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Remote Capabilities in the World of COVID-19: Laboratory Informatics Roadmap for Encoded Therapeutics
Case Study From Astrix Technology Group
Business Sector: Biotechnology
Encoded Therapeutics Inc. (Encoded) is a biotechnology company advancing precision medicines for a broad range of genetic disorders. The company mission is to unlock new opportunities for viral gene therapy through genomics-driven discovery.
With the increasing need to establish a harmonized laboratory data and process workflow to support the rapid growth of the company, Encoded Therapeutics chose Astrix Technology Group to develop their Informatics Roadmap and Sample Management strategy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic would require a novel new approach to doing business in an unprecedented remote work environment.
To support the current and future growth of the business, Encoded recognized the need for a more robust informatics architecture. The systems used during startup mode now required more process and infrastructure to provide a platform which will continue to scale and integrate across the company.
Chad Schwietert from Encoded engaged Astrix Technology Group (Astrix) to create a comprehensive strategic plan for the future state of their informatics platform that would encompass an enterprise-wide program supporting all functions of the business. The primary goals of this initiative were to develop a strategic plan that recommended:
- An informatics strategy aligned with the company’s strategy that will provide a scalable, integrated platform to foster collaboration and access to data
- A set of candidate system architectures and a recommended Roadmap with estimated timelines and resource requirements
- A robust and scalable overarching information/data architecture
- An integrated Biorepository strategy, which was an additional scope of work added mid-stream due to an internal immediate need
With the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the normal workflow between the Encoded team and the Astrix team needed to be reassessed to accommodate a 100% remote work environment.
“Each team had an idea of what they required, but no one knew what all the teams required so that they could have cohesive integration across systems in order to advance programs. Within one hour of assessment, it was apparent to the Astrix team that a Biorepository would offer dramatic improvement. With COVID-19, it is imperative, not to mention the teams had limited bandwidth to address the scientific informatics needs! The greatest value was Astrix’s ability to help the Encoded team to harmonize our thinking and workflow to ultimately be more effective.”
– Chad Schwietert, Encoded Therapeutics
The business process assessment was performed onsite at Encoded during the customary 3-day evaluation period at the end of last year, prior to the COVID lockdown. This step of the process involved in depth interviews of each of the functional areas within the company. The primary stakeholders in each group described their current state workflows, including all material and data flows into and out of their respective groups, allowing Astrix to map and build a comprehensive picture across the entire organization. With this detailed information in hand, Astrix brings decades of scientific informatics experience to build out the requirements for portfolio rationalization and the future state laboratory informatics roadmap.
Upon completion of the assessment phase, the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the closure of all non-essential business, requiring the immediate need for all employees to ‘shelter in place’. Additional challenges to this newly forced ‘work at home’ environment included managing all of the ambient noise from day to day household activity, establishing remote communication tools, all while losing the very important team dynamic of working together in person in a common, undisrupted setting. While remote work is business as usual for Astrix, it dramatically changed the landscape for continuing the process with the broader team of Encoded Therapeutics personnel, sometimes lacking the necessary remote office setup needed to continue operations from a home-based office.
The Astrix team has been working in a distributed environment for nearly 3 decades, having key technologies in place to enable its employees to access all necessary company resources and applications in a remote capacity. Astrix was able to effectively continue communications with the Encoded team utilizing mutually compatible resources such as GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and file sharing services such as Share Sync and Box.
Creating the process workflow is achieved using Visio diagrams, which in the past were shared and edited manually in PDF format. For Encoded, utilizing Visio was not an option as It is not Mac compatible and they did not have remote desktop capabilities. Chad procured Lucid Charts to enable him and his team to be able to electronically modify the Visio diagrams, posting the revisions to a cloud-based shared folder with Astrix. Each time a document was posted, the other team members would receive automated notifications alerting them to retrieve the modified documentation. This allowed the teams to work in real time, having version-controlled documentation in a centralized workspace.
In view of the immediate adaptations that were required to facilitate continued, uninterrupted business interaction between Encoded and Astrix, the process was seamless! To quote Robert Knippenberg, Managing Director of Astrix Professional Services, “The biggest challenge lies in interacting with a large group of people who have never worked from home before. In many client environments, the necessary networks and tools have not been set up to effectively manage this process. Astrix has been working remotely for many years. All networks, applications and communication tools are already in place. Now, it is 100% remote, and yet has not really impacted the way we do business. But we are also sensitive to the fact that this is definitely a change for the customer.”
While this project is a work in progress, the Encoded and Astrix teams have been able to quickly and effectively establish a robust remote working environment. The project is on track to complete the critical future state informatics roadmap. The remaining phases which include Vendor Selection, Implementation, Training and Support are all achievable in a remote capacity as well. Astrix offers Encoded and future clients the ability for 100% remote professional services, allowing them to continue moving forward with scientific informatics needs in this time of uncertainty surrounding the future impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Astrix Technology Group Astrix Technology Group has over 25 years’ experience helping scientific organizations architect, select, implement, integrate and validate laboratory informatics technologies. Our experienced professionals have the skills necessary to help your laboratory turn data into knowledge, increase workflow efficiency, improve quality and facilitate regulatory compliance.
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