Camunda Team Blog

CamundaCon 2019 - Pharma Research Automation - Connecting Researchers with Robots and Systems

Written by Camunda on , under Community category.

In the highly heterogeneous and dynamic landscape of pharma research, where hundreds of researchers and scientists must communicate and undertake deeply complex workflow processes - Camunda has proved the ideal tonic. At CamundaCon Daniel Butnaru, Solution Architect at Roche Pharma, will share how his team utilises Camunda’s Community Edition straight out of the box to streamline the interaction between researcher (human) tasks with backends and robotics platforms.

The interesting facts

Q: How long have you been using Camunda?

A: I’ve been using Camunda for more than a year.

Q: Do you use the Community or Enterprise edition?

A: At the moment we use the Community edition, however it is envisioned we’ll use Enterprise in the future.

Q: How are you using Camunda?

A: At Roche, Camunda is a standalone orchestrator of all kinds of activities. Standalone in the sense that we basically use it straight out of the box and heavily rely on external tasks and a custom UI to interact with Camunda.

Q: Have you built any interesting extensions/would you recommend any plugins etc.?

A: One extension we are targeting is the Camunda modeler. Here we would like to have dynamic task configuration where the person modelling can choose task parameters based on availability.

CamundaCon preview:

Q: What will you be presenting?

A: Over the last year we have translated several research workflows into business process models and are able to streamline the interaction between researcher (human) tasks with backends and robotics platforms. I’d like to share our approach, together with the numerous challenges we faced, in bringing automation to a very heterogeneous and dynamic landscape like pharma research.

Q: What’s motivating you to share your use case?

A: In the past it was very hard to find use cases with a similar goal as ours. We know now that Camunda and BPMN is the right method to approach automation of our pharma research workflows. On one hand I look forward to sharing our use case as a possible blueprint for using Camunda and BPMN and, on the other, I am seeking active feedback and suggestions for improving our approach.

Q: Are there any CamundaCon presentations/events that you’re looking forward to?

A: Beside looking at the recent use cases for Camunda and BPMN, I’m looking forward to Daniel Meyer’s talk on “The Camunda Stack – What’s here and what’s next?” to see which future features could make our life easier.

Don’t miss Daniel’s insightful presentation - September 13th on the main stage.

Pharma Research Automation by Connecting Researchers with Robots and Systems

The discovery of new therapeutic molecule has become a highly demanding endeavour. The main goal is to find an effective molecule, i.e. one that address a particular disease. On this path many conditions need to be met. A critical one is to ensure the safety of the molecule, meaning that it only targets the disease and nothing more. Next, while having ensured safety and effectiveness, another question that arises is the suitability for production, i.e. is it even possible to produce the molecule consistently and at scale over the many years the medicine will be available on the market? This is especially challenging for biologics, i.e. large therapeutic molecules produced by living cells.

Looking at the software landscape in pharma research we are confronted with a highly heterogeneous view, involving broad combinations of different software systems with various interfacing possibilities. Molecules are tracked in registration systems, lab information management systems or electronic lab notebooks store process data. Requests between labs are handled by requesting systems, robotic systems (liquid handlers, analytics) produce large data and we can’t ignore the amount of spreadsheets used to document or calculate.

While faced with complex questions, researchers have developed a series of individual methods that, on their own, answer or help with a small part of the questions above. The true value comes by automating the combination of these methods into end-to-end processes that answer the full research question. Thus it is more than fitting to use business process modelling not only to describe the research process, but to also execute it.

In this presentation we show the use of business process modelling to map and drive research processes stretching over researcher decision points, backend systems and robots. In particular, our current robot integration is to treat robots as external systems where the orchestration engine configures, monitors and collects results while the user is still fully in charge of loading and triggering an actual run. Unlike fully automated setups, a research environment demands flexibility as processes and their branches change. Even so, we show by using executable business processes in the pharma industry research, we increase throughput, transparency, standardization and time-to-results .