By Adrian Cortes Sanchon

Collaboration is the cornerstone of innovation. An ongoing collaboration between Tecan, manufacturer of robust, high-quality liquid handling automation systems, its partner, Macherey-Nagel, developer of nucleic acid extraction kits, and their customer, a research group from Jülich Research Center, in Germany, is proving to create fertile ground for innovation and sustainable solutions. At the core of this successful collaboration is the automated extraction of nucleic acids, in this case plasmids. 

Circular pieces of DNA aka plasmids

Plasmids are circular pieces of DNA which act as vectors to introduce new genetic elements into model microorganisms.

Automating workflows to optimize efficiency

Researchers at Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) are engineering microbial strains that can convert raw biological materials into value-added organic compounds that can fuel the bioeconomy. They are optimizing the bioproduction of value-added biochemicals, such as organic acids for biopolymers, amino acids as feed and food additives, and high-value pharma ingredients that can be manufactured on a near-industrial scale. Their processes include extraction and purification of plasmid DNA. Plasmids are circular pieces of DNA, which act as vectors to introduce new genetic elements into model microorganisms. Once, bacteria are transformed with these plasmids, they are subsequently characterized, and strain performance is analyzed. 

Automation plays a key role in these workflows. “Creating and testing novel producer strains with complex biosynthetic pathways is extremely slow and error prone when performed manually,” states Dr. Ing Stephan Noack, leader of FZJ’s Quantitative Microbial Phenotyping (QMP) group. “We therefore wanted to introduce automation for all of our molecular cloning and strain characterization steps in order to streamline our work, increase lab productivity, optimize assay precision and consistency, and relieve operators from tedious repetitive tasks.”

Two professionals by a Fluent automated lab workstation

Figure 1: Dr Julia Tenhaef and Dr-Ing Stephan Noack from the Quantitative Microbial Phenotyping (QMP) research group at the FZJ’s Institute of Bio- and Geosciences next to their Tecan Fluent® workstation


Meeting customer needs

Macherey-Nagel and Tecan collaborate closely to demonstrate optimal solutions for automated nucleic acid extractions. Macherey-Nagel chemistry kits are optimized for use on Tecan’s automated liquid handling workstations such as the Fluent® and Resolvex®. The FZJ researchers are using the NucleoSpin® 96 Plasmid Core Kit from Macherey-Nagel in combination with the Tecan Resolvex system for plasmid isolation.

Macherey-Nagel provided support to ensure that the ideal pressure and time settings were being used for the kits with the group’s set-up. Tecan helped create and optimize custom movement vectors for the Fluent workstation to ensure accurate loading and unloading of plates and custom labware.

“After cell lysis, the cell debris and chromosomal DNA is removed from the samples via filtration, then the plasmid DNA is bound to the Macherey-Nagel plasmid binding plate,” explains QMP team member Dr. Julia Tenhaef. “Subsequent washing steps are also performed using the Resolvex system, and the final elution of the purified plasmid is performed using the integrated centrifuge.”

Faster nucleic acid extraction with automation

For faster DNA extraction, Fluent provides scalable solutions to match various throughput needs, with the flexibility to switch between random access samples, 96- and 384-well plates as required. Fluent streamlines workflows and optimizes precision and consistency. It is a fully modular, open architecture system, which allows each instrument to be individually configured with robotic arms for pipetting and labware movement.

The multifunctional Fluent can easily switch between different workflow steps and different labware formats. It can seamlessly integrate with existing instrumentation. The workstation can perform non-contact dispensing, even below 5 µL, ensuring consistent, high-quality results with advanced in-process monitoring, labware and sample identification, and built-in SOPs. 

This article demonstrates how Tecan supports the development of fully integrated solutions for customized workflows. For nucleic acid extraction (NAP) protocols, Tecan also offers a dedicated Fluent configuration: the DreamPrep® NAP. This ready-to-go workstation provides a walkaway solution for standard magnetic bead-based nucleic acids extraction

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About the author

Adrian Cortes Sanchon

Adrian Cortes Sanchon

Adrian Cortes Sanchon (PhD) is a Product Manager at Tecan Switzerland. He studied Biochemistry at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, and did his master’s in Biomedical Research at the Pompeu Fabra University, Spain, and at EMBL Heidelberg, Germany. Adrian obtained his PhD in Life Science from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where his research focused on biochemical and -omics analysis of mistranslating systems at the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Zurich. He joined Tecan in 2022, focusing on the implementation of automated solutions for nucleic acid extraction and PCR workflows.