I have blogged before about Covance here, a note in which the company is described as having deployed the world's largest central lab network. Covance describes itself on its web site (link here) as a drug development company that provides a range of early-stage and late-stage product development services on a worldwide basis, primarily to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries. One of its major activities is lab testing in support of clinical drug trials.
Covance recently announced several developments to strengthen the laboratory testing capabilities provided by its Covance Central Laboratory Services unit in the Asia Pacific region. Link here. Below are some quotes from the article:
Covance announced agreements whereby Japan's two largest central laboratories -- Mitsubishi Kagaku Bio-Clinical Laboratories, Inc. (MBC) and SRL Medisearch, Inc. -- will service its clients' clinical trials in Japan, through the ... Covance Virtual Central Laboratory service.The expansion of Covance Virtual Central Laboratory testing services in Japan ...enables the company to offer the broadest global laboratory network, with 19 premier VCL regional laboratories and over 800 local laboratories in more than 35 countries around the world....Covance Virtual Central Laboratory can now provide clinical trial study sponsors with the ability to collect their laboratory test results from Japanese investigator sites and other countries in Asia Pacific and to integrate this data seamlessly into a single, combinable global database.
This reference to Covance's virtual clinical laboratory caught my attention. A virtual lab is defined as a set of geographically separate physical labs that function as an integrated single lab. Below is some additional information that I discovered about their virtual clinical lab concept. Link here.
Based in Zeist, Netherlands, the Covance Virtual Central Laboratory (Covance VCL) improves the collection and reporting of laboratory data within oncology and critical care studies and studies conducted in remote regions of the world. Covance VCL combines the high-quality data collection and reporting benefits of a central laboratory with the speed of specimen processing and report turn-around time of a local laboratory. Covance VCL ships laboratory data, not samples, from local or regional laboratories around the world. This enhances the ability for data combinability by using a laboratory calibration process for each laboratory assay performed. In addition, the laboratory data are collected into a single, global database where optional near real-time access is available to study sponsors through LabLink.
This notion of a virtual lab has been described and occasionally executed in the past but never on this scale or reach, involving 19 "premier" labs and 800 local labs in 35 countries. Note the reference to "combinability" of test results. This refers to what has sometimes been called the normalization of data, the process by which test results generated in multiple labs on different instruments with different reagents are combined. This allows results of the same test performed in different labs to be combined and analyzed. This process is very difficult and must be monitored constantly.