What Is an Assay Design?

Assay designs are LabKey Server's way of capturing and importing instrument data, such as the data produced by an ELISPOT reader, a Luminex multiplexer, a mass spectrometer, etc. The data structures of an assay design tell the server how to interpret the instrument output, so that the data can be uploaded 'into' the design and stored in a tabular format for further use.

Assay Fields and Properties

Each assay design consists of a list of data fields, each capturing the contents of some individual column of uploaded assay data. Additional fields can be added to capture metadata about the uploaded run itself. All fields can have properties such as:

  • The data type
  • Whether a value is optional
  • How to validate or interpret special values
  • How to display the resulting data and use it in reporting
Some fields will be populated from the uploaded data itself, other values can be provided by the operator at import time.

Fields are grouped into three categories:

  • Batch: A setting applies to an entire batch of runs (or files) uploaded at once. Example: the name of the person uploading the data.
  • Run: A setting applies to all the data in a single run, but may vary between them. Example: An instrument setting at the time of the run.
  • Data: A setting applies only to a single row. Example: the ID of the participant each row of data is about.

Assay Types

Assay designs are based on assay types, which are "templates" corresponding to a specific instrument or assay process.

Instrument-specific assay types pre-define many fields and properties appropriate for the particular instrument, which can be further refined as needed. To create a new assay design "from scratch" or for a new type of instrument, you can use the "General Purpose Assay Type", or GPAT, which includes by default only the minimal fields that are required by any assay.

Create an Assay Design

When you create an assay design you start from some assay type, give it a unique name, and then reduce or extend the original assay type to fit your data capture requirements.

  • Click on New Assay Design in the Assay List Web Part.
  • Select the "assay type" (e.g., "General") from the menu.
  • Select the Assay Location -- this determines where the assay design is available. You can scope your design to the current folder, project, or place it in the Shared project to make it available site wide.
  • Click Next to open the "Assay Designer".
    • Give your assay design a unique name.
    • Assay properties are set once for all users of the design and not editable here.
    • Any fields already part of the assay type you selected are prepopulated in batch, run, and data sections.
    • Fields that shown an 'X' can be removed if desired.
    • Fields that show up and down arrows can be reordered.
    • Add additional fields as needed.
    • Set field properties by selecting any row and using the tabs on the right.
  • Click Save and Close. Your new assay is now listed in the Assay List web part.

Once defined, you can import as many data files as you wish using this design.

To edit, copy, delete or export an assay design, please see: Manage an Assay Design.

Other Ways to Create Assay Designs

Use an Existing Assay Design as a Template

You can also create a new assay design by copying from an existing design that is closer to your needs than any of the built in types. See Manage an Assay Design.

Infer an Assay Design from Spreadsheet Data

Another way to create an assay design is to infer it from a sample spreadsheet, then edit to change the fields and properties as needed.

  • Upload the sample spreadsheet to the file browser in the desired folder.
  • Select it and click Import Data.
  • In the popup, select the option to Create New <TYPE> Assay Design.
  • Provide a name and adjust the information inferred from the file.
  • Click Begin Import or use Show Assay Designer to make further changes.

Note that LabKey does have a few reserved names in the assay framework, including "container, created, createdBy, modified, and modifiedBy", so if your spreadsheet contains these columns you may encounter mapping errors if you try to create a new assay from it. You can work around this issue during assay design creation by editing the names of these columns and using the Advanced > Import Aliases option to map the original name to the new name you added.

You can also infer only one or more sets of fields from spreadsheets. Find an example in the GPAT assay tutorial here: Step 2: Infer an Assay Design from Spreadsheet Data.

Use an Assay Design Exported in a XAR Archive

Assay designs are included in XAR archives. To import an assay design from a XAR file, review this topic: Export/Import Assay Design.

Related Topics


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