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Automation, sustainability, and other key points from the 2023 Future Labs Live conference.

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Recently, SEC had the chance to attend Future Labs Live 2023 in Basel, and we must tell you,...

Recently, SEC had the chance to attend Future Labs Live 2023 in Basel, and we must tell you, it was nothing short of a revelation. Immersing ourselves in this hub of forward-thinking minds was a real game-changer. Let's dive into some of my key takeaways, shall we?

AI: more than just a buzzword

First up, let's talk about the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We are all aware of its potential - who hasn't seen a sci-fi movie or two? But seeing AI applications in a lab setting? That's like stepping into the future. It's already streamlining processes, saving resources, and uncovering insights that might take a human age to discover.

This got us thinking. Could AI soon become an indispensable part of any lab team? And how will that change the skill sets we look for in potential candidates? These questions are essential for industry experts like us to consider as we adapt to the rapidly evolving life sciences landscape.

The fast lane for drug discovery

You know as well as we do that traditional methods of drug discovery can be tedious, time-consuming, and drain resources. But the discussions at Future Labs Live highlighted the potential of simulations and machine learning to predict drug behaviour, efficacy, and potentially save lives. Like having a crystal ball but backed by science.

Take, for example, the recent breakthroughs in AI-assisted drug discovery for Covid-19 treatment. By accelerating the discovery process, we've been able to deliver results that typically take years in a much shorter timeframe. It's inspiring to see how these technologies can genuinely make a difference.

Green is the new lab coat

James Connelly's quote during the 'Sustainability in the lab' roundtable really stuck with us, "The lab of tomorrow must be green". A simple and important statement. But what does a 'green' lab look like? Is it about using energy-efficient equipment, adopting biodegradable materials, or maybe it's about the way we organise our processes?

Whatever the answer may be, one thing is clear - sustainability is not just a buzzword. It's a commitment we need to make for our future, and it’s a topic that’s been discussed in the context of laboratories for a few years now. 

Sustainability in the lab isn’t a pipe dream, either – the GSK-funded Carbon Neutral Laboratory at the University of Nottingham is an example of how to pioneer this effort, showing us what's possible, and it’s been operating now for more than five years.

“Hey Siri, run my experiment”

Alright, let's talk robots, and AI lab assistants. The idea of having robots or cobots (collaborative robots, for those of you who were also wondering) working side by side with humans in a lab might seem a bit 'out there', but it's happening. With speakers like Thorsten Teutenberg from the Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology, Ellen Piercy who is an Automation Engineer at Unilever, and Oliver Peter who is a Group Leader for Biology and Technology at Idorsia, the panel had us all intrigued during their talk about the benefits and implications of integrating robots into our labs—and questioning whether we’re ready to adapt.

We've seen examples in industries like manufacturing where cobots have proven to be valuable assets. In a lab setting? It opens a whole new world of possibilities and challenges.

The dawn of lab 4.0

And finally, we arrive at Lab 4.0 – a blend of all the above innovations, and a natural culmination for the conference. The exciting frontier that's reimagining the future of labs. Imagine a lab where digital tech, AI, automation, and data analytics are woven into the fabric of everyday practice. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? But it also means that our roles as industry experts need to evolve as well.

In a session led by Vasu Rangadass, CEO of L7 Informatics, the team of panellists discussed how achieving Lab 4.0 will require professionals who can acutely navigate new technologies, adapt to changing environments, and put sustainability at the forefront. The question now is - how do we nurture this new breed of professionals?

Attending Future Labs Live 2023 was like getting a glimpse into the future of life sciences. It was inspiring, challenging, and full of potential.

And as we navigate this exciting landscape, we can't wait to play our part in connecting innovative organisations with the talented professionals ready to make Lab 4.0 a reality.

Here's to the future, folks!

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