As labs work their way into the IoT and the cloud, more than one company will develop ecosystems. At LabCloud in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Charles Beyrouthy, CEO and cofounder, says, “We want to put the entire research operation—from data management to procurement—all in one system in the cloud.” Perhaps most surprising of all, Beyrouthy wants to help researchers obtain that for free.
To accomplish this feat, Beyrouthy and his colleagues teamed up with lab equipment vendors to get them in front of firms that might use their products. Today, more than 50 vendors work with LabCloud, and that collaboration funds LabCoud’s ability to provide the resources for companies and scientists. But LabCloud is first and foremost about the users. As Beyrouthy says, “We don’t produce a feature unless we can see somebody using it at an operational level.”
LabCloud also intends this ecosystem to be easy to use. “As a single scientist, getting started is pretty simple—just sign up and you can use the lab notebook, data analysis, and inventory features that are preconfigured for you out of the box,” says Igor Romashko, chief technology officer at LabCloud.
Things get more complicated with more users, however. “The complexities usually kick in when you need to set up your team in terms of creating accounts and user roles, and setting appropriate permissions as required,” Romashko says. “We have wizards or guides to help users on that front.”
In fact, LabCloud provides a range of tools to help users, including “three online user trainings per week that focus on specific aspects of the software in more detail and go over the advanced features, as well as addressing client-specific questions and best practices,” Romashko says. “We also offer complimentary consulting on the use of our software for client-use cases.”
Today is an opportunity that our team has been looking forward to for a very long time. Today, we are announcing the re-launch and new inception of www.labcloudinc.com. Since its inception, LabCloud Inc has been looking to disrupt an industry that, we believe, can do better and provide scientists the ultimate tools that they need to succeed.
The laboratory informatics and procurement space have been playing compromises with customers that we feel, if research is to progress and science is to reach its full potential, cannot be compromised. Let’s face it, compliance, security and a fully integrated system that companies can access on day one are staples of the everyday for companies. Today, we end that compromise. Today, we are releasing the first system in the world that is a fully integrated platform that incorporates all the needs of your laboratory in one place in a compliant a manner; a laboratory notebook, a data management system, an inventory system and a procurement system… all for free.
For too long, the industries I have referred to, have placed a high premium on the cost of their systems. It is, because of this, the diligence process, audits and funding rounds which are essential to their growth have been long, tedious and uncompromising. According to the U.S. Census, 45% of companies in the life science and healthcare R&D space that failed last year cited enormous difficulties in finding their data and 35% of companies cited overspending on equipment and consumables due to lack of inventory controls. This to us, as former scientists is unacceptable. In an industry that has become flooded by programmers and data people who have never been in science or know what science is about, we think it’s time to bring the excitement back into it and make it sexy again. Put another way, we came from the bench and we would never give you something we wouldn’t use ourselves. I guess it seems elementary but for some reason the industry hasn’t done it. So we have.
For the past three years, we have undergone an amazing learning experience. We have learned from the most important people; You, our users and customers. It is because of you, that we are standing here today. The software that is available today is because of the motivation of the users and from the very beginning, LabCloud had the approach of putting the customer first. Today, we have put the expectations of customers on the forefront and a produced a product that is both powerful and easy to use and we are releasing it to the world.
Today, LabCloud is ready to provide you with all of its capabilities. It has been a long road and we made our mistakes and learned from them. In this continuing journey, it is important to recognize the people and institutions who helped advise us and build us up to who we are today. We would first like to thank our investors, Lorraine Jones, Alexey Wolfson, (our first Investors) and Investors Collaborative (our first institution) (Andreas Randow, Leonard Hafetz, William Asher & George Koether) for placing your faith in us and giving us an opportunity to grow and succeed.
