The CRI collaborates with the Molecular Pathology Core (MPC) to provide support for oncology panel testing for University of Chicago physicians.

Samples from cancer patients are subjected to molecular panel testing to determine which, if any, known mutations are found in the patient’s tumor. Based on the panel analysis, physicians can offer their patients more targeted therapies.

The MPC team must follow a regimented series of steps to perform the analysis while tracking the sample and results from start to finish. The current standard in most labs is to perform all tracking using Excel spreadsheets. This method has many limitations, including an inability to follow the progress of the analysis or perform any kind of real-time auditing. The CRI was asked to analyze the workflow and produce an enterprise solution for the MPC.

The CRI analyzed the MPC workflow, from sample accessioning through data analysis and reporting, identifying more than one hundred individual steps in the process. After working with stakeholders to define all the functionality the platform would require, the CRI developed a laboratory information management and sample tracking system called SIMPL.

SIMPL automates the MPC’s genomics testing operations, handling the complete workflow and tracking the real-time status of orders and samples. It produces comprehensive dashboards and reports including turnaround time, quality checks, error checks, approvals, and sign-offs. These reports are integrated with the data management software used by the MPC. SIMPL also interfaces directly with bioinformatics analysis results and automates several levels of variant annotation.

In addition to improving the MPC’s workflow and productivity, SIMPL upholds the University’s commitment to data security and patient privacy by handling user authentication, authorization, and access control using industry standards and protocols, as well as incorporating web session security controls. The SIMPL database is designed with “action tracking,” a security measure that records every action performed with information about the time and user. In addition, SIMPL is hosted on the CRI’s HIPAA-compliant infrastructure and is protected by the CRI’s security, backup, and disaster recovery policies.

Update: In April 2018, a paper describing the development and design of SIMPL was published in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics. The CRI’s Wenjun Kang was first author. Read the paper here.