Lab managers and researchers are already experimenting with advanced technologies like AI, IoT, cloud, and edge computing to streamline operations in the life sciences industry. These technologies can generate sharper insights, automate basic routine tasks, and even create fully closed-loop lab systems.

GenAI will play an increasingly important role in the lab of the future, making laboratory technologies more accessible and intuitive. As research teams seek to streamline data collection, GenAI can help facilitate those transactions, handling large volumes of structured and unstructured data and distilling it quickly into a format that is easy for staff or other programs to understand. GenAI will be critical in virtual quality assurance, control, search, inventory, and sample management monitoring. Staff will still need to oversee operations, monitor processes, and question results, but GenAI will be an essential bridge between human staff and digital processes.

Virtual Assistants and Automated Management Support

Scientists and lab managers spend a surprising amount of time on housekeeping tasks that are essential to the upkeep of the lab but that can interfere with valuable research time. Automating tasks like inventory management and document summarization can be a relatively easy way to save time. GenAI can quickly complete these tasks with human oversight.

With its natural language processing capabilities, GenAI will build on the capabilities of earlier chatbots to create powerful laboratory virtual assistants. GenAI platforms can understand verbal and written requests better than earlier virtual assistants, making them ideal for basic tasks like creating inventory lists, logging results, or writing emails. But GenAI can also help with more advanced processing. It can help scientists summarize information for reports (written text, video, images), gather documents and organize information to make it easier for teams to analyze.

For instance, a scientist conducting a critical experiment may realize the lab is running low on a specific reagent. Instead of halting their work to manually order the reagent or finding a tablet to write down a note, the scientist can use a hands-free device to prompt a virtual assistant to order the necessary item. The order might be processed in real-time via voice-to-email automation, with the GenAI tool retrieving the exact product data, ensuring accuracy and saving time.

GenAI and voice assistants can also help with tasks like research assistance (answering basic questions about an ingredient or a procedure, gathering documentation and producing summaries), quickly providing lab staff with the information they need, reducing the risk of error throughout processes, and preventing costly distractions. These voice assistants can also be helpful when training new lab members and providing real-time support.

Track-and-Trace for Inventory and Sample Management

Integrating GenAI with electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) and track-and-trace capabilities can enable lab staff to easily track stock levels and manage orders while monitoring sample conditions, experiment status, and expirations. IoT capabilities can provide additional insights into equipment utilization, wear and tear, predictive analytics, and anomaly detection. Along with helping make processes less time-consuming, these tools can work together to help reduce errors by minimizing manual entry and allowing staff to focus on the most critical operations.

A lab manager monitoring the storage conditions of a sensitive sample could use the GenAI-powered track-and-trace feature to request records for critical factors related to the sample and its container such as temperature, humidity, and the duration of any changes. The system would then link the sample to the analyst's report, and the manager could use GPT to search and summarize the sample's status, ensuring optimal conditions and accurate tracking.

Integrating connected devices through IoT and the distributed ledger of blockchain technology can further advance these features by continuously collecting data and logging it in an immutable ledger. Food distributors and vaccine manufacturers have used similar capabilities to monitor quality throughout shipment and identify if a product has been compromised due to improper handling during the journey. Researchers could use similar setups to monitor samples both in the lab and in transit. In the lab, systems can be programmed to take corrective measures or alert staff if a sample is at risk.

Virtual Quality Assurance and Quality Control

GenAI can help with various quality assurance and control use cases, reviewing records and data, checking information against company standards and government policies to ensure appropriate language and terminology, and reducing ambiguity in language. Teams can use GenAI to draft standard operating procedures (SOPs), generate reports, review reports, conduct compliance checks, and automatically update content accordingly. This can be especially useful as regulations constantly change and labs must stay current.

Cloud Is Critical

A robust cloud foundation is essential to support the lab of the future. Technologies like AI and IoT require reliable, efficient access to high-quality data. Most labs likely have some form of cloud program in place already, but the program may not be operating at its full potential, leading to unnecessary costs or operational inefficiencies that may prevent organizations from wanting to invest in other technologies.

Cloud services providers can work with science-driven companies to extend the capabilities of existing cloud programs to support the intended upgrades associated with the lab of the future. Doing this planning upfront can free up capital that companies can then use to fund lab-of-the-future investments. It will also increase the success of the transformation by creating a roadmap that aligns with the business goals and ensuring all the necessary digital capabilities are in place to support it.

The Lab of the Future: Where Ambition Meets Impact

As scientists create future labs, GenAI will play a critical role in reducing research-related workloads. By redirecting the human effort it takes to run individual experiments, GenAI will allow labs to run more experiments and give researchers the headspace to formulate new groundbreaking research avenues.

At Wipro, we believe that combining human ingenuity with AI-powered technology is the key to unlocking the true value of AI. By working with GenAI-fluent technology partners, science-driven companies will find more opportunities to advance cost savings, explore new capabilities, and improve science.

About the Author

Syed Salman Lateef, PhD

As Head of Lab Innovation, Domain and Consulting, Life Sciences and Medical Devices at Wipro, Salman leads the development of Wipro’s Lab of the Future offerings, focused on improving productivity and efficiency for clients. Salman has over 20 years of experience in roles such as field scientist, marketing scientist and lab scientist, supporting efforts such as laboratory setup, regulatory compliance, project execution and partnership development.