To the VDC, I would like to personally thank William Brah and the VDC Team, the first person who put faith in us as a business and the first incubator that helped us define what it meant to be a tech startup. In addition, a special thanks to the following people who made our experience there special both current/former residents and EIR’s; Richard Anderson, Linda Mello and Team (Symmetric Computing), James Douberley (SQZ Biotech), Alexander Lazarev (Pressure Biosciences), David McFarlane (Litmus), Sasanka Atapattu, John Harvey & Team (LaunchSource), Jim Counihan (Prism Ventures) , Jim Idelson (DesigNET), Nishikant Sonwalker (IntellAdapt), David Howe and Stephen Chiricosta (Luminacare) and John Hamilton who joined our board of advisors. To the team at InTeahouse, I would like to thank Laura Steglich and Xin Liu and Kristophe Diaz (who is now at Cohens Veterans Bioscience) who gave us a chance to be part of an amazing experience, be part of Inteahouse’ first cohort in Cambridge and help us accelerate our growth.
In business, you always have that first client that makes or breaks your concept. I would like to extend a personal thanks to our first shared space client and our closest collaborator to making LabCloud a true success, LabCentral. To Megan Keegan, Celina Chang, Abby Johnson, Thierry Leclerc, Patrick Tucker, Clancy Steele Gonzales, Lyndsey York, Maggie O’Toole, Peter Parker, and Johannes Fruehauf, all we can say is, Thank you. You are the best partners we could have ever asked for. You have been a guidance for us in order to make science better and we appreciate every bit of your insight, kindness and most all patience while we worked to make it happen. You took a chance on us and we are only happy to keep delivering. We are a far cry from where we were and we only have admiration for your efforts on a daily basis in expanding the opportunities for companies to pursue their hopes and dreams. We look forward to expanding and growing with you in the future.
As LabCloud grew, vendors came on our platform. And some of those friends happened to be vendors. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our vendors. We would like to thank all of our vendors who have been so gracious in helping us and working with us. To those of you who would like to see who those are, please check them here.
Lastly, I would like to thank our clients, team, friends and families. Without you, we cannot do what we do. It’s not easy to run a company but today, we are showing you the results of our efforts and we thank you for your continued support, care, and patience. We wish you all the very best.
On-ward and Up-ward to the LabCloud we go.
All the Best,
Charles P. Beyrouthy (CEO) & Igor Romashko (CTO)
I’ll start off with this. I am not in academia and do not have a PhD. I am an engineer and scientist who turned into an entrepreneur with a background in academic and industry research. My job is to work with organizations in research. I started a company to build a product that will change the way science is done and turn a profit. I started it with my co-founder because I cared about science and wanted to see organizations succeed among the myriad of operational issues they encounter in their labs on a daily basis. I find it exciting to see products that change the lives of people and how they work, in whatever industry they are in, which is why I have find companies so fascinating. But are all organizations in science and research approaching innovation the same way? To that effect, I would like to have a frank conversation on the following topic; are academics producing the kind of results that are producing products that government, industry and the general population demand for the betterment of everyday life?
The Answer; Well it depends. For the majority of scientific research, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health are the largest entities funding academic research in the United States. They have funded everything from the Human Genome Project to the world's first supercomputer. However, in an economy that is desperate for innovation and job creation, the intense directive to these organizations has been to fund organizations that have the potential to produce these results. This falls in direct conflict with the academic status quo.
In academia, the majority of research is done by professors, graduate students and post-doctoral associates with minor contributions from undergraduates and the majority of research in academia can be considered theoretical research at best. In other-words, this is research that may be interesting but does not actually produce a tangible product. Don’t get me wrong, some of this stuff is really exciting. But this is not what science in America needs right now. It’s not something industry is going subsidize and more importantly, the government does not want to either. In America, we need jobs. We need success stories. We need real, tangible innovation. For this, it’s time to look at the statistics. (See here)
So let’s talk about life sciences. In the life sciences, the NIH is the most prevalent funding organization. In academia, a large majority of funding comes from this organization. In 2015, their estimated budget is just above $30 Billion USD. (See here) In 2004, this budget was closer to $40 Billion USD implying a reduction in appropriations at a rate of $1 Billion USD per year. This is not to mention that while a budget may increase a maximum of 0.7% per year, the cost of doing business (or in this case the cost of doing research) is rising at a rate of 2.9% a year. This has created a stir and as a result, organizations in the sciences have been trying to cut their losses. The biggest losers (you guessed it) are academic institutions. A perfect example is the University of Virginia, where their grant awards have dropped from $252 Million USD to $187 Million USD. And federal and state governments don’t look like they are going to change direction on these policies. In short, universities across America are having conversations with their professors on ideas on how to go forward…and it’s becoming difficult.
