A laboratory information management system (LIMS) or Pathology Software, sometimes referred to as a laboratory information system (LIS) or laboratory management system (LMS), is a software-based laboratory and information management system with features that support a modern laboratory’s operations. Key features include—but are not limited to—workflow and data tracking support, flexible architecture, and data exchange interfaces, which fully “support its use in regulated environments”. The features and uses of a LIMS have evolved over the years from simple sample tracking to an enterprise resource planning tool that manages multiple aspects of laboratory informatics.
The core function of laboratory information management system has traditionally been the management of samples. This typically is initiated when a sample is received in the laboratory, at which point the sample will be registered in the laboratory information management system. Some laboratory information management system will allow the customer to place an “order” for a sample directly to the laboratory information management system at which point the sample is generated in an “unreceived” state. The processing could then include a step where the sample container is registered and sent to the customer for the sample to be taken and then returned to the lab. The registration process may involve accessioning the sample and producing barcodes to affix to the sample container. Various other parameters such as clinical or phenotypic information corresponding with the sample are also often recorded. The laboratory information management system then tracks chain of custody as well as sample location. Location tracking usually involves assigning the sample to a particular freezer location, often down to the granular level of shelf, rack, box, row, and column. Other event tracking such as freeze and thaw cycles that a sample undergoes in the laboratory may be required.
Modern laboratory information management system offer an increasing amount of integration with laboratory instruments and applications. A laboratory information management system may create control files that are “fed” into the instrument and direct its operation on some physical item such as a sample tube or sample plate. The laboratory information management system may then import instrument results files to extract data for quality control assessment of the operation on the sample. Access to the instrument data can sometimes be regulated based on chain of custody assignments or other security features if need be.
Modern laboratory information management system products now also allow for the import and management of raw assay data results.Modern targeted assays such as qPCR and deep sequencing can produce tens of thousands of data points per sample. Furthermore, in the case of drug and diagnostic development as many as 12 or more assays may be run for each sample. In order to track this data, a LIMS solution needs to be adaptable to many different assay formats at both the data layer and import creation layer, while maintaining a high level of overall performance. Some laboratory information management system products address this by simply attaching assay data as BLOBs to samples, but this limits the utility of that data in data mining and downstream analysis.