Does Your Laboratory Animal Facility Need Custom Software?

Published On: April 10th, 2023

As a comparative medicine facility manager tasked with responsibly tracking and reporting on laboratory animals, you’ve probably wondered if commercial software can really be good enough to work well in such a specialized area.

The short answer is, “Yes.” The more nuanced answer is, “Yes, but you will need to look carefully at how the software matches your business processes.”

At Virtual Chemistry Inc., we understand that Laboratory Animal Resource (LAR) management is a highly specialized area. That’s why we’ve developed Mosaic Vivarium, our flagship LAR software, to be highly configurable. Our goal is to help research organizations create an environment where investigators can focus on science, while remaining transparent and efficient in their use of important resources.

Because of the highly specialized nature of LAR facilities, many facilities still use paper/Excel-based tracking or have home-grown software solutions to track the myriad details associated with animal facility operations. Eventually, paper gets too tedious, or the hero who developed and maintained the home-grown software leaves. At this point, the search for commercial software often begins.

Commercial, off-the-shelf LAR software solutions are available, but will they meet your facility’s needs? After all, your paper or home-grown software systems have been developed specifically to support your existing processes. Off-the-shelf software, on the other hand, will have its own baked-in set of workflows.

If the software creates too much friction with your current processes, you have three choices:

  1. Keep your home-grown system
  2. Ask the commercial software developer to modify their software
  3. Ask if the commercial software can be configured to behave differently

In this article, we’re going to discuss how Mosaic Vivarium can be configured to meet your facility’s unique needs.

Access all of your laboratory’s data in real time with Mosaic Vivarium, our flagship LAR management software.

How can Mosaic Vivarium support different business workflows?

To explore this, let’s take a concrete example:

Facility A requires that all living animals have an assigned IACUC protocol (permit, license). Protocol assignments are the essence of compliance and reporting, and part of the reason that many sites eventually acquire LAR software.

Facility B agrees with this rationale, but has workflows where animals can exist temporarily without a protocol, arguing that all living animals will be assigned a protocol before use. Both approaches can enforce rigorous compliance and produce accurate reporting.

If the commercial software you are exploring implements Facility A’s workflow rules, there will be “workflow friction” when Facility B attempts to use the software. Facility B will be simultaneously faced with learning new software and changing their workflows.

Facility B might be tempted to seek out software with no enforcement as to when animals are assigned to protocols. Facility B is back to relying on people to make sure all animals have been accounted for—your software has not really helped you: errors, acknowledged or otherwise, are bound to appear in the compliance data.

Ideally, your LAR software of choice could be configured to accommodate either facility A or B workflows rigorously by shifting the rules about when (not “if”) an animal needs to be assigned to a protocol.

We’ve focused on one example. Mosaic Vivarium contains more than 350 behavioral settings derived from our company’s cumulative experience with animal facilities over 20 years. We’ve seen innumerable workflow preferences, and we’ve worked hard to create settings that enable each site to enforce the type of workflow rules it desires.

Configurable LAR software represents an obvious response to the workflow preference problem. While configurability is an easy “checkbox” feature to look for, the actual implementation has a significant impact on user experience. Configurability raises complexity and with it the implementation effort. We’ve developed Mosaic Vivarium with “discoverable configurability.” This means administrators can explore a default workflow and easily discover configuration settings that better suit existing workflows.

To learn more about how Mosaic Vivarium can be configured to meet your facility’s needs, schedule a free demonstration today!