In this environment, if academia is suffering, who is doing well? One Word: Start-ups. The government has been showing an enormous favoritism to start-ups because of their job creation record. They have been working on projects such as scaling solar power and electric cars. They have been investing in cyber security and strategic defense. In Massachusetts, a cradle of life science, start-ups have been funded by millions of dollars of funding for research and product development in cutting edge drug and medical device research that out paces the best academic research institutions. In addition, they are some of the States’ largest job creators, attracting the best talent from all over the world and making Boston and Cambridge some of the most innovative cities in America. This is not to mention that private companies and investors have been investing profusely into these new companies with the expectation of high returns. The best part; they are just as trained and as capable as their academic counterparts. In an economy where the majority of manufacturing is now being done abroad, start-ups have been driving the resurgence of innovation in America. And this scares academics to no end.
Academics and Industry have a complicated relationship. Industry values the academic world for its achievements and technological know-how which has prompted many successful partnerships. However, industry has been looking for financial returns more than ever. This is why there has been a reduction of partnerships over the past 5 years. Academics (to be honest), have a real reservation of working with industry experts. Within university walls, academics are able to maintain their independence and to some extent, set their own expectations and their own time table. As long as you have tenure and funding, you really have nothing to worry about. When adding a fiduciary responsibility to the mix where they become responsible to a corporation for their results, many academics have expressed the sentiment of enslavement or as one professor put it at a recent university meeting I attended, “we are afraid of being gagged.” I have two words for people who think this way; Wake up. If academics take money of any kind, they should be held accountable. They, like research scientists at private companies, should be responsible for the results they bring.
In short, from a capital standpoint, I believe that academia is no longer fundable (and I don’t think I am the only one). I’m sure this is a controversial comment. Ask a financial capital expert and the academic stock is considered a “long term, high risk” at best (and they are not alone with that opinion). I’m sure this is a controversial comment as well. And yes, there are exceptions. However,the past trends do not lie. Waste and lack of results at these organizations is nothing new and there are multiple papers published on this topic. (See here). This is unacceptable in an industry setting. In that regard (in all honesty), the bailing out of General Motors was a better investment. It saved millions of jobs and tax payers got their money back, something that the majority of academic projects cannot promise. I think it’s time to save tax payer dollars and invest in start-ups and companies who are developing the jobs and the applied technologies of the future. And if academia wants to be a part of this phenomenon (which I think is in the next 10 years is going to prove inevitable), I think academic labs should partner with them. As a matter of fact, I think it should be mandated. And to that effect, university labs will be able to indulge in this emerging market and create a strategy of success for the future.
For example, ask MIT and Stanford. They are doing it already…and they are not worried about federal or state government funds. They are investing into the future by leading from behind and creating a formula to rapidly take technology from their labs and bring it to industry. They are working with start-ups and their founders and succeeding on a tremendous scale. Conclusion: Universities need reform to stem the decline and academics need to put pride aside, build products of the future and learn to work more closely with their industrial counterparts, lest the concept of a research university ceases to exist in all but a few, innovative places.
