UK Startup Labstep Aims To Make Science More Reproducible

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Labstep is an electronic record keeping tool for science, research, and processes. We spoke to Founder & CEO Jake Schofield about how the startup improves lab experiences & keeps protocols and experimental data secure.

Tell us about Labstep: how does it work, what problem are you fixing? How does the platform work?

Labstep captures real-time scientific process data to make research results more reproducible. We allow our users to create version controlled libraries of protocols. Labstep users can run these at a lab bench from their mobile device, we offer interactive features such as timers, attaching photos, and the possibility to link to an API to automate the upload of files from all devices in the lab. This creates a timeline news feed of a user’s activities, keeping an accurate audit trail of what has been completed, and drastically improving information sharing in a team.

Today, you can package this into a project and generate a unique link to attach to your paper, so that people can see exactly how your results were produced and reproduce your findings. We have a few new features in the pipeline which will make annotating and sharing even easier and faster, so stay tuned.

Jake Schofield, Founder & CEO Labstep

How did you come up with the idea for Labstep?

I studied Biomedical Sciences before working in commercial R&D and my co-founder has a Ph.D. from Oxford. Labstep stemmed from the team’s personal experiences in the lab and the frustrations with the existing products available to scientists. The majority of researchers still just use pen and paper, and ELN (Electronic Lab Notes) alternatives require scientists to spend hours typing up a diary after they have completed their experiments and storing it in convoluted folder systems.

Can you give an example of an experiment that was successfully conducted using Labstep?

We have scientists from 600 universities across the UK and US using Labstep, from a wide range of scientific fields. Protecting our users’ IP is extremely important so we cannot give specific details as to any research carried out on the platform, but we have users working on topics ranging from neuronal networks in Caenorhabditis elegans (a type of organism), to therapies using monoclonal antibodies, studying the life cycle of tropical diseases, to material scientists looking at the structures of novel materials.

How many users are on Labstep? Have you partnered with research institutions?

Labstep counts close to 3000 users and the platform is growing at a rate of 15% per month. Even more encouraging, the number active Labstep users – using Labstep multiple times a day at least five times per week – has doubled since our launch in January 2018. Engagement with Labstep is soaring: the average time spent on the platform has been steadily increasing by 20% per month since we launched. All of these users are spread across 600 institutions including Stanford, Oxford and London-based Imperial College, UCL, King’s and the Crick.

What are your growth plans for the future? What is your strategy to acquire more users?

We want to become the default platform for scientific experimentation. Initially, our priority is building a tool that really solves the problems faced by scientists, to this effect we are not heavily marketing or pushing for large numbers of signups, but instead the team is focusing on listening to our community of users, making sure we can address their pain-points and build an outstanding product that all scientists will benefit from.

How do you expect scientific experimentation to change over the next few years? How is Labstep addressing these changes?

Currently, lab-based research is incredibly labor intensive. There is an increasing amount of lab automation used, especially in commercial R&D, as this technology becomes cheaper and more flexible to accommodate the wide range of experimental activities we believe that this trend will increase. We also feel that Labstep, as the default platform to manage libraries of experimental processes and record the results, will be perfectly placed to help scientists with this transition.



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