Making the Digital Lab a Reality at Novartis with ZONTAL


During their presentation at the 2020 Fall Allotrope Connect Conference, titled “Making the digital lab a reality at Novartis with ZONTAL”, Novartis shared the results of their recent FAIR data strategy, which used advanced data collection and analytics to enable scientists to maintain their focus on science. Novartis incorporated ZONTAL, powered by the Allotrope Data Format, as a FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) data hub in their labs, with a goal to accelerate technical development, improve knowledge management, and increase operational efficiency.

In a typical lab scenario, people have to deal with multiple systems to get the information and data they need, often conducting full sets of experiments and having limited access to past results. Scientists spend significant effort and time just gathering data before being able to get to the actual science. With a digital lab, those pain points can be removed and data can be leveraged in new ways, such as accessing past scenarios to be more predictive and run “digital twin” experiments to gauge efficacy without using lab space and time.

Knowledge is at the core of developing a product and thus needs to be managed carefully. The ultimate goal of Novartis digital lab was to create a knowledge exchange between people, leading to increased innovation and efficiency. The current way knowledge is managed, stored, and made available is cumbersome, requiring time-consuming searches for keywords or experts to share the necessary knowledge. With a digital lab, knowledge management is streamlined across the organization, leading to easier access and exchange so that scientists can focus on what matters.

Additionally, digitalization can improve operational efficiency by automating manual activities that are traditionally time and effort consuming, such as image analysis and glycan mapping. Machine learning and AI can also enable a futuristic supply chain by capturing and analyzing data across the entire process, which increases efficiency and makes sure that patients receive the right product at the right time.

To achieve these perceived benefits, Novartis implemented an end-to-end data strategy with a holistic approach that incorporated technologies along the entire value chain. These technologies collected data from operations, equipment, and systems and transformed it into interoperable information. Working with company-wide data colleagues, they found models to create data that can be used across the whole organization. After gathering and processing data to produce FAIRified data sets, Novartis used the ZONTAL platform to make the data accessible through standardized interfaces, which then allowed them to feed data back into business processes, data visualization applications, and advanced AI and machine learning platforms.

After implementing this holistic, FAIR data strategy, Novartis noted a number of benefits to using a digital lab. They were able to get a single source of FAIRified data that is available for both humans and AI systems. The process of democratization of data means that it is now easy to access, and what used to take weeks and months can now be done in hours. This allows scientists to really get into the science without spending energy gathering and analyzing data.