This article was originally published by UMass Amherst in May 2015
LabCloud: Fast-Growing Laboratories and Vendors Eager to Reach Them
Research labs spend more than $35 billion a year on laboratory equipment and supplies. But as big companies restructure their research and development to reduce costs and risks, they rely more and more on research done by smaller companies. These smaller labs are a hard-to-find and valuable population for the makers of lab equipment and supplies.
Nowhere is this emerging market more apparent than at LabCentral, a coworking space in Cambridge for two dozen startups. Together, Lab Central and LabCloud are learning how to meet the needs of these fast growing labs and lab supply vendors eager to do business with them.
The VDC interviewed LabCloud founders, Igor Romashko and Charles Beyrouthy, to get a more in-depth look at the lab management software company and its progress-to-date.
VDC: What’s ground breaking about LabCloud?
CB: I’ll let Sonya from New Worker magazine answer that: “LabCloud isn’t the first to take a shot at this market. Other companies (e.g., Y Combinator-backed Quartzy) offer online lab notebooks and procurement but it is difficult to create the right combination of infrastructure, utility, and intuitive integration with laboratory tasks, all in a tool that scientists enjoy using.”
VDC: What was your inspiration for LabCloud?
CB: We realized that the fastest growing demographic of the life sciences space was startup labs comprised of less than 35 people. These labs did not necessarily have the infrastructure in place to run as efficiently as possible. Many lacked a LIMS (Lab Information Management System), and given their size, cost-effective access to multiple vendors of labs supplies. We saw there was an under served market opportunity and we decided to provide a solution to address it. In a nutshell LabCloud created a solution which provides a LIMS to these small labs and just as importantly, a means for lab supply vendors to reach this very fast-growing market. LabCloud’s platform provides a win-win for these two entities.
IR: It was to create an operating system for the lab because what’s out there just doesn’t work. All of the parts can interact, enabling startups to achieve Quality By Design instead of the ad-hoc research methods in place at most small labs. But that doesn’t mean that the software can’t be intuitive at the same time.
CB: For me, this project was personal because after working in lab after lab, this issue became an impediment to my success and one of dire importance. And in that light, when we built our platform, we built it with the vision that a scientist lives and breathes their work and so should the software he or she works with. It is tapping into the inner subconscience of the scientist and not necessarily changing what they do, thereby disrupting their workflow, but rather how they do it.
VDC: How’s your design partnership with LabCentral going?
CB: Over a $1M worth of lab consumables, equipment and office supplies have been processed through LabCloud’s solution and both the labs and the vendors are thrilled with their experiences and the outcomes.
IR: We learned a lot from working with them and developed a whole new business model that we are now deploying outside of LabCentral. It was a crucial point in the history of our company and we are glad we made the choice to work with them – we learned a lot and it shaped our business into what it is today.
VDC: Why are you are flying under the radar?
IR: It’s a question of timing for us. We can see demand growing for our solution and we have to make sure we are able to support this large pent up demand and volume of transactions before we make this publicly available. The fact is we have an overwhelming amount of interest. We want to make sure that we can provide the same high quality experience to all of our clients.
VDC: How did LabCloud evolve since it has been at the VDC?
CB: John Hamilton has been outstanding and has been a great inspiration to all of us. He is an amazing mentor that is patient, understanding, and willing to go beyond the call. We liked him so much, we asked him to be on our board and he agreed.
IR: They have asked the really hard questions, and we are glad they did. It takes a lot to take an idea and make it into a product, and it takes a lot more to make a product into a revenue-generating business.
VDC: How did you guys meet?
CB: We met in the fall of 2007 at UMass Amherst and based on having a lot in common we became friends very quickly.
IR: After graduation I reached out to him about what I was working on and he said, “I wish I had this when I was in college.”
VDC: How do friends deal with business disagreements?
CB: It is a respectful environment but one with some great debate leading to great results and, and yes, the occasional row. At the end, he is also one of my best friends, and while business is involved, I believe we can take on any challenge together.
IR: Well, we both realize that the other has a point. The key is to come to a mutual consensus and we both know that.
