Let’s face it: nobody likes dealing with a laboratory information management system. Choosing a LIMS is a major decision that will affect everyone in the lab, and once you’re using it, nobody wants to change — it’s simply too much commotion, and there’s always the risk that a new LIMS won’t connect right with your existing data.
So what’s the solution for someone who doesn’t want to make a lifetime commitment to a particular LIMS? The people at Teranode are out to tell you that it’s their modeling system — a graphical interface that lets you model experiments with icons and then takes care of the rest.
“You schematically draw out what kind of experiment you want to do, and we automate the schematic,” says Matt Shanahan, chief marketing officer. This sort of on-the-fly LIMS can be shared with other labs, and the data coming out of an experiment is linked together in a relational database to give users “a bird’s eye view” of their results. Shanahan adds, “When you complete a protocol in our environment, we’re able to publish the outcome in a semantically rich way — to make it so you can document and then make it searchable.”
Shanahan contends that his solution sure beats the most common alternative: mile-long spreadsheets. “Spreadsheets are infinitely flexible … and mobile, but they’re also very labor-intensive and semantically void,” he says, meaning that you can’t go back to data in a particular cell and know precisely what it once represented. “We capture [scientists’] designs as models. When the data goes in, all that data is semantically described by the model.”
Teranode’s technology was originally developed through two initiatives at the University of Washington — a Java simulation effort that led to a new math engine and a simulation environment, and a lab tracking effort that enabled experiments to be captured in a schematic way, Shanahan says. The company was founded in 2002 and really got off the ground the following year. In 2004, Teranode had a staff of eight and closed a Series A round for $2.6 million. Since then, Teranode has seen three product releases that brought in some $1.4 million in revenue and 12 customers, its staff has grown to about 20, and it’s in the middle of a Series B round that “will be what allows us to really grow the market,” Shanahan says.
— Meredith Salisbury