This digital assistant can make everyday work in the lab easier!

Judith Hillen

Startup Stories

The documentation of experimental data does not only take up a lot of time in the lab. Since scientists only record their data at the end of the day or sometimes even weeks later, a lot of valuable data gets lost in this process. The Berlin-based startup LabTwin, which is part of 5-HT’s digital ecosystem, has set out to solve this problem. Their digital lab assistant allows to capture and access data hands-free in real-time during the experiment. In this interview, Magdalena Paluch, co-founder and CEO of LabTwin, explains how scientists and their organizations can benefit from working with a digital lab assistant.

Magdalena Paluch, co-founder and CEO of LabTwin
Magdalena Paluch, co-founder and CEO of LabTwin

What are the key challenges of capturing and accessing data in the lab?

LabTwin started because we wanted to help speed up digitization in laboratories. When we first entered laboratories, I was astonished to see how far behind they were in terms of digitization. Today, electronic lab notebooks already enable a certain level of capturing data in a digital format, but it’s still very difficult for these systems to be accessed in real-time at the point of experiment. At the moment, the work at the bench and the documentation process are two completely separate activities. In the best case scenario, the scientist records the information on the experiments he has conducted at the end of the day. In the worst case scenario, he might do that several weeks later. This delay between experimentation and documentation leads to incomplete and incorrect data. Since documentation is the foundation of reproducibility, this is a huge problem for R&D departments. Furthermore, we observe that scientists spend a minimum of 30 minutes every day purely on documenting what they have done. This means that a lot of time is wasted only on gathering and formatting data. These are the two areas we are targeting with LabTwin: increasing the reproducibility of experiments and the efficiency of work in laboratories.

How does LabTwin help to improve the work in the lab?

We bring experimentation and documentation into a synchronous activity by enabling real-time data capture and access. LabTwin works voice-first, but not voice-only. Scientists can initiate the system hands-free via headset during their experiment. Our digital lab assistant understands scientific contexts, workflows and vocabulary that is used in the lab. The natural language processing model is pretrained on the client’s precise protocols and contents, but it also continuously learns from its users. With LabTwin, scientists can capture notes, follow SOPs or query databases directly from their point of experiment. They can also interact with LabTwin hands-on via a mobile application or a web platform. All their data is directly formatted in a semi-structured manner, e.g. in a table that is exportable to Excel and that can be pushed to a system of record of their choice.

How LabTwin integrates into the lab
How LabTwin integrates into the lab

How can scientists benefit from using LabTwin?

First of all, LabTwin works hands-free and in real-time. This means that scientists don’t have to interrupt their experiment, deglove, degown and go to their desktop if they want to record their results contemporaneously. They also don’t have to rely on their memory if they decide to record their data later. Instead, they already have their record to some extent completed when they return to their office. Furthermore, scientists get all their data in one place. Because LabTwin is not voice-only, it also allows to capture images, e.g. of the bench setup or of other critical information. All this data can now be found in one solution.

What are the main benefits of LabTwin on an organizational level?

We already have some indications of the specific impact that LabTwin has on laboratories. For example, our users have reported significant time savings, e.g. in cell culture and sample preparation processes. The labs that use LabTwin also find that the reproducibility of their experiments is increased because they get more complete and correct data. This also allows for much more standardized processes in data analytics.

LabTwin in use
LabTwin in use

How do you ensure data security?

The question of data security is a barrier for many companies who are thinking about working together with a startup. We know that the data of our customers is highly sensitive and confidential. This is why we take this topic very seriously. I would like to highlight the fact that we are different from other startups because we have a strong corporate background. Since we have the biopharma supplier Sartorius backing us, we can draw on established processes when it comes to data security. Because we are located in Europe, we also comply with the strict European laws of privacy and data security. All user data is encrypted and stored within the EU, and it can only be accessed by a very limited group of LabTwin employees. Furthermore, we just received our ISO certification which recognizes our compliance with international gold standards for information security.

What is the story behind the foundation of LabTwin?

LabTwin was incubated in partnership between Sartorius, a German laboratory instrument manufacturer, and BCG Digital Ventures, a corporate investment and incubation firm. We saw a need for better digitization of experimental processes. In the beginning, we visited over 100 labs and observed the same problems in all of them: the scientists working at the bench were detached from the digital information locked in their offices. The idea of leveraging voice as a technology to capture and access data came from the scientists themselves who said they wished there was a way for them to interact with a digital solution without having to take their hands off the experiment. We quickly realized that existing solutions were not up to the context of scientific work in laboratories. This is why we started to build our own digital assistant in 2018.

LabTwin Team
LabTwin Team

Who is already using LabTwin?

We are engaged with seven out of the top ten pharma and chemical companies. Our customers are enterprises in biopharma and chemical industry, but also CROs and academic institutions. In terms of market reach, we have customers both in Europe and in the US. This year, we are also planning to release a German version of LabTwin for our customers in Germany.

What are the next goals for LabTwin?

The vision of LabTwin has always been to become a second nature for scientists by making information more complete and more accessible. We started with a focus on basic discovery and research. But as we are growing, we are finding that our solution could also be very helpful in supporting routine work that is driven by procedures. Therefore, we are currently refining more structured ways of capturing and accessing information with LabTwin. Another longer-term goal is to facilitate a culture shift in enterprises – from thinking about my data to thinking about our data. In global organizations, the laboratories around the world organize their data in different ways which makes it difficult for the analytics team to make sense of it. This is why we would like to help our customers to harmonize their data throughout the whole organization.

How can 5-HT help you in your further development?

We are looking for customers and partners that are seriously committed to deploying digital assistants within their organization. Perhaps 5-HT can help us to find organizations that we can refine and scale our products with. If we want to achieve real impact and make data more accessible all the way from the individual to the organizational level, this requires us to get not only small engagements, but to grow within an organization. I’m sure the network of 5-HT can support us on this mission.

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