This laboratory allows scientists to conduct experiments remotely at any time
What if you could run your lab 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and increase productivity by 300% or more?
The Emerald Cloud Lab (ECL) brings this capability to scientists around the world. ECL is the only remote-controlled research facility capable of handling all aspects of daily laboratory work, from designing experiments to acquiring and analyzing data.
In a world where remote work has become the norm for many industries, scientific research has been the exception. ECL has discovered how to overcome these unique barriers to make remote working flexibility a reality for labs.
How it works?
The ECL operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Emerald Cloud Lab
Scientists who wish to use ECL’s services create an account and submit their samples to the ECL facility. Using the ECL point-and-click interface known as Command Center, users then design their experiences. ECL personnel conduct the experiments in the highly automated facility according to precise user-defined specifications. Users can track the status of experiments remotely at any time. The data is organized in the ECL Constellation platform and grows automatically as the user performs further experiments. Beyond designing experiments, the ECL Command Center offers a suite of tools for plotting, analyzing, and visualizing specific results. Multiple experiments of a user can be run concurrently, without the user ever setting foot inside the ECL facility.
“We are particularly proud of the spectacular leverage that ECL gives to scientists. It really reframes their work around Make science, and less around the logistics of science,” says Toby Blackburn, Head of Business Development and Strategy at ECL.
Scientists from the pharmaceutical and biotech industry to startups and universities use the ECL system to perform daily lab work.
What makes the ECL innovative are the solutions it offers to a laboratory’s most important challenges. “When access to 200 distinct categories of equipment is less expensive than purchasing a single piece of equipment, researchers are no longer constrained by budgets or the limitations of the organizations they work for, regardless of the place in the world where they work,” says Blackburn.
Improved productivity and efficiency
But some may wonder, “What happens if something goes wrong? If I’m not in the lab, I can’t troubleshoot or have full control over my experiments. »
ECL users can run multiple experiments simultaneously or conduct one-off experiments.
Emerald Cloud Lab
ECL shows how scientists do not need to be physically present to retain ownership of their work. “With ECL, every aspect of every experience is recorded, providing a level of control and the ability to query a previously unavailable experience,” says Blackburn. As he explains, in a traditional lab setting, solving problems or questions involves finding the scientists who conducted the experiment, obtaining additional information not written in the experiment notes, and extracting data from various sources and files. However, with ECL, all information is easily retrievable with a simple search function. “It eliminates the need to distract researchers from their ongoing work, improves the reproducibility of experiments, and speeds up investigations of outliers,” Blackburn adds. “This means that the experimental results are consistent regardless of which researcher conducted the experiment or where they are.”
According to Blackburn, ECL users have seen 5- to 8-fold improvements in productivity for individual scientists, largely due to ECL reducing the logistical tasks scientists face in a traditional lab environment.
“The most impressive thing we hear from people is that they are finally realizing that this is what it really means to run experiments programmatically. They have the power of a tool that can automate previously impossible aspects of their work and to work on higher-order problems,” says Blackburn.
How to operate a highly automated cloud lab?
The ECL houses 200 different types of high-throughput scientific instruments.
EMERALD CLOUD LABORATORY
The ECL offers access to 200 different types of high-throughput scientific instruments for a monthly fee that costs less than a single lab piece of equipment. The enormous number of experiments, inventory items, samples, and resources, combined with the uninterrupted operations of the facility, unsurprisingly present challenges for ECL management personnel. But the automated cloud system gives ECL staff the same benefits as customers. “[The system] constantly checks for errors in the code or in the execution of a given experiment, as well as the calibration or validations of any instrument,” says Blackburn. “There’s a million source data to review, and the system helps us query which ones are important at any given time.”
A perhaps more complex challenge for ECL management is educating the industry on what a cloud lab offers. “A true cloud lab offers a comprehensive set of tools. There’s a continual push and pull in what customers need to execute their particular flavor of a given experience,” says Blackburn. “We are continually developing our capabilities, and packing all of these capabilities into a general-purpose tool is the challenge of being a true cloud lab.”
ECL co-founders Brian Frezza and DJ Kleinbaum learned many lessons creating the world’s first remote-controlled lab. Now they’re sharing those lessons as part of a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to build the world’s first cloud lab in an academic setting. The CMU Cloud Lab will incorporate ECL software architecture, and Frezza and Kleinbaum, both CMU alumni, will consult on facility design, equipment installation, management, and lab operations. The $40 million project is on track for completion by this summer, and training has already begun for faculty and staff who want to use the lab when it opens. When completed, the CMU Cloud Lab could run more than 100 experiments simultaneously, 24 hours a day, every day.
“With ECL, every aspect of every experience is recorded, providing a level of control and the ability to query a previously unavailable experience.”
“The CMU Cloud Lab will democratize science for researchers and students,” said Rebecca W. Doerge, Dean Glen de Vries of Carnegie Mellon’s Mellon College of Science, in a press release announcing the collaboration.
Initially, the CMU Cloud Lab will be restricted to CMU researchers and students, with the goal of eventually expanding access to high school students, local life science start-ups and others.
The services provided by the ECL open up new possibilities for researchers. Freeing up scientists’ time from the more mundane tasks of lab work allows for brainstorming, new collaborations, and increased motivation, all of which contribute to the next big, innovative idea.