4 Ways Automation Is Changing Life Science ResearchFollow article
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Automation is making waves in countless industries, and life science research is no exception. Life science is vital to keeping the world healthy and fortified against disease, illness, injury and other biological challenges.
Demand for rapid research in this industry has never been higher, ever since the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus pushed every medically related field to new levels of productivity and innovation, leading to the fastest ever development of a vaccine.
Life science automation has a critical role to play in helping expedite research without compromising on safety or integrity.
1. Safer Labs and Factories
Life science research frequently requires scientists to come in close contact with potentially hazardous or harmful chemicals and substances. Even items that are relatively safe can be unstable or fragile. This poses a significant danger to research teams, from asset development to widespread production.
Automation provides a safe solution for handling hazardous substances and navigating dangerous testing and development processes. Experts have even described increased safety as one of the top benefits of implementing automation in scientific research. While automated systems may not be able to complete complex experiment processes, it is easy to program one that can at least set them up.
Small, repetitive tasks, such as distributing substances into sample containers, can be where accidents are most likely to happen. Research has shown that 90% of workplace accidents are due to human error, and 48% of that is caused by repetition, as well as stress and fatigue. Life science automation can minimize this risk in labs by taking over repetitive processes when the handling of hazardous materials is necessary.
2. More Efficient R&D
Automation is excellent at boosting efficiency, especially when it comes to repetitive, time-consuming tasks. This is among the most common reasons for implementing automation in any industry. In life science, automation can drastically cut down research and development time.
Accurate research often hinges on acquiring a large quantity of data from a significant sample size and repetitive experiments. Creating identical copies of an asset, running the same test numerous times and collecting data on each is highly time-consuming and can be largely automated. Even if certain steps are automated, such as filling petri dishes or vials, the procedure will move along much quicker than if each step is done manually.
Automated systems can also be used to monitor assets during testing with the help of sensors and even AI. One of the most common uses of automation in life science research is within software. This allows for things like remote monitoring, intelligent automated testing using AI and improved data management.
Automated testing solutions are even being moved to the cloud to boost performance and accessibility, with impressive results. For example, multiple biotech and pharmaceutical companies have used the automation platform Life Sciences R&D Cloud to improve their experimentation capabilities and accelerate development timelines.
3. Reliable, Reproducible Results
When utilized and programmed properly, automated research processes can produce consistently accurate results that are easy to reproduce. Human error can lead to fluke accidents and successes. On the other hand, an automated system can conduct experiments and tests the same way every time, so the likelihood of variation or random results is significantly lower.
This is highly valuable in the life science field because it allows researchers to get accurate, successful results consistently and much faster than manual experimentation and testing. When presenting research, scientists who use automation in their R&D process know they are sharing trustworthy results that can be proven multiple times over. This can help demonstrate quality and expertise, which are crucial to establishing a positive reputation in biological research.
Additionally, the consistency of automation can make it significantly easier to identify issues when they do occur. Suppose the expected results of an experiment do not happen. In that case, scientists can be fairly certain that it was not due to an error in execution since there is little to no human error involved in automated processes. Since an automatic testing process is straightforward to reproduce, researchers can easily go back through each step until they identify where things changed unexpectedly.
This can drastically reduce the time that error correction and problem-solving take during the R&D process. As a result, getting new assets through each stage of development and eventually into production can happen faster since the process of trial and error is streamlined and optimized.
4. Rapid Drug and Vaccine Development
For evidence of the power of automation and technology in life science research, look no further than the incredible development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Historically, the typical timeline for a vaccine to go from development to distribution to patients was about five to 10 years on average. By comparison, the COVID-19 vaccine was developed, tested and distributed in less than a year.
While this was due in part to the nature of mRNA inoculations and rapid clinical trial timelines worldwide for the COVID-19 vaccine, production and testing at this speed would not have been possible without the help of smart, automated systems. The scientific community, and the world at large, was so amazed by the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine that it has revolutionized the R&D process in the life sciences forever, setting a new standard for turnaround time.
It is clear why increasing the use of automation has been identified as one of the keys to innovating life science research, particularly for drugs and vaccines, and moving it into the post-COVID-19 era of efficiency and productivity.
The Future of Life Science Research
The last few years have seen some truly incredible breakthroughs in life science research and monumental advancements in technology. Automation is driving growth and innovation in countless industries worldwide, and biotech, pharmaceuticals and other life science fields are no exception.
The transformational power of automation in life science research could be the key to creating life-saving drugs, vaccines, medicines, and other biological technologies faster and safer than ever before.