Cellkulture shut down, but code alive on Github

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 2.47.24 PMCellKuture, the digital lab notebook that helps you track and manage cell cultures, shut down 5 months ago. But although the project in not actively being developed, the code lives on, published on the Github repository, free for anyone to use.

Startup turnover is a very natural thing to happen in the new space of Digital Science. Entrepreneurs simply cannot have a perfectly clear vision of what the research ecosystem will look like in a few years. Startups are taking their chances by exploring new markets and testing the reactions of customers to new services. And in this context, it can be hard to gather enough users to really push your startup off the ground, especially when targeting a niche market (like cell culture experts).

A consequence of this high-risk environment, is the sense of responsibility we should expect from these digital science startups. They should think in advance of opt-out options for users changing providers or if the company goes under. This means providing ways to export the data in a reusable format, and in some cases, providing the code so that users can continue to use the platform. CellKuture is doing exactly that by providing a functional software for free with instructions to install and run it. On top of making CellKulture users happy, this move could attract new users, and most importantly inspire other developers to build upon this piece of work.

Free cloud-based lab notebook: Hivebench

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 3.23.25 PMShazino, is with Zappy lab one of the rare developers of high-quality mobile apps for researchers. Shazino offers a lab timer, bacterial colony counter, a paper reference manager and a plasmid-sharing platform, all available on iphone’s iOS.

But Shazino’s flagship product is now a electronic lab notebook, that has a lot to offer: Hivebench. In direct competition with other cloud-based and user-friendly solutions such as Labguru and Labfolder, Hivebench is a serious contender. It offer all the basics of lab notebooks including advanced text editing, and integration of images and videos. And it comes with an iphone mobile app that allows you to view and edit the notebook entries on the go.

When starting an experiment, you first create the notebook that will gather notes from experiments of a project you are working on. When creating a new entry, a template is automatically suggested for you to help you keep your notebook as standardized as possible. There, you can enter what your objectives are, what samples and procedures you are running, and what were the results of the experiments.

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Hivebench lab notebook interface, with a suggested template.

Of course, there is no obligation to follow the template and a few interesting functionalities help you customize your notebook entries. For example, you can display schematics of well plates with a single click and Hivebench makes it easy to add lists of experimental steps that will be automatically accompanied of a checkbox.

A couple more advanced options are also there to give more dynamic documents: inventory and protocols. A list of reagents can be imported or added manually in the Hivebench database then easily referred-to in the notebook. If done consistently, it becomes easy to track each reagent and see when they were acquired, where they are stored, in what experiment they were used, and when they expire.

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Hivebench lab inventory, where all reagent details are listed.

Protocols can also be entered in a database then automatically included in the notebook, avoiding you to re-write routine protocols every time. In addition, similar to the protocols.io initiative, Hivebench allows users to store their protocols in a public and cloud-based repository. Any Hivebench user can then directly import protocols from the repository.

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Hivebench public repository of protocols.

Hivebench also comes with a task manager and a calendar to plan the experiments so that your entire workflow can be managed from this single platform. Collaborative functions are of course well implemented, allowing you to easily share any of the items created in Hivebench. Mobility is now also a must for an electronic lab notebook, and Hivebench comes with a free mobile app for Iphone and Ipads which allows everything from reading your protocols to editing the notebook, right from the bench.

Hivebench is free for up to 10 team members and provides up to 10 GB of cloud storage for free, which is a significant advantage compared to other platforms such as Labguru. Hivebench can also be installed locally, which can be reassuring and economically more interesting for larger structures.