How CRM Technology Is Helping Push On Stem Cell Research


Medical firm Cells4Life tells TechWeek Europe how working with Sugar CRM has helped improved productivity and streamline business processes

You may have heard of stem cell research through films and television, but the technology is very real and helping saving many lives.

Cells4Life is the first private firm in the United Kingdom to provide umbilical stem cell storage and collection services in the emerging and highly competitive market of regenerative medicine. Revenues for stem cell products hit an estimated $6.5 billion in 2013, with more than 100 companies participating in the market.

By law, Cells4Life must keep records for 30 years after a client relationship ends, and the company is currently managing more than 20,000 contracts, and continues to grow rapidly. Considering compliance with government regulations, stringent European privacy laws, and the stewardship of potentially life-saving materials, the responsibilities at Cells4Life necessitate a system built to handle massive amounts of paperwork and data storage.


So in order to handle this mountain of data, the company turned to SugarCRM, selecting their solution ahead of a variety of competitors due to its scalability and easy customisation.

“Just for laboratory management systems, we were getting quotes ranging from $50,000 to $800,000,” says Wayne Channon, the Cells4Life chairman and a former IBM systems engineer.

“With Sugar, we have recreated expensive laboratory management systems with something that was custom-made for us for a fraction of the cost. Our platform not only has more functions than those we looked at, it is more powerful. It is the best laboratory information management system I have ever seen, and we have hospitals now asking us if they can use our system.”

While the laboratory management accomplishments are substantial for controlling costs and meeting compliance standards, the components directly influencing the customer lifecycle processes – from marketing to invoicing – also are showing substantial improvements. The company has remained lean while growing revenue by automating many processes and government-mandated standard operating procedures that otherwise would have added at least five positions to the 30-person company.

From marketing automation to accounting, from legal to laboratory management, Cells4Life is setting new horizons for data management and process automation through Sugar.

“Beginning to end Sugar runs our organisation,” says Channon.

CompliantBig screen medecine health scan doctor ©beerkoff Shutterstock

As mentioned, the company needed a system than was regulatory compliant across markets and was able to cope with many different sets of rules.

When IT Director John Millis evaluated the CRM systems that might be suitable for Cells4Life, his criteria included flexibility and security. “We needed to automate the standard operating procedures required by government – we are run by them and the overhead was killing us. The SOPs were paralysing and prone to mistakes. We needed a way to remove that and scale the organisation, and we got that in the modifications we made to Sugar,” Millis says.

“We wanted a system that could go beyond a customer management system. We had the laboratory to think about, in addition to the usual business functions,” he says. “Sugar allows us to customise and extend in any way we can come up with.” Sugar’s ability to be deployed on-site gave it a leg up on some of the competition that required cloud-based data storage.

“The regulatory standard operating procedures were paralysing and costly. Using Sugar for automation, we removed that problem.”

Because Cells4Life has to comply with numerous government regulations ranging from health-care laws to data privacy standards – which can differ in the European Union and the Middle East – Millis wanted the security Sugar on-site provided.

“We are dealing with a lot of personal information, human tissue samples, and we didn’t want to have that information exposed in any way,” Millis says. “We have to control who can access the data, how samples are stored, and what records are tracking the environmental conditions in the laboratory at all times.”

Launching Sugar took about two months and included migrating more than 10,000 existing data files. For Millis, who was with a multi-national telecom company for 15 years and had become accustomed to corporate lethargy, the implementation’s speedy results were an eye-opener.

“It was a ‘wow!’ moment for me because Sugar made us much more nimble immediately,” he recalls.

Channon agrees, saying that the power and flexibility of the platform has really aided the company, particularly in integrating different modules.

“We didn’t think we would be able to automate so many processes so easily,” he says. “As a small business and we need all the help we can get, and Sugar has made a huge difference to our business.”

How well do you know open source software? Take our quiz!