Anyone who has picked up a pipette in the name of science might recognize their laboratory space as a coworking environment. Researchers share equipment and reagents, leverage group purchasing for discount prices with vendors, and often benefit from the expertise of their colleagues working at the next bench over. This cooperative environment enables scientists to more efficiently perform experiments and make groundbreaking discoveries.
LabCloud Inc., a company born out of the coworking space in the UMass Boston Venture Development Center, aims to provide a fully integrated platform that incorporates all the different aspects of operations in the lab including sample tracking with barcode labels, scheduling of shared equipment, and task management. Their web-based lab management system is at the heart of LabCentral, a coworking laboratory space in Cambridge that is home to more than two dozen promising life science startup companies.
An increasing demand for a web-based lab management system like LabCloud comes as a result of major changes in the industry. “There’s been a market shift where most of the companies that are known for doing R&D (research and development) are not doing R&D anymore. They are mitigating their internal risk by moving over their R&D operations to small and medium sized companies,” says Charles Beyrouthy, CEO and co-founder of LabCloud Inc. However, these smaller companies generally cannot match the infrastructure found in the major biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
Large biotech and pharmaceutical companies generally establish a strong infrastructure with in-house proprietary Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) to track inventory, samples, and data, with barcodes affixed to every tube. Such systems are expensive to develop and maintain. For academic labs and small companies that cannot afford the cost, the lack of infrastructure increases inefficiencies and the occurrence of errors. Mistakes in ordering or unexpected maintenance requirements of crucial equipment can easily delay experiments for days or weeks costing money and slowing results.
“They are expecting the same quality of research at a lower cost and with a much weaker infrastructure,” Beyrouthy explains. “This is an emerging trend, which is why you’re seeing many of these shared spaces coming up such as LabCentral.”
“The research aspect of it is beautiful, it’s exciting. Everyone who gets into this industry is a humanitarian in their own right. But for those purposes, everybody still wants to get a return on their investment.” That, says Beyrouthy, is where LabCloud comes in.
The company intends to solve this infrastructure problem for small companies with its free web-based lab management platform. In the process, they are helping facilitate the next generation of coworking laboratory research spaces.
“LabCloud started when I saw the same problems occurring over and over again,” says LabCloud co-founder Igor Romashko. He earned his B.S. in computer science and biochemistry from University of Massachusetts Amherst and went on to study bioinformatics. “I was hired [by a pharmaceutical company] as a software engineer to build databases. But what they really needed was one integrated system that almost acts as an operating system [for the whole lab]. Essentially, if everything is connected then it’s a lot easier to get everything done.”
Through his experience in microfluidics and extracellular matrix research, Beyrouthy has an insider’s view of how researchers work on a day to day basis. As a result, one of LabCloud’s key features is a user-friendly electronic lab notebook. “How does one actually take scientific notes? We’re incorporating people being able to write things down, physically. Tablet and pen. People like to draw things. They may not like to type them,” he said.
For coworking laboratories like LabCentral, LabCloud’s platform consolidates purchasing for member companies, enabling them to receive group purchasing price quotes from vendors. These group purchasing rates are one of the major reasons for a company to join a coworking lab space. The platform also handles scheduling for shared space and equipment, reducing inefficiency and protecting against one of the largest potential downfalls of coworking-based lab research.
“We try to incorporate the data management and the procurement and the logistics part of the R&D experience onto one platform in a fully integrated fashion,” says Beyrouthy. On the procurement side, comparison shopping and purchaser authorization are designed to make ordering supplies simple and efficient. Integrated inventory management enables simple reorders, and package tracking is linked to the platform along with automatic invoicing and expense reporting.
LabCloud currently works with laboratory consumables and R&D supply vendors of all sizes and industries. For the vendor, who pays LabCloud a commission on sales, this system works almost in reverse with built-in analytics and a suite of targeted marketing tools.
