Finding a Solution for an Intractable Problem
When Amber Shao was a software engineer for a local Bay Area biotech firm in the early-to-mid 2000s, she noticed scientists at her lab constantly wasted time on one of the most important parts of the lab process: sample tracking for experiments and preparing data for analysis.
Everyone in the lab, she said, constantly inputted data into old legacy software systems that sometimes resembled 1980s-style Excel spreadsheets. The users struggled so much using the software that even doing simple common tasks took forever and wasted the scientists’ time on needless troubleshooting. And sometimes, the software would be so messed up that software engineers would be brought in to fix things, further postponing scientific work. In financial terms, this meant the labs were wasting a tremendous amount of money.
“Most Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) implementation would take six months to a year at a cost of a quarter-million to a million dollars. But the worst part was that after all that money and time spent, the users [the scientists], were still getting a solution that was hard to use...it was functional but no one liked to use it,” she says.
The story of the creation of Adurosys reflects Amber’s career struggles maintaining and rebuilding this type of inadequate software, eventually leading to her creation of new efficient commercial solutions for scientists across the country. “The industry could no longer settle for a mediocre laboratory software,” she says.
Amber’s experience in all aspects of the lab experiment process also belies her belief that she has created the best LIMS experience through innovative technology and unbeatable customer service. Her 20 years of experience in business, technical, and scientific aspects helps her offer clients the best possible solutions.
“I know the labs, I know how to do project and vendor management. And I have been involved in building the solutions for scientists [from the beginning], such as inventory tracking and fermentation planning, and that helps us create the software building blocks for sample management,” she says.
Another aspect that AduroSys highlights as a feature lacking in many LIMS systems is the ability to minimize human errors. After implementing LIMSenseTM in her clients’ lab, Amber says that her clients now save between six to eight hours a week, on average, always with fewer errors than their previous LIMS implementations.
Yet another part proving to be a key aspect of the company’s early success is the ability to create a highly configurable solution that addresses the specific needs of individual labs. Allowing software developers to plug-in custom code without having to change the underlying software is one of the advantages that they wouldn’t have previously been able to do. And the plug-and-play ability in LIMSense benefits from AduroSys’ use of the latest software technology.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Amber has been able to get this company off the ground, with such front-of-industry ideas, if one considers how far she’s come.
Originally from mainland China, Amber traveled by herself as a teen to Canada to pursue a higher education degree. Within a few years, she worked in the Bay Area at top biotech firms helping to establish her bona fides in the industry. Her sense of forward direction in her career, her hard work ethic, and the desire to create the best possible tools for her colleagues made her make the jump from software engineer to entrepreneur. It also shows that she is not only poised to create positive noise in the normally quiet lab software industry but that her work will make a difference for scientists in a substantial way everywhere.