A start-up that helps lab researchers manage their inventory, equipment, orders and supplies was born out of a system developed by a husband to help his wife with her work.
The company, Labsuit, has the potential to save labs large sums of money on their budgets, so they can use their grants and university or institutional funding much more efficiently, said creator Alex Domashek.
“Laboratories stocks thousands of different materials,” he said. “The service we offer prompts big savings for laboratories, as well as a dramatic reduction of waste sent to landfills for disposal. This is an innovative process that provides a real win-win-win for all parties: the laboratories save money and are managed in an organized manner, researchers save time and gain greater flexibility in their studies, and we enjoy seeing LabSuit grow and prosper.”
The story started when Helen Domashek got a job managing the chemistry lab to help pay for her doctorate at the Technion’s Schulich Faculty of Chemistry. But the job soon proved to be harder than she anticipated, and overseeing the management of supplies – which included the ordering, storage, tracking and disposal of lab materials – consumed much of her time and made her less available to do research.
To the rescue came husband Alex, who holds an engineering degree from Technion’s Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, with an innovative system for managing lab supplies.
A cross between a social network and an inventory plan, LabSuit provides an online method for recording what a lab has, what it needs, and what is missing. If researchers need, say, 100 test tubes a week, the system, which is accessible to all researchers in a lab, will list the total number in stock, with consumers of the test tubes checking them out of inventory as they are used. This way, the lab manager knows what’s in stock and what’s needed.
Thus, said Alex, LabSuit “effectively manages lab supplies and materials, replacing the Excel sheets, sticky notes and disgruntled comments in the corridor” about who used how much of what resource and neglected to replace it.
But often, labs will have an oversupply of an item – sometimes the same item another lab is missing. The social aspect of the system enables vetted labs (only from approved, legitimate institutions) to view the inventory levels at other labs in their area. In this way, said the Domesheks, the labs can help each other out, taking excess inventory off the hands of the other while supplying each other with what they need.
And if there are no excess inventories in the area, LabSuit will hook up a lab with suppliers in the area for the lowest price.
The system is free for use by academic laboratories, and is already in use in dozens of institutions in Israel, including, of course, the Technion and most of Israel’s other universities. Abroad, the system is in use at Utah State University, which is testing it in a pilot program.
LabSuit was founded at the end of 2013 by Helen and Alex; their mutual friend Ira Blekhman, an MBA student at the Open University, joined the venture shortly afterward.
“LabSuit is a really awesome virtual community” said Blekhman, “because it is built to enable individual researchers to use it according to their immediate and longer-term needs.”
“Today, over a thousand researchers are using our inventory system in over 200 laboratories across Israel,” said Alex, “and recently, we made it to the final round of the national BizTEC entrepreneurship competition. Our dream is to market LabSuit abroad, and to have all life sciences labs using our services. We would like to do for the lab supplies market what Airbnb did to the vacation rentals market.
“Our motto – ‘Science as a Service’ – is intended to connect laboratories and to serve not only as a platform for sharing supplies and materials but also as a jump for collaboration and knowledge exchange.”