Cancer Research UK

Bespoke Application to Boost Efficiency

The Background

Every minute matters in the race to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

The Proteomics core facility, within the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, takes this matter very seriously. Focusing on the systematic study of proteins, the department works hard to support the objectives of Cancer Research UK in beating cancer, sooner.

With this goal in mind, the Proteomics department utilises state-of-the-art equipment and encourages innovative ways of working, to ensure their team operates at maximum efficiency.

So, when the department identified an inefficient system for logging and tracking student submissions, they turned to Systems Valley for a modernised, long-term solution.

Themes In Our Work

  • Design research
  • User experience design
  • Frontend Development
  • User testing


  • Systems Valley
  • Development Centre, India

The Challenge

Recognising the need to eliminate any hindrance to their research, the Head of the Proteomics Department contacted Systems Valley regarding their current paper system for logging and tracking student submissions.

He explained how the existing system required students to submit research projects in writing, including samples that could range from 1 to 100 per submission. The samples also required detailed tracking and management; a task that involves accuracy and careful monitoring.

With a whiteboard to log status updates, eager students would regularly visit the laboratory to check on the progress of their projects. It was clear that the department needed an electronic and easily accessible system to improve communication between students and technicians.

The Findings

Existing software available to the Proteomics department was found to be incompatible with their unique requirements. The best decision would be for Systems Valley to build a bespoke electronic application to streamline the process of project submissions.

At the initial meeting with Systems Valley, the overall goals for the new application were set, however, clearly defined requirements for the system were not yet in place.

To obtain clear requirements, Systems Valley provided a comprehensive consultancy service over 2 days, to gain an in-depth understanding of the internal processes of the department and support the development of ‘user stories’.

Each user story identified the functionality needed for the new application, such as student logins and status updates. Top priority user stories would then inform developers of the requirements needed, as part of the Agile Scrum Methodology used by Systems Valley.

Our Approach

The Agile Scrum method used by Systems Valley allows for the completion of complex projects quickly; eliminating the risk of failure.

To ensure that the first version of the application would meet the most crucial needs of the Proteomics Department, top priority user stories were selected, developed and implemented in weekly sprints over 4 months.

During each sprint, the lab was given the opportunity to provide feedback, helping developers to adapt to changes when needed and ensure that the first version of the application could be deployed with viable functionality.

The first version could then run for 1 year to provide feedback and usability testing. This allowed Systems Valley to begin work on the second edition of the application. The second phase involved adding new features that were identified at the discovery phase of the project.

The Solution

Faced with the choice to use an inefficient paper-based system or an inadequate off-the-shelf program, it was clear that the development of a custom-built application provided the most practical and effective solution.

In addition, the Agile method used by Systems Valley to develop the application eliminated unnecessary risk and guaranteed that the Proteomics Department would receive a product that would suit their exact requirements within the allocated budget.

Integrated with the institute’s main system (AIM), and with a strong focus on user experience, the custom application is easily accessible on computer by students and technicians; providing a straightforward way to document all necessary information.

Students can now securely log projects and review progress without disrupting the workflow of the laboratory. The custom queue management system provided supports technicians to manage, edit and update individual submissions quickly and easily.

The second phase incorporated additional useful features, including email alerts for students and helpful notifications that alert technicians to new submissions. Also included is a project costing system, to allocate amounts to specific research groups, along with a useful reporting tool for analysing data.

The Results

The new laboratory information management system has noticeably boosted efficiency within the Proteomics core facility since its initial launch.

With second phase features available, automated tasks and notifications for project updates have already saved the department large amounts of time.

Productivity has increased as technicians easily locate, review and manage all documentation in one simplified system. Students enjoy the hassle-free process of logging projects and keenly await email notifications regarding the status of their submissions.

With additional tools to help allocate costs and make the best use of available resources, the custom application has not only transformed the working practices of student submission for the department, but have allowed all involved to focus more attention on their main aim of accelerating the fight against cancer.

“We are more than happy with the work provided by Systems Valley. We were told exactly how the 2 phases of the project would work and we were kept informed at every step. The new system is just what we needed, it’s extremely useful and appealing too. We really can’t live without it.”

Dr Clive D’Santos

Head of Proteomics, Cambridge Institute Cancer Research UK

Head of Proteomics, Cambridge Institute Cancer Research UK

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