By Hal Wehrenberg
Cost-efficient application of advanced technologies such as next generation sequencing (NGS) and liquid-chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC-MS) demands sophisticated automation solutions that can handle complex protocols and evolving applications. However, if you are working in a clinical lab or other highly regulated environment then increasing instrument flexibility can make meeting compliance standards a real challenge. Before you buy, here are 5 key considerations to ensure you get the best of both worlds in terms of flexible functionality and compliance with your automated liquid handling system.
High throughput with reliable output
Success in complex workflows starts with correct processing of samples with a high throughput and minimum operator input. This demands speed, accuracy and precision to minimize the risk of expensive and time-consuming re-runs based on limited amounts of precious material. You can boost throughput by using an automated liquid handling system that performs multiple tasks in parallel. Accurate and sensitive liquid level sensing and aspiration monitoring will enable the use of smaller sample volumes and reduce dead volumes.
Liquid handling workflows are complex and there may also be a need to run different applications on the same platform, if not the same individual instrument. The automation solution must therefore be flexible and provide an open automation approach that supports, for example, NGS protocols that can differ considerably between vendors of reagents and sequencers. It should be easy to transfer methods between platforms, for example by exporting and importing scripts, instead of having to set up individual instruments.
Control and minimal contamination risk
Reliable control of complex liquid handling workflows demands implementing procedures that minimize the risk of mistakes in handling samples and reagents. Look for systems with a user interface and an environment that helps you avoid the risks of sample misplacement, dispensing errors and cross-contamination. For example, among its many ‘fool proofing’ features, Fluent®Gx* provides visuals that show you exactly how the deck should be configured; such a picture beats a thousand words of instruction. will enable automated error handling. Another feature that can be essential for securing the environment for cell biology applications is an integrated laminar flow HEPA hood, preferably with UVC light.
Getting reliable results depends on avoiding operator error so ease-of-use is key. This means choosing a system that meets the needs of both day-to-day operators and system programmers, without compromise. Assay development and configuration should be quick and easy. Functionality should include a clear and simple interface with visual guides that lead the operator through complex tasks to ensure fast, consistent and efficient operation.
Ideally, the automation solution should be specifically designed to meet the needsof regulated laboratories, including compliance with stringent regulatory requirements such as FDA 21 CFR Part 11. Important functions to achieve this include electronic signatures that provide an audit trail that tracks all system and electronic record changes and ensures that no external manipulations, additions or deletions to the system or record have occurred. User management should help you to prevent unauthorized changes. Sample tracking should ensure that samples can be matched to results by linking sample IDs through scanned primary tube barcodes to destination plate positions.
An automated system to support compliance
To meet the needs of the regulated clinical laboratory, Tecan has developed Fluent Gx, an open compliant-ready automated liquid handling platform that provides the flexibility you need to cover a wide range of applications and laboratory developed tests (LDTs). Fluent Gx has all the advanced process security features required for applications in clinical, GMP and QC facilities. This automated liquid handling platform enables you to perform complex tasks with simple interactions. The result is high productivity and confidence in the outcome.
Fluent Gx is the result of our understanding of the regulated environment you work in. We have a proven track record of working with regulated labs just like yours and have been trusted to deliver automated handling solutions that work seamlessly.
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Ready to learn more about how Fluent Gx can help your lab achieve more, faster? Talk to an expert now.
*The Fluent Gx is an open automation platform product for general laboratory use. It is intended for routine laboratory tasks, such as general-purpose pipetting and general purpose liquid handling and robotic processes. Not all options are available in all markets. Certain options when combined with Fluent are for research use only. Configuration of options may impact intended use –please consult your local Tecan office
About the author
Hal is the Head of Product Management and has been at Tecan for the last eleven years. Before he began at Tecan he was an independent freelance computer programmer. This allowed him to gather a wide range of experience working from concept and project definition to final full implementation of a wide range of solutions. This has been invaluable in his roles at Tecan, where most of his work involves guiding the development of the Fluent platform to more effectively meet their customers’ business needs.
Solution-based chemistry combined with flexible automation is the game changer for Nucleic Acid Purification