Test tubes with a pipette
4 mins read

The Pharma Industry Strives to Become Carbon Neutral, and LIMS Can Help

August 26, 2022

The biopharmaceutical industry can become sustainable. Several leading drug developers are determined to achieve net zero carbon emissions within the next 25 years and are enhancing efficiency in all aspects of their operations to meet this goal. In the lab, using a lab information management system (LIMS) to track and manage assets, data and reports is one way to do that.

With a truly global supply chain, reducing shipping is a logical first Novo Nordisk, which plans to reach net zero by 2045, is looking to achieve net zero emissions in its transportation and operations components by 2030.

Reducing the quantity of materials used in drug development reduces the quantity of items that must be packaged and transported, and thus can significantly affect carbon emissions. Achieving that reduction starts with using what you have more effectively, but to do that, you first must know exactly what you have.

A LIMS provides that insight. It streamlines inventory management by tracking raw materials and supplies, which helps lab personnel maintain a first-in, first-out strategy for raw materials and supplies and, therefore, reduces wastage. Because fewer items need to be replaced because they expired, shipping costs and miles of transportation are reduced and less product packaging is used per project. When special handling is needed – like cold or ultra-cold storage – for those items, the carbon savings associated with good inventory management are even greater.

Tracking inventory more closely also reduces the overhead associated with these items, such as storage space. In a large operation, the ability to reduce storage space allows organizations to lease a smaller facility or to lease out part of their existing space. Either way, this can result in less space to heat, cool, light, and maintain, which reduces an organization’s carbon footprint.

One of LIMS’ key benefits is workflow automation. This reduces errors and optimizes the use of resources. For example, by linking instruments (such as liquid chromatographs or chemistry analyzers) to a LIMS, data from their operations are entered into the LIMS automatically, immediately and without the risk of human transcription errors. Accurate data enables better analysis, which reduces the need to rerun experiments and analysis. Consequently, fewer utilities, reagents, buffers, labware, etc. are required to achieve acceptable results, thus reducing the carbon footprint.

The use of digital tools, including LIMS, also can enhance innovation by making it easier to share data across the organization. Consider two labs, each working in separate cities or countries. Typically, each would maintain their data, effectively siloing it. A LIMS eliminates those silos, storing all the relevant data and analysis in one system that can be accessed throughout the enterprise. It also supports the logical organization, so related data can be stored together. Consequently, researchers have the most recent analysis at their fingertips, as well as historical data for a range of related projects.

Starlims incorporates a LIMS, electronic lab notebook (ELN), lab execution system (LES), scientific data management system (SDMS), and advanced analytics and mobility in a single application. So, by providing a single source of truth, a LIMS may reduce faulty assumptions or avenues of inquiry that sometimes result from having only partial or out-of-date information. It also can minimize duplicative experiments that otherwise may be performed by multiple labs within the organization.

Additionally, through Starlims’ built-in analytics, trends can be identified and the root cause of issues – such as performance problems or production bottlenecks – can be identified and remediated. By improving productivity, the organization’s overall carbon footprint can be reduced.

By improving efficiency, LIMS help labs use fewer resources, innovate faster and reach their goals sooner. As a result, organizations may bring their products to market sooner, thus replacing older, less efficient products, medicines, or devices and thereby further reducing carbon emissions.

Consider the carbon footprint associated with a cell or gene therapy that (for example) cures a patient after an initial injection versus traditional therapies that treat the symptoms, but not the underlying cause of the condition. The cure is better for the patient and society and reduces the greenhouse gases associated with that patient’s travel to and from doctor or hospital appointments during a lifetime. Faster innovation makes that possible.

Another benefit is in the area of regulatory compliance. LIMS that are 21 CFR Part 11 compliant can help your lab comply with cGxP, FDA, ANVISA, ISO 17025, and other standards, including your standard operating procedures.

By consolidating sample data and documentation, producing certificates of analysis for samples that meet specifications, and generating stability summary reports, LIMS naturally store many of the details needed to support investigational new drug (IND) applications. Rather than gathering data from multiple departments, it is available in one place, which saves time and resources for those preparing regulatory filings.

Whether biopharmaceutical companies have the goal of becoming carbon neutral or simply want to begin reducing their carbon footprint, big improvements are possible. Research from McMaster University in 2019 showed that the 15 most efficient biopharmaceutical companies generate just over 14 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per million dollars of revenue – a reduction from the industry average of 35 million tons of emissions per million dollars.

It is safe to say that optimizing efficiency throughout the organization reduces the carbon footprint, and a LIMS can have a definitive role in that.