What does the lab of the future look like? 

Davy Petit, Senior Director of Global Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Research Business at Waters Corporation, spoke with Lu Rahman about how the life sciences industry can continue its momentum of developing life-changing drugs, therapeutics and solutions, as well as how organisations can ensure innovation and collaboration remain at the forefront as we enter into a new era of discovery. 

LR: Taking the Covid-19 experience, how can the drug discovery sector remain at the forefront on innovation as we enter a new era of drug discovery?  

DP: When I’ve seen the industry collectively approach a problem, innovation is a key element in the foundation of that response. This is a way of working that will continue in the future as we come out of the pandemic.  

I believe that the last 20 months were just a catalyst for the industry to find more innovative ways to work together and solve the problems of the future. Over time, I hope to see even more investments in innovation and the optimisation of processes to develop solutions that have industry-wide impacts.   

LR: How important is the adoption of digital tools – in terms of increasing efficiencies and getting to market faster – and how can that be encouraged? 

DP: If you want to be agile and have the power to make data-driven decisions, which are key to good practice, you need the data to be at your fingertips. This means that digital tools and data at point of decision is crucial. As for what’s next, cloud models of sharing information between pharmaceutical companies and their partners – for example, CMOs, CDMOs and CROs – are the future.   

LR: What would the lab of the future look like?  

DP: Building and managing the labs of the future relies on the continued adoption of automation and dedicated workflows. If Covid-19 taught us anything, it’s that we need to be able to respond as fast as possible and have the infrastructure to collaborate and innovate collectively across the healthcare ecosystem.  

LR: How can the adoption of digital tools and technologies impact research advancement and efficiency?  

DP: Considering some common lab questions like when a preventive maintenance based on usage is needed or what the lifetime of a separations column is, data has the power to answer. That’s why digitised automation, remote control of instrumentation, and predictive statistics on hardware are crucial as we look towards the future.  

LR: What can managers do to encourage employees to continue to challenge the status quo and break down historical barriers of the past?  

DP: The most innovative solutions and ideas are born in environments that encourage real-time and live collaboration, where risk is accepted and challenging one another is encouraged. We need to embrace change with an open mindset; whether that’s collaboration across teams, states or even countries, the industry has seen how successful cross-industry alliances and partnerships have been, particularly over the past 20 months. By offering opportunities for collaborative and open interactions, managers can encourage employees to maintain this momentum and tackle tomorrow’s problems, today.   

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