is logged via bar codes and loaded in databases to even track inventory, allowing these facilities to replace low in-stock items right when they need them.
Some labs such as Ginkgo Bioworks and the Emerald Cloud Lab are actually set up for outsourcing, meaning they allow external researchers to come in and use their facilities and expertly engineered (and cheaper) bio-organisms. That saves the researchers money by avoiding costly in-house research.
This business model is very similar to how technology product companies leverage external chip manufacturers, instead of producing their own chips for their devices.
Currently, many of these labs are private industry. However, there are some publicly traded companies that develop components of this technology that we’ll be able to take advantage of.
Editor, BioTech Intel Trader