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Selected category: Cell Biology & Cell Assays

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How to measure alarmin HMGB1

By Oliver Schmidt

In the first article in this series, we looked at how HMGB1 has taken an increasingly important position as a key mediator in the immune response and as such plays a major role in a large number of diseases – from sepsis to cancer. As Professor Helena Erlandsson Harris, a pioneer in HMGB1 research, says, “I am convinced that the next step will be even better data to demonstrate the usefulness of HMGB1 as a prognostic/diagnostic biomarker. This has been hampered by the need to understand the isoforms that control different functions and also the methods for measuring HMGB1. It would be even better if HMGB1 detection were included in larger biomarker panels.” HMGB1 has indeed been included as a necessary biomarker in consensus guidelines for the detection of immunogenic cell death. The question is how to measure it. In this article, we will look at the development of increasingly sensitive, reliable and easy-to-use assays for clinical research and routine use and how this has been complicated by the need to resolve the isoforms, and also overcome interference caused by auto-antibodies and other proteins that naturally interact with HMGB1 to modulate its function.

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Six tips to help match your liquid handling components with chemical compatibility

By Claudio Bui

The demand for advanced medical and diagnostic testing continues to accelerate. Laboratories, hospitals, and emerging consumer genomics companies are demanding quicker test sequences resulting in the design and development of new innovative and responsive test protocols. These new tests include the handling of a wide array of fluids. The measurement, monitoring, mixing, and controlling of solvents, salts, detergents, acids, bases, reagents, and additives is critical in all liquid handling lab environments.

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What the alarmin HMGB1 teaches us about cellular stress response

By Oliver Schmidt

As a nuclear protein present in most cell types, HMGB1 (high mobility group box 1) is a key mediator of the immune system in health and disease. Interest in HMGB1 has increased dramatically as the protein has been shown to be critical to the cell’s response to stress and plays a major role in many disease states, including infectious diseases, ischemia, immune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders, and, not least, cancer. Highly conserved in mammals, HMGB1 (also known as HMG-1 and amphoterin) is primarily located in the chromatin where it stabilizes chromosome structure and plays a key role in controlling gene expression.

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Fast track your biotech breakthroughs: Four “I”s in custom lab automation

By James O’Brien


When it’s time to move your biotechnology breakthrough towards commercialization, your specific application workflows may require a custom approach to lab automation. If your requirements are uncommon, there may be no off-the-shelf products available for you to compare and test. Even custom configuration of off-the-shelf components may not be suitable. What is the best approach to finding a custom solution that meets your unique needs?

The answer is to use a defined process that ensures each step is thoroughly explored and evaluated. Consider these four “I’s” of custom engineering: Investigate, Ideate, Invent and Integrate. 

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Five ways instrument utilization data can boost your lab’s efficiency

By Michelle Aichele



Are you guilty of making decisions without the data to back them up? In today’s busy labs, mission-critical decisions about laboratory equipment purchases, service contract renewals, consumables spending, and staffing are often made on the basis of incomplete information. Having a clear picture of instrument usage and burn rates of associated reagents and consumables can help you uncover new ways to cut costs and improve performance in the laboratory. In the previous article we highlighted how crucial it can be for labs to monitor instrument utilization data. Now let’s consider more specifically what you can learn from analyzing all this data.


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How can custom automation accelerate commercialization of biotechnology breakthroughs?

By James O´Brien


You’ve done your testing on the benchtop and proven that your new biotechnology innovation works in your hands. Now comes the exciting part – turning your solution into a breakthrough product that is ready for broader use and commercial launch. To get there, you need to optimize your processes so that you can ensure they are robust, operate within defined tolerances, and facilitate scale-up. What’s the fastest and most efficient way to get this done so that you can focus on your next bioscience advancements?

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Is what you don’t know costing you? Why instrument utilization data could be your lab’s biggest asset

By Michelle Aichele

As we move into the 2019 budget cycle with signs of a global economic slowdown on the horizon, laboratory administrators are no doubt feeling the heat. A combination of poor forecasting, inefficient use of resources, and a sudden economic downturn could create the perfect storm to capsize operations. Despite these high stakes, critical decisions about budget allocation, expensive equipment purchases, workflow optimization and cost-cutting strategies are often made based on incomplete information or even pure guesswork about laboratory asset utilization.

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Getting breakthrough biotechnologies to market: Why innovation is not enough

By James O´Brien

With biotechnology advancing at an astounding rate, last year’s innovations often become routine tools for today’s breakthroughs. For example, next generation sequencing (NGS) is now an integral step in CRISPR/Cas9 constructions. The interplay between hardware, software, and biotechnologies is continually in flux, as some developments see payoff more quickly than others, and emerging breakthroughs can suddenly change the game altogether. With such constant and unpredictable change, how can you ensure that your own innovations move smoothly from concept to solution as quickly as possible?

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How to get comprehensive data from your cell-based fluorescence assays

By Dr Christian Oberdanner

As we saw in the previous article in this series, detecting differences in your cell-based fluorescence experiments means you need high assay sensitivity and reproducibility that comes from high quality optics and intelligent measurement methods. All this can be achieved using Spark™ multimode microplate reader.

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How to get star quality performance with an imaging microplate reader

By Dr Christian Oberdanner

Ever wish you could turn your microplate reader into an imager, so you can see exactly what your cells are doing in the well? Conventional plate readers are a ‘black box’ for cell-based assays. Your plate goes into the box, numbers come out, but you can never be certain that the results reflect physiological reality. 

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Is your microplate reader working hard enough? The influence of confluence

By Dr Christian Oberdanner

If you thought automated cell imaging and confluence determinations were just for “high-content” microscopy, think again. “All-in-one” microplate readers are shifting into top gear with the addition of robust imaging capability. 

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Great expectations for your live-cell assays? Here’s how to keep cells performing, even when you’re asleep

By Dr Christian Oberdanner

Last night you were up until midnight tending to your live-cell experiment. This morning you woke up with great expectations, only to find that your cells are sick and the entire experiment must be repeated.  Sound familiar?  It happens all too often, and the consequences can be heartbreaking – deadlines missed, expensive reagents wasted, precious samples lost.

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Live cell assays - six things your cells would tell you if they could talk

By Dr. Christian Oberdanner. 

Cell-based assays are a core research tool, offering an informative and cost-effective counterpart to in vitro and animal tests.  Where destructive methods involving cell lysis once predominated, live cell assays are now commonplace, with measurements collected in real time, either at a single time point (end-point assays) or repeatedly over the course of minutes, hours or even days (kinetic assays).

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Master the challenges of cell-based