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

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is partnering with Emerald Cloud Lab (ECL) to build the world’s first cloud lab, which they hope will provide researchers with facilities for routine life science and chemical research.

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

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

CMU researchers have been using ECL facilities for research and education for years. According to the university, cloud lab classes gave students valuable lab experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, even if all courses were taught remotely.

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

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

The new cloud lab will be the first lab to be built in an academic setting. It will be built in a university-owned building on Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh. Construction on the $40 million projects is expected to begin in the fall and be completed in the summer of 2022.

The facility will house more than 100 types of scientific instruments for life sciences and chemistry experiments and will be able to perform more than 100 complex experiments simultaneously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This allows users around the world to manage many experiments separately at the same time. The university and the company are collaborating on the design, construction, installation, management, and operation of the facility. Employees and students are already 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 for others in the research community, including high school students, researchers from smaller universities who may not have advanced research facilities, and local life science startups.

“We are truly honored that Carnegie Mellon is giving us the opportunity to demonstrate the impact that accesses to a cloud lab can have on 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.”