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Third Wave Analytics Seeks to Build Business on Salesforce-Based LIMS Software


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Third Wave Analytics is offering a laboratory information management system for core labs that's based on the same infrastructure and user interface as the customer relationship management platform.

Third Wave, which set up shop two years ago, markets Lockbox LIMS, which it claims is the first LIMS for core labs that is built natively in the cloud in contrast to some existing systems developed as local installations and then deployed on the cloud later on. According to Savitra Sharma, Third Wave's founder and managing director, LockBox was developed in response to a perceived need in the community for more user-friendly, cloud-based solutions for managing and running data, samples, and laboratory inventory.

While working with other genomics-based companies such as Pacific Biosciences, Sharma said he noticed that while these firms' sales and marketing arms have state-of-the-art systems to sell products, labs are often stuck working with more antiquated tools that feature poorly-designed interfaces.

"I started asking myself 'Why don't they have the technology to manage the lab that as good as the sales and marketing staff in the front office have?'" he told GenomeWeb. Those thoughts sparked the initial discussions with Salesforce and led to Third Wave becoming a reseller of the core Salesforce platform and obtaining the right to develop products on the Salesforce systems. Genomics labs are the target market for its first product.

Partnering with Third Wave meshed with Salesforce's business interests. "One of their goals is to move the Salesforce technology into as many industries as possible," Sharma said. "I worked with their healthcare life science team and we looked at where Salesforce is used right now [and] where it is not used that we could move it into. The primary research market is an area that they hadn't penetrated yet and so they were open to partnering."

Third Wave considered systems from some other companies but ultimately chose to work with Salesforce because of the ease with which customers can configure the platform to suit their needs, according to Sharma. "You do not need any IT involvement to make a change to it and … you don't need to write software code to actually make a change to it," he said. Also since the system is native to the cloud, users do not have to worry about purchasing additional hardware to support an on-premise system nor do they have to worry about the costs of maintaining and updating these systems.

Furthermore, Salesforce products support a broad range of users including governments and banks whose businesses require high levels of security among other features, and labs that use Lockbox reap those benefits as well. Since Salesforce currently supports millions of users, core labs can be confident that Lockbox will scale as needed to support their research needs. They also have access to the broader Salesforce software management, maintenance, and development teams. In contrast, smaller, competing LIMS vendors might not be able to provide the same depth of support, Sharma said.

Although based on infrastructure designed for running business, Lockbox offers the same features that standard LIMS vendors offer in their systems. Salesforce's system already offered many of the features that Third Wave needed but the company did need to develop some tools specifically for genomic labs such as tools for managing samples and lab inventory. "That is all custom development work that we added to the Salesforce native tools," Sharma said.

Specific capabilities include workflow management tools that let users track and manage samples. Customers can use preconfigured workflows offered by major instrumentation vendors and they can also easily customize workflows and protocols to fit their labs' processes. They can also track which and how many samples are being run against particular workflows, including the exact time when each sample enters and exits the workflow. Investigators can view the status of research projects and track milestones and experiments across all members of their team.

Users can also create master submission records to capture high-level attributes associated with samples and then use those records to track the status of samples as they are processed. Dashboards, reports, and email alerts also help users monitor performance indicators such as time to sequence, sample turnaround time, and workflow velocity. They can also associate samples to specific instruments and reagent lot numbers. There are also tools for tracking lab inventory such as consumables and reagents, and users can generate requests to replenish lab stock within the system.

Third Wave charges an annual subscription that varies depending on the number of users. The company also offers discounted pricing for non-profit users. Customers can purchase the entire software suite or they can pay for modules so they can buy the LIMS module only or the core lab management module depending on their needs. The modules are all priced the same. Researchers don't need to be Salesforce customers nor do they need to have the broader Salesforce system implemented internally. Also, current Salesforce customers who want to use Lockbox can add the tool to their existing accounts.

Getting new users up and running on Lockbox is straightforward. Users pay for subscriptions and are then sent their log-in information. The company helps labs import information from their existing systems into Lockbox, which, depending on how much information needs to be imported, can take some time. The company will also help customers develop any interfaces and connections between local lab equipment and Lockbox using Salesforce application programming interfaces. So far the system has been used by researchers at BGI@Americas among other clients. It was also previously used by researchers at Complete Genomics.

Although Third Wave is currently focused on the genomics research market, the company plans to eventually develop LIMS capabilities that support other use cases. "Currently in the works are medical research lab and environmental testing lab use case[s]," Sharma said. In addition, the company is adding a module to its product that will allow core labs to bill customers via an invoicing module.

The company is also open to linking its software to sequencers and other lab instruments. Users can, for example, export data from Illumina's Basespace into Lockbox or from an ftp site as csv files but the software could also interface directly to sequencing instruments such as HiSeqs or MiSeqs, Sharma said. He noted that although Illumina already offers its own LIMS, they will likely continue to support other LIMS, as well, so customers of the company's sequencers could use Lockbox if they choose to. "Given the vast number of home-grown and third party LIMS systems installed in genomics labs today, Illumina has no choice but to continue to provide that integration capability," he said. 

Besides GenoLogics, Third Wave's Lockbox also competes with Core Informatics, whose portfolio for NGS labs includes LIMS. Core Informatics' software is used by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Biogen.