Meet the LIMS Team

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The LIMS Team (L to R): Kendra Bryant, Chris Duncan, Sharon Mason, and Lloyd Dzinotyiwei.

One of the major applications currently being administered in the Research and Woodruff Health Sciences IT (R-WIT) division is the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).

The LIMS is currently deployed in several laboratories across Emory University and the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute (ACTSI). The LIMS is accessible from multiple organizations and physical networks and supports integration with other research systems via web services. The system includes features that support workflows related to bio-repository and research laboratory functions, including specimen tracking and shipping, location management and full data traceability.

For example, if a researcher is conducting a clinical study of a disease, the LIMS system allows them to define the study and participants and to track study-related specimens over the complete lifecycle workflow, including specimen and container types, additives and processing, testing and results along with specimen transfers and locations.

Chris Duncan (R-WIT), the LIMS program manager, works with the LIMS Implementation Team to install the system across a number of laboratories.  Currently, LIMS is in production in 16 labs.

According to Chris, “I have been involved with the implementation of LIMS applications in a variety laboratory environments over the last 15 years; each laboratory is unique and each implementation presents a different set of issues. The laboratories we’ve worked with at Emory are some of the most complex that I’ve seen. Having said that, this is without a doubt the most talented team I have ever worked with. We have a very challenging job and they rise to the occasion every time.”

The team consists of Kendra Bryant, Lloyd Dzinotyiwei (pronounced dzen-oh-TCHEE-way), and team leader Sharon Mason (all of R-WIT).

There is not a generic LIMS solution for any given lab so LIMS has to be configured if not customized to fit the requirements of each unique group. The team collects and elaborates these requirements, utilizing their extensive experience and broad knowledge of laboratory processes and workflows. The key is identifying the numerous little steps that lab technicians often take for granted, and translating the operational steps into the functional context of the application. This process has evolved and become significantly more effective over the last few years as the team has focused on standardizing implementation processes and documentation.

2013 has been the team’s busiest year in terms of number of labs implemented and they are beginning the Yerkes project, which is a very complex 5-year Malaria Host-Pathogens Interaction Center (MaHPIC) project that collaborates with UGA, GA Tech, and the CDC. This project involves LIMS and Redcap (a product managed by Jeff Weaver, also in R-WIT) data in order to build an aggregate database. The data handling and transfers are related to the FISMA compliance. Jeff Weaver’s data management team is working closely with Sam Phillips (R-WIT) on construction of the data store along with the data transfer to UGA. Tim Morris (R-WIT Director of Research) is providing the vision and direction for the project.

Added Chris, “This project is our first step towards what we feel is going to be our future direction and implementation “Standard Model” as we apply a more comprehensive enterprise-level approach to our implementations. Rather than looking just at the bio-repository functionality that we provide with the LIMS, we are looking toward an integrated cross-platform approach to provide a complete solution to the labs (our customers), leveraging not only the benefits of the various applications that our division provides, but also the extensive expertise of the folks in our division.”

Besides new implementations and supporting previously implemented labs, the team is preparing for a major upgrade of the LIMS application to the next version. The LIMS is a commercial, off the shelf system that has been customized for Emory by the vendor, Thermo Scientific. The LIMS team does its own customization and extensive configuration. The upgrade will be a real challenge because LIMS cannot go into hiatus during the process as so many labs depend upon the application for day-to-day operations.

The team also receives support from DBAs Andre Bosman and Brian Popkin (both of R-WIT), who are heavily involved in the upgrade, and potentially additional assistance from Sam Philip, Shailesh Nair (R-WIT), and Jeff Weaver.

Says Chris, “The entire division works so well together and there is so much talent here; any upgrade of this magnitude is a challenge, but with this team we feel confident that we can work through this successfully.”

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