Overcoming the challenges of migrating your chemistry ELN to the cloud


An informative look at the transfer of your legacy chemical knowledge management system to a modern SaaS platform and how it can transform your business

Many companies have spent years investing in their on-premise applications, with the associated research data and intellectual property being a valued corporate asset. It’s expected that companies will want to leverage this investment within new modern applications that are web enabled (for easy consumption of data) and more analytically driven.

With a common trend of IT budget restrictions driving a consolidation of systems, organizations are looking to have a lower total cost of ownership, while maintaining – if not increasing – the value from their data. Hence, it’s not practical to continue the past practises and continue to invest into old technology that will have a finite shelf life. Rather, it makes more business sense to implement new technology, with a goal to leverage and capitalize on the existing intellectual property, while providing new functionality to the end users, where the impact will be the greatest.

The influencing decisions for new technology aren’t just rooted in IT. The world of chemical R&D is being shaped by the rise of synthetic biological compounds and by the increased usage of externalized research with CRO partners. As such, the demands on your business will change, and the users’ expectations of the software will increase to meet these demands.

So why continue to invest in applications that will be a barrier to your agility to adapt to changing environments?

Why should you move to E-WorkBook Chemistry in the cloud?

The E-WorkBook Cloud platform is a modular product suite, which provides
end-to-end capabilities to support and leverage your research, so you get everything from one provider delivered in a single intuitive SaaS interface. The platform is built using modern, proven technology, to provide both robustness and longevity to grow with your business needs.

IDBS has deep domain experience in chemistry, having worked with pharmaceutical, consumer goods and industrial chemical companies, such as Achillion, Moderna, Vertex, Cytokinetics, Vernalis, Esteve, L’Oreal, BASF and Shell, to support Research and Development activities. E-WorkBook provides dynamic improvements in both the speed and quality of data capture, as well as a reduction in the number of repeated experiments, helping to improve IP capture and reduce cost.

As scientists ourselves, we understand the needs of the organic chemist. By directly engaging with customers and stakeholders, E-WorkBook Chemistry has been developed to be intuitive to use, capturing the precise workflows of
a synthetic chemist.

Providing the most comprehensive stoichiometry engine on the market, E-WorkBook Chemistry gives the user the flexibility to lookup reagents, automate the capture of procedure and Health & Safety, create and manage analytical results and initiate registration events to 3rd-party systems.

IDBS has a strategic partnership with ChemAxon, who are regarded as the world-leader in cheminformatics, providing a respected common format for data longevity. IDBS wrapped this distinctive technology into the E-WorkBook platform enabling IDBS to leverage their expertize in the representation and storage of complex chemical and biological structures across a wide variety of industries – from classical organic reactions, to more complex organometallics, polymers and complex biological structures with the new HELM format.
With this partnership, we proactively address future concerns and have forged a best-in-class solution for chemistry.

IDBS recognizes that integrations are an important part of the chemists’ landscape of applications, and E-WorkBook Chemistry can utilize ChemDraw, BioviaDraw and MarvinSketch as external editors. Moreover, our comprehensive APIs allow for reagent lookups to be configured to access both in-house databases and external resources, such as ChemSpider and ChemACX, and integrations to registration systems such as ChemAxon and Perkin Elmer.

Assess your current situation

Now that you’ve heard more about the business justification reasons, let’s look at the steps you’ll need to take.

Start by establishing your desired end-point and objectives. Speak to the chemists and ratify their needs for new functionality and usability, against your needs to consolidate and harmonize IT systems, and finally from a forward-looking cloud platform perspective.

Assess the requirements in terms of importance to the business with the associated cost – whilst it sounds great to reproduce a highly customized solution, this will come at additional effort and expense. Decide on the scope
of work by reviewing the following high-level aspects:

  • The existing infrastructure and current technical environment of your legacy system i.e. the database platform and the system specifications for hardware and operating systems. Are these at risk of being de-supported in the future? How much could you save by deprecating these and moving to the cloud?
  • What are the functions and features that have the most value, which are most commonly used?
  • What are the key integration points in the chemistry ELN system – are these simply to a registration system, or are there integrations to Health
    & Safety, inventory or procurement systems that are required?
  • Who are the key stakeholders in terms of data entry and data consumption? Are these all internal chemists, or will data be shared with external collaborators (if so, to what extent?)
  • Is it worth starting anew with a different system, or is there a need to migrate legacy data? Does information already exist in a data lake for searching, or would the index of chemical structures and metadata
    need to be regenerated? Will some of the legacy system be maintained,
    or will it be completely removed?

