LabCentral is a launchpad for high potential life science startups. Think part incubator, part co-working space outfitted with functional life science labs that are shared between startups who coexist in the space. LabCentral is an interesting and complex concept and they’ve been using LabAgenda, LabArchives resource scheduling tool, for two years to keep the whole thing running.
LabCentral’s main goal is to reduce the operational burden on life science startups. Starting a business is hard no matter what sector you’re in. High overhead costs can often be the kiss of death during a company’s infancy and bootstrapping a life science business (i.e. outfitting a lab) is anything but cheap. As a 501c3 non-profit, LabCentral set out to solve this problem in the life sciences sector.
In 2013, LabCentral launched with a 5-million-dollar grant and began looking for startups who needed the kind of co-working lab community they offer. Since then LabCentral has opened a second location and built a community of 90 companies and about 500 scientists and entrepreneurs.
These scientists are developing new technologies, researching gene therapy, protein therapeutics, rare diseases, neurological diseases and even developing antibiotics. With such a wide variety of inquiry occurring under one roof, LabCentral has been challenged to provide everything from basic tools to trendy technology since day one.
LabCentral’s Lab Operations team has implemented a range of infrastructure and equipment in order to meet each of their resident companies’ needs. They’ve amassed a wide range of tools and products that help them provide each scientist with what they need to direct their research. There’s a strong focus on collaboration and community and the Lab Operations team’s decision to implement LabAgenda fits with this ethos. As Lab Manager Lyndsey Rissin said, “We need to make sure the hundreds of scientists that use our space have access to what they need when they need it while still fostering best practices and community building.” This isn’t a small or easy task.
The Lab Operations team uses LabAgenda to make the LabCentral concept work. LabAgenda, LabArchives resource scheduling tool, is at its core a pretty simple product. It allows scientists to reserve equipment and resources. LabAgenda’s customizable features and functions flex to fit users’ diverse workflows.
LabCentral researchers originally used paper sign-up sheets to reserve equipment but, “sign in sheets and booking sheets were a total mess.” With so many people depending on the functionality of LabCentral’s space, the Lab Operations team knew they needed a way to keep work rates up while minimizing downtime. “We needed automation and LabAgenda makes my life and everyone else’s so much easier,” Lyndsey said.
New scientists join the LabCentral community almost every day and Lyndsey and her team have to get newcomers up to speed in order to keep the lab’s harmony in balance. Luckily, LabAgenda is easy to use and quick to pick up.
After a short introduction, new LabCentral researchers know how to reserve equipment and get their work done with the tools they need, when they need them. From there Lyndsey and her team keep track of who is using what and how often.
LabAgenda’s usage reports make it very easy for this non-profit to see what equipment is being used the most. “As a non-profit, we don’t have a lot of capital to buy new equipment all the time. When we noticed a fluorescent microscope was constantly booked we knew that the next time there was an opportunity to receive a donation, another fluorescent microscope is what we would request and we’d have hard data to justify why we needed it.”
At LabCentral some equipment requires prep and/or tear down time in between reservations. This is all accounted for automatically in the LabAgenda booking system. Researchers can easily see how much time they need to use a piece of equipment and this increases everyone’s productivity by reducing wait times and scheduling conflicts. Researchers can take a look months into the future to see when a certain piece of equipment is booked making it easier for them to plan ahead.
On the operations side, Lyndsey and her team can even analyze where equipment should be situated in the space to avoid bottlenecks and congestion. This one detail keeps the space and everyone in it happy and free flowing. The team even uses LabAgenda to let LabCentral members know about scheduled maintenance and to send community announcements.
Another thing at the top of LabCentral’s operational to-do list is to take care of their equipment. They aren’t in a position to do anything less than take great care of their tool and they use LabAgenda to hold lab members accountable. Some equipment is restricted to a list of approved users who have been trained to properly use it. When something gets broken, the Lab Operations team can circle back and figure out what went wrong.
With LabAgenda, the LabCentral team can minimize downtime, keep track of resources and problem solve with ease in order to provide the ultimate launchpad for companies doing cutting edge research with potentially huge implications for biotechnology and human life in general.
Thanks to everyone at LabCentral for their work. To learn more about LabAgenda and to check out the new Premium Edition (as well as special introductory pricing) click here!