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Analytica 2024: Five Trends in the Modern Laboratory

Analytica 2024: Five Trends in the Modern Laboratory
Lab 4.0, AI, drug discovery, faster quality control and circular analytical chemistry were five emerging trends at Analytica 2024. (Credit: Hightechlab.in)

At Analytica 2024, the international trade fair for laboratory technology, analytics and biotechnology, experts came from around the world to discuss a range of key topics. Among the areas focused on by speakers at sessions and exhibitors, as well as by visitors, were current and emerging trends in the modern laboratory. MedicalExpo highlights just five of these trends.

1/ Lab 4.0

Lab 4.0 or the drive towards intelligent technology, digitalization and automation, is seeing improved efficiency, productivity and safety, while compensating for a shortage of skilled workers. Automated processes and lab robots are starting to offer high levels of precision as well as solutions for the handling of hazardous substances and contamination avoidance.

Software and hardware in Lab 4.0 are designed to be modular and flexible enough to respond quickly to individual requirements and varying sample volumes. Analytical and laboratory devices, sensors, processes and data are networked with each other and processes can be controlled via smartphones. These networks are controlled by laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and, increasingly, cloud-based solutions.

Dr. Thomas Schackel, Product Manager for Digital Lab Solutions at Eppendorf SE, discussed the importance of digital solutions for the security, storage, monitoring and tracking of samples. He said:

“A digital lab can help enable you to always be aware of what is going on in your lab—what the devices are doing—and can help you to act accordingly in a timely manner.

A digital lab can offer you 24/7 device monitoring and is connected with a notification solution, so you can be informed on your mobile phone or iPad, laptop or PC.

It offers you another level of security because the system is independent of the device and is tracking and logging all the data. It can also improve the collaboration in your lab within your team, lab or institute and with external partners because a digital solution can provide one central web-based platform.”

VisioNize Lab Suite (Credit: Eppendorf)
VisioNize Lab Suite (Credit: Eppendorf SE)

For example, the company’s VisioNize Lab Suite connects devices and offers access to a cloud-based platform. It manages recurring tasks such as performance of disinfection cycles, cleaning routines and splitting of cells and provides remote device monitoring, instant alert notifications and device documentation.

2/ Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly seen as an integral part of Lab 4.0 or the digital laboratory.

Susanne Grödl, Deputy Exhibition Director of Analytica, said:

“There is strong demand for the topic of artificial intelligence and how it can be applied in the laboratory environment, for example, when it comes to evaluating huge amounts of data or automating laboratory processes.”

With digital tools progressively used more for the collection and storage of data, AI is becoming more essential in managing the wealth of information that is being generated.

3/ Drug Discovery

AI systems are increasingly being employed in drug discovery and are seen as integral to the future of this field. Medical labs consider it a solution for speeding up the process of developing new drugs from initial concept through to clinical use.

As well as helping to automate workflow, algorithms can be used to help test hundreds of samples at pace, predict responses and manage data.  

As more and more high-quality data is generated, the hope is that machine learning will ultimately improve efficiency, accuracy, and speed, while also reducing costs in drug discovery.

AI systems are increasingly being employed in drug discovery and are seen as integral to the future of this field. (Credit: iStock)
AI systems are increasingly being employed in drug discovery and are seen as integral to the future of this field. (Credit: iStock)

4/ Faster Quality Control

Another trend is towards much faster quality control (QC) and innovative solutions in this area within fields such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, metals and food were presented at Analytica.

QC is integral to the modern laboratory and the hope is that the use of AI and the move towards Lab 4.0 will speed it up. Digitalizing laboratory data with a laboratory information management system (LIMS) can improve quality control cycle times. 

One of the exhibitors with a focus on QC was Oxford Instruments, with its high-tech materials analysis solutions. Among its products and systems were its NMR spectroscopy and time domain (TD-NMR) relaxometry solutions for optimizing quality control while enabling novel research. 

5/ Circular Analytical Chemistry 

The move towards sustainability is a major trend within the modern laboratory and circular analytical chemistry is a key element of this and was much discussed at Analytica. Professor Elia Psillakis, School of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Crete, said: 

“Circular analytical chemistry promotes resource efficiency and emphasizes the importance to circulate products and materials for as long as possible and in a sustainable manner. 

It refers to the application of circular economy principles within the analytical chemistry sector and is defined as an analytical chemistry system that aims at eliminating waste, circulating products and materials, minimizing hazards, and saving resources and the environment. 

Circular analytical chemistry encompasses the entire life cycle of products and decouples analytical performance from the rates of resource consumption. 

It extends beyond the green aspects of analytical methods, which by the way align more closely to linear economies, and requires a strong alliance of all stakeholders to transform the entire system of production, consumption, and waste. 

By defining circular analytical chemistry, we are a step closer to sustainability.”

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