With your business requirements in place, work with IDBS to determine
a strategic plan to move forwards. We have experienced business consulting and professional services teams who have assisted customers determine the “as is” and “to be” environment and helping to overcome the technical hurdles of a migration. What would be the cost of turning a blind eye and doing nothing now, against the cost to improve the situation by creating a modern research platform?

How you would change?

Once you have determined your strategic process for migration, the next stage is to understand how it can be achieved.

Legacy synthetic chemistry experiments, by virtue of their nature, are composed of information at an experimental, metadata and  molecule/reaction levels. Depending on the extent to which information transfer between systems is required, at the simplest level, legacy experiments can be published in PDF format and batch imported as new experiments into E-WorkBook. The PDF format provides a snapshot of the original experiment, which can be used to retain the intellectual property. PDF & Microsoft Office documents are automatically indexed by E-WorkBook, providing immediate textual search capability.

Of course, chemical structures are useful handles for a search query, and provide a direct route to be able to access the experiments of interest. ChemAxon is experienced in helping large corporate pharmaceutical and industrial chemistry customers to migrate the chemical indices of molecules and reactions from other formats, and structure cartridges and formats into the JChem format. This modern technology can capably manage a wide variety of formats from Isis, Perkin Elmer, Accord, Tripos, Daylight etc., providing performant searching across molecule and reaction queries.

The final element to migration is the metadata of the stoichiometry experiment from the legacy system such as identifiers, yield, purity, supplier information etc. This information can be useful for more advanced Boolean queries that combine metadata with chemical structure e.g.:

show me all reactions where substructure=X and yield >90%

This information would be extracted from the legacy system using a publishing service to output a XML file that can be parsed to populate the comprehensive chemistry data model of E-WorkBook.

Eworkbook Chemistry Eln 700x399 1

Handling the change management

In contrast to a complete rewrite of an existing in-house system, or continued investment in unsustainable technology, migrating legacy applications makes good business sense, and is an effective way to retain corporate knowledge.

It is important to be aware of the change management aspects of a new system, as IT projects can and do fail due to poor project planning, scope creep, and unclear objectives.

With scarce resources for projects, it is important to ensure that the deployment and migration is completed in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Setting expectations and getting management engagement from the outset is important, and it helps to break down the project into defined stages with regular milestones, as this will help to demonstrate progress to stakeholders.

Engagement with the end-user community is vital, and allocated resources should include both the “innovators”, technology enthusiasts who want to be the first to try, and the “early adopters” who are visionary and able to align the technology with current opportunities. If guided correctly, these two communities of users will act as evangelists for change amongst their peers and help to encourage those who are more conservative or resistant to change.

Even with a successful migration, the platform itself will be new and there needs to be a defined process to create awareness,  understanding and trial usage, before adoption and internalization can occur. This process can take time, and can be aided by demonstrating functionality that would help the user to agree that the new system would be advantageous. Shaping both the perceived usefulness and ease-of-use with regular updates helps to influence the attitude and hence the behavioural intent to accept the technology.


The migration of applications to new technology can sometimes be difficult, and although it may require investigation and planning, it should not be a tedious exercise.

Rather, the conversion should yield an effective and efficient solution, that is future-proof and provides a demonstrable benefit to the organization. With proper planning and effective project milestones, the migration to the modern technology platform of E-WorkBook will ensure success and will return value for many years, thus allowing the business to utilise the dynamic platform for both present and future business drivers.

At IDBS, our purpose is to empower the world’s most forward-thinking companies with the best cloud-based R&D technology and solutions, helping them solve global challenges. We want our drive for simplicity and innovation to help us deliver products that matter, that lead the way and transform R&D worldwide.

So, if you are ready to move your chemistry into the cloud for tomorrow, then let’s have a conversation today.

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