Editor’s note: Originally posted on qreserve.com/stories/NEQUIMED, thought it was a cool story of a local startup helping people and wanted to share!
Andrei Leitão is one of two professors leading the Medicinal Chemistry Group (NEQUIMED) at São Paulo University’s Institute of Chemistry in São Carlos, Brazil. At NEQUIMED they use leading-edge equipment to develop anti-parasite and anti-cancer drugs.
NEQUIMED focuses on two parasitic diseases common in Brazil and other temperate countries around the world: Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis disease. Chagas disease can cause various swelling and enlargement of the heart, and Leishmaniasis disease can cause skin ulcers, fever, low blood cell count, and enlarged spleen and liver. The cancers they focus on are prostate, pancreatic, and breast cancer, which altogether have affected millions worldwide.
Andrei has a team of 15 core members working on developing these drugs. Their members include technicians, postdocs, and graduate and undergraduate students; and every month they welcome guests from across Brazil to use their equipment. Together they study these diseases and potential drugs at all levels, from atoms to proteins to cell interactions. They use computers to build models of the diseases and drug interactions, and then use organic synthesis to produce compounds and test how their interactions compare with the computer models’ predictions.
Since their work requires in-depth analysis spanning many levels, they rely on a variety of specialized equipment. Their equipment is spread across six labs, each focused on a different aspect of drug discovery, and ranges from mass spectrometers to high-performance liquid chromatography instruments to titration equipment to fluorometers to robotics. Andrei and his team receive much of their equipment from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), as part of the multi-user equipment program (EMU). EMU supports researchers in acquiring equipment that is too expensive for ordinary grants. Since the equipment is so valuable, some worth up to $100,000, Andrei needs to know if his lab is making good use of it, and FAPESP expects researchers to share with the larger research network in São Paulo and Brazil.
Given the nature of their work, the size of their lab, and the value of their equipment, Andrei and his team had two main problems: They had to coordinate between many sites and users, and they had to track and report on usage.
Andrei and his lab needed to coordinate activity between their many labs, core members and guests, and many pieces of equipment, each with different availability. Some equipment is designed for long experiments and can be used only once per day. Other equipment can be used flexibly for one- or two-hour time slots. Some pieces of equipment can be used together or independently.
Andrei and his team used to struggle coordinating all this activity. They tried using physical logbooks to schedule time on equipment but sometimes lab members would forget their booking, fail to note their booking, or they would note their booking in the logbook for one piece of equipment but not in the logbook for the associated piece of equipment. As a result, Andrei’s lab members often overbooked equipment and failed to make full use of the equipment’s availability.
Andrei and his lab now use QReserve. “It used to be a mess trying manage everything,” Andrei says, “With QReserve now it’s easy.” They make and view bookings all from one place. When guests request equipment, their lab technician easily checks availability and books them in. Using QReserve means no more conflicts, and the platform prevents overbooking if they tried. They can also set relationships between pieces of equipment, so that lab members know to book both resources when needed.
Tracking and reporting
Andrei needs to understand how his lab uses their equipment. He wants to make sure the equipment is useful, and needs to track usage in cases when, for example, the equipment breaks. Since FAPESP expects Andrei’s lab to share their EMU equipment, he needs to report on equipment sharing with guests. It is one thing to say they share but another thing to prove it! Andrei needed the data to show that his lab is making good use of the equipment and sharing with researchers from across São Paulo and Brazil.
The pen and paper method made it hard to track and report on usage. Usage data was spread across separate, and sometimes inaccurate, logbooks. Andrei had trouble tracking activity when equipment broke, could not identify trends in usage, and could not easily amalgamate information to send to FAPESP.
Andrei does all that now with QReserve, using Site Metrics, Capacity Reports, and Billing Reports. With Site Metrics he knows how active his colleagues and equipment are, and at what times. With Capacity Reports he checks if equipment is being under- or over-utilized compared to capacity limits he sets. And with Billing Reports he easily downloads detailed records of usage—including users, piece of equipment, time used, and cost—for reporting to FAPESP. “FAPESP wants us to tell them how much we’re using and sharing equipment. Now we just download the reports from QReserve and send them the data.”
QReserve has given Andrei’s lab the management tools to do their work and the data and insight to show the value of that work.