Of course, LabCloud isn’t the first to take a shot at this market. Other companies offer online lab notebooks and procurement but it is difficult to create the right combination of infrastructure, utility, and intuitive integration with laboratory tasks, all in a tool that scientists enjoy using.
“A lot of times people look at these systems as if they are a burden. Most of them are,” said Beyrouthy. “We don’t want it to be a burden. We’re former scientists. We get it. We were there. We lived it. We don’t want to change the way scientists work. We just want to make it easier.”
For more information, visit www.labcloudinc.com.
For more on companies, organizations and projects created by people who cowork, check out our series Made by Coworking.
Image credit: Photo used with permission from Venture Development Center, via flickr
Governments may need to tighten the regulatory screws on SaaS vendors to make them be more transparent and forthcoming about their security practices.
Until then, it will be hard for health care companies in particular to fully trust cloud software vendors, according to speakers at the EU-U.S. ehealth Marketplace and Conference in Boston on Wednesday.
Depending on customers to audit cloud vendors to ensure that their security and privacy measures comply with U.S. government regulations on protecting sensitive data is inadequate, one of the speakers said.
“The best we can do right now is a checklist,” said Chris Davis, a Verizon senior architect whose job entails ensuring that the company’s cloud services meet the data security regulations of various national governments. Technology, however, changes rapidly and checklists soon become dated, he said.
To properly gauge the effectiveness of a cloud vendor’s security policies, customers should be able to examine the company’s risk management practices. However, cloud vendors lack a reason to be this transparent. Instead, said Davis, they sign documents saying they comply with laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the U.S., which governs the sharing and protecting of people’s health information. The government could pass laws that encourage the exchange of cloud security practices by vendors, he said.
Companies from various industries are already collecting reams of information for projects related to big data analysis, but aren’t sharing and studying this data for security matters.
“It’s a threat to all industries, not just health care,” said Davis. “Security should be transparent and operate in the background.”
Most of the cloud products are so new there aren’t government regulations for specific use cases, said Charles Beyrouthy, CEO of LabCloud, a Boston company that develops SaaS (software as service) products for small and medium-size research laboratories. The government could help by developing standards for different data uses, such as in a laboratory or for data related to ehealth.
The same method of financial penalties and rewards that compelled hospitals to adopt electronic health records for meaningful use in patient care could be used to get cloud vendors onboard with sharing security data, said Davis.
“The role of government is to move toward that transparency and data sharing,” he said.
Governments could also pass legislation that gives people more access to the data companies have collected on them and the ability to control it, such as correcting wrong information, said Ralph Zottola, CTO of the research computing division at the University of Massachusetts.
“People are smart and are willing to participate but they need to feel they’re not being abused,” he said. This applies to all industries, not just health care, he said.
But government laws alone won’t increase cloud computing use in the health-care space. The SaaS industry could do more to make its services intuitive to use and better suited to the needs of specific health researchers, like those who work in labs.
Giving people the ability to control their data in the cloud is a design issue, not a security problem, said Davis, who added that some user interface designs are clunky.
“There’s still a significant percent of the population that aren’t technologically literate and can’t use these services,” he said.
Cloud software developers may not realize that health researchers need applications that have audit functions to ensure that workers are complying with regulations, said Beyrouthy.
“The software has been designed by software professionals” and that can prove problematic in the highly regulated health-care industry, he said.
Instead of using industry-specific services consolidated onto one platform, scientists use Microsoft Word and Excel for document management and multiple platforms for storing data.
“Fifty to 70 percent of the time scientists are managing stats instead of doing actual work,” said Beyrouthy.
As for how much of the health-care industry has taken to using cloud services, the answer varies depending on the definition of cloud computing. Hospitals haven’t been eager to roll out SaaS services, said Davis. Among individual care providers, however, adoption rates are higher, especially with consumer-focused services like Dropbox.
“I talk to a number of doctors who unknowingly use iCloud,” he said, referring to Apple’s storage and backup cloud service.