Cloud laboratory rendering

Automated ‘cloud lab’ will handle all aspects of daily lab work

Image credit: Emerald Cloud Lab

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is working with Emerald Cloud Lab (ECL) to build a world-first cloud laboratory, which they hope will provide researchers with facilities for routine life sciences and chemistry research.

According to the partners, the remote-controlled Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Cloud Lab will provide a universal platform for AI-driven experimentation, and “revolutionise how academic laboratory research and education are done”.

Emerald’s 'cloud lab', which will be used as the basis for the new lab, allows scientists to conduct wet laboratory research without being in a physical laboratory. Instead, they can send their samples to a facility, design their experiments using ECL’s command-based software (with the assistance of AI-based design tools), and then execute the experiment remotely. A combination of robotic instrumentation and technicians perform the experiments as specified and the data is sent to cloud servers for access.

CMU researchers have used ECL facilities for research and teaching for several years. According to the university, cloud lab classes gave students valuable laboratory experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, even with all courses being taught remotely.

“CMU is a world leader in [AI], machine learning, data science, and the foundational sciences. There is no better place to be home to the world’s first university cloud lab,” said Professor Rebecca Doerge. “Bringing this technology, which I’m proud to say was created by CMU’s alumni, to our researchers and students is part of our commitment to creating science for the future.”

“The CMU Cloud Lab will democratise science for researchers and students. Researchers will no longer be limited by the cost, location, or availability of equipment. By removing these barriers to discovery, the opportunities are limitless.”

The new cloud lab will be the first such laboratory built in an academic setting. It will be built in a university-owned building on Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh. Construction on the $40m project is expected to begin in autumn for completion in summer 2022.

The facility will house more than 100 types of scientific instruments for life sciences and chemistry experiments and will be capable of running more than 100 complex experiments simultaneously, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. This will allow users to individually manage many experiments in parallel from anywhere in the world. The university and company will collaborate on the facility’s design, construction, installation, management, and operations. Already, staff and students are being trained to use the cloud lab.

While the CMU Cloud Lab will initially be available to CMU researchers and students, the university hopes to make time available to others in the research community, including high school students, researchers from smaller universities that may not have advanced research facilities, and local life sciences start-ups.

“We are truly honoured that Carnegie Mellon is giving us the chance to demonstrate the impact that access to a cloud lab can make for its faculty, students and staff,” said Brian Frezza, a CMU graduate and co-CEO of ECL. “We couldn’t think of a better way to give back to the university than by giving them a platform that redefines how a world-class institution conducts life sciences research.”

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