Using IoT to Improve Preclinical Research Facilities

Brian Fitzgerald | April 29, 2021

Pharma Lab of The Future for animal facility Featured

The life sciences industry is one of many that rely on animal testing and research. Chemical, pharmaceutical, food, cosmetics, universities, and government agencies together spend tens of billions of dollars each year conducting animal research in order to evaluate the safety of their products. Animal test subjects are an extremely important part of scientific development, and must be properly housed, cleaned, fed, and cared for in order to provide the best research outcomes possible.

Not only are animal test subjects invaluable to scientific discovery, they are also expensive. A single research mouse can cost thousands of dollars. With all that is riding on animal research, it is important to ensure that the test subjects are properly cared for. Maintaining optimal environmental conditions is crucial for the health of animals, and is also needed in order to generate reliable research results.

If the conditions in the vivarium are not controlled properly they can adversely affect animal health, therefore compromising months of costly research. In order to do proper research scientists need to be able to rule out side effects related to the physical environment. As such, the environmental parameters in vivariums need to be strictly monitored and controlled. Because of this, Internet of Things (IoT) powered smart devices like Swittons are the ideal solution for animal research facilities.

Following are five important environmental variables that can be better managed using Swittons.

Light Levels

Keeping circadian cycles for test animals is very important, particularly during behavioral studies. A disruption in circadian rhythms can lead to a number of issues that can impact the integrity of scientific research. For example, let’s say a row of lighting has burned out in the vivarium. Instead of losing valuable time trying to figure how to reach maintenance, researchers can use Swittons to alert them with the push of a button.

Food, water, and clean-up

The care of research animals also includes feeding, watering, and cleaning up after them. Extreme fluctuations in food and water supplies can impact an animal’s metabolism, and unsanitary living environments can create illness and disease. These are all things that need to be closely monitored and quickly addressed when out of synch. Swittons enables researchers to alert proper staff when food or water is low, or when habitats are in need of cleaning.

Temperature

Controlling the temperature2 in an animal research environment is critical because keeping body temperature within normal circadian variation is necessary for animal wellbeing. Animals need to be housed within temperature ranges appropriate for the species in order to reduce stress and physiologic alteration. If temperatures are inconsistent, animals adjust physiologically and behaviorally.

This can cause the animal’s behavior and metabolism to change, greatly impacting test results.

Swittons enables research teams to trigger alerts the second temperature deviation is detected. Every second lost increases the risk to the animal.

Humidity

Humidity is essential for all animals, but can be extremely important for tropical animals and amphibians that need environments with high humidity. Relative humidity should also be controlled for many mammals. In mice, both abnormally high and low humidity may increase mortality rates. In rats, low relative humidity and temperature extremes can cause tail necrosis. When abnormal humidity levels are detected, Swittons can be used to alert proper staff.

Building Management Systems

Building management systems are used by most animal research facilities to control the environment. These are complex control systems, which are often managed by facilities managers. Because of their complexity, they can run into unforeseen problems, like equipment failures, human error, and more. To protect against this, it is helpful to have an added layer of protection to ensure that optimal conditions are kept in the vivarium. A simple mistake or blown circuit can put months of research in jeopardy.

Normally, building management systems are monitored and controlled by the facilities manager. This means that the scientists performing research most likely don’t have access to environmental controls. In such cases, an independent, smart device like Swittons is the best option for scientists to be able to alert the facilities team when something is wrong with the environment.

More about Swittons

The Swittons software platform is designed to provide customers with a modern, flexible user interface that not only integrates with other systems, but other IoT devices as well. This flexibility gives research facilities the power to create their own workflows, configured in the way that works best for their specific use case. This means Switton device can be uniquely programmed, even within an individual facility, so end users aren’t forced into workflows that don’t fit their job function. In addition, Swittons take up very little space, so they are conveniently available and work seamlessly within research environments.

Swittons devices are designed to be compatible with existing IT systems and integrate with research support platforms and services. Swittons also features a powerful backend portal and reporting system, where administrators can view user clicks in one convenient location. The devices are even able to trigger phone and video calls via built-in integration with Microsoft Teams3.

Each Swittons device can be custom branded and programmed for a wide range of scenarios. In animal research settings, Swittons fills the gap between the scientist and the facilities team by automating functions such as:

  • Trigger equipment maintenance
  • Open equipment service ticket
  • Indicate equipment availability
  • Trigger a video call
  • Notify of temperature control deviation
  • Notify of spill/cleaning needed
  • Equipment occupancy notification
  • Reorder and re-stock food, water, and other supplies
  • Summon a technician
  • Alert in an emergency

Swittons is built on Microsoft Azure4, and each device comes out of the box ready and automatically connects through a Wi-Fi or GSM cellular connection. More information about Swittons is available HERE.

Swittons is powered by the technology and expertise developed by P360. Delivering a 360-view through the pharma physician, laboratory, and patient ecosystem, P360 designs and deploys capabilities that ensure the highest efficiencies and returns on sales operations, data management, clinical trials, patient centricity, and IoT innovation. To learn more about P360, visit P360.com.

References

1: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/guide-for-the-care-and-use-of-laboratory-animals.pdf

2: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software

3: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/