Who Uses eCAT

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Dr Alex Swarbrick, Group leader, Cancer research program, Garvan Institute of Research, Sydney, Australia

Posted by admin on August 10th, 2010 @ 1:01 pm


“One of the best features I like about eCAT is it’s ability to bring together disparate bits of information that occur in different places as well as different times and to have all that in one place that gets archived and backed up centrally.”

About the Swarbrick lab

The Swarbrick lab investigates the protein coding genes and microRNAs controlling the self renewal, differentiation and metastasis of cancer cells. Alex aims to expand the basic understanding of cancer progression to allow the development of better therapeutic strategies for hard-to-treat cancers. His lab uses a range of model systems, including 2D and 3D cell culture, animal models and human tissues. They also collaborate closely with  colleagues in the Cancer Research Program who bring expertise in signal transduction, anatomical pathology, tissue banking and developmental biology.


“Many of our projects are collaborative projects between several people, some of them all in the same lab, some in other parts of the building or the Institutute.  So, finding a way to combine data, combine experimental ideas, and put that all in one place has always been a real challenge.

Another major challenge has been sharing of reagents. We have a large database of cell lines, mouse tissues, and other biological resources as well as protocols that it’s always been very hard to manage using paper-based records.


We use eCAT as an experimental labbook for all the people in the lab.  They enter all the key information, everything from background through to methods, protocols and results and discussion into eCAT.

The other fantastic feature of eCAT that we use a lot is this ability to include metadata and links within records, so when it comes to managing biological samples this is really important.  So when we have transgenic mice we can track the mouse, the tissues that were made from the mouse, the extracts from the tissues, then the analyses on those extracts and keep them all linked through eCAT.


The way that eCAT helps us is manyfold.  With eCAT we can link to established protocols — instead of having to write out detailed protocols every time someone does an experiment they can link to established protocols as well as putting in some relevant modifications.  By putting in primary data it brings all these disparate data types together so electronic data as well as text and so on into one place and we don’t have to go digging through a server trying to find the relevant Excel file or image or Affymetrix transgenic profiling data set.  That can all live in one place and it’s very easy to find.

When we are managing biological samples we can easily track data — for example in the case of transgenic mice the mouse, the tissues that were made from the mouse, the extracts from the tissues, then the analyses on those extracts — through an experiment whereas doing it with a paper-based approach would be extremely difficult.

The great thing is that people who are working on the project, including myself, can access that and be up to date with what”s happening, make annotations, make changes and suggestions, so it really makes it a much better collaborative situation.”

Mike Shipston’s lab at the Centre for Integrative Physiology, Edinburgh University, benefits from eCAT’s flexibility and ease of use in research using post transcriptional and post translational mechanisms of ion channel regulation

Posted by Rory on June 30th, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

“We generate a wide variety of types of data sets, for example data from molecular analysis, quantitative analysis, for example quantitative RTPCR, gene cloning, through to electrophysiological analysis, for example from confocal images and total internal reflective microscopy right up to behaviorial assays in animals.   We use eCAT as a cataloging and information retrieval system.  We can keep catalogs of resources  and protocols up to date and exchange that very effectively between lab members.  We also use eCAT as an ELN.  The great thing about eCAT is it’s incredibly flexible in terms of how you can set it up.  For example each member of the lab has their own folders and puts their own experiments within that, but its every easy to put that information together. It was a major surprise; transferring to an electronic lab notebook is actually very easy.”

The modENCODE (model organism ENCyclopedia of DNA Elements) Project, which includes collaborating labs at University of North Carolina, University of Cambridge, University of California, Berkeley, San Diego, NimbleGen, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the Weizmann Institute, moved from spreadsheets to a wiki to eCAT

Posted by Rory on June 30th, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

“We initially stored our data on a wiki using embedded spreadsheets. We soon learned that this was not a feasible option due to the complex structure of the data, and we started shopping around for alternatives. When we were tasked with searching for an alternative to the wiki, or free web-based alternatives, we found that they were lacking in features and/or support. Initially, we were looking into LIMS, but those platforms were highly specialized, very complex, and expensive. eCAT is a better fit for us because of the fairly intuitive UI, the ability for the database structure to be modified by the end user, cost, and importantly, customer service. We have been highly impressed with the level of customer service offered from Axiope. It is clear that they take pride in their product, are concerned about the customer’s experience and are always receptive to suggestions for feature additions and/or changes.

Due to the thoughtful UI of eCAT, it took little effort to get all wet lab members trained to use eCAT to facilitate data entry. Members of our labs have also been starting to use the e-notebook feature of eCAT. They find it very easy to enter their experiments and organize their data. They are starting to realize the power of allowing them to more natively integrate electronic sources of data (documents, images, web links, etc.), which was something not readily accomplished with a paper notebook.”

Andreas Johansson at Helsingborg Campus of Lund University talks about how easy it was to get started using eCAT.

Posted by Rory on June 30th, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

“I use eCAT for everything in the laboratory when I need to make a note of anything.  I use it for my experiments and my protocols.  But I also use it for things I didn’t use it for before I had an electronic lab notebook.  I use it for digital photos, so protein gels, screenshots of my HPC runs, screenshots of the small things I see during my experiment.  Before I would have just made a small note about it, now I have a photo of it.  And I also add time stamps during an experiment so I can easily see at what point I did a certain thing.  The main result is very very large quality improvements.  It also brings structure to your experiments automatically.  Since you are working with project folders you have your own experiments, and you also add protocols, and you add the data and you add whatever electronic stuff you get during the experiments to that folder.  So everything gets sorted by date and time.  It’s much more structure, automatically.

The main reason I chose eCAT is because its really easy to get started with and use.  If something is hard to get started with and easy to use a lot of people will just have a look at and never get around to starting the first experiment.  eCAT is easy to use; it also means I can ask my colleagues to use it as well.”

Michael Shtutman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy University of South Carolina , uses eCAT to manage genomics data and materials in his lab and in providing services to other labs at the university.

Posted by Rory on June 30th, 2010 @ 10:03 am

“My lab is doing functional genomics projects.   Our work involves many parallel projects with high throughput sequencing, analysis of results as well as wet biology assays.  In parallel, as the director of the functional genomics facility, we provide services for other labs.

We have project-related databases as well as materials-related databases.  eCAT allows us to enter all the project information and the materials information and location. With eCAT we were able to organize all our projects and materials, and create an integrated and searchable database of our work.

The most interesting feature of eCAT is its flexibility.  It allows us to add our own classes, and to add information in the manner most convenient for us.  The other features, including powerful search and the ability to add graphic data, are also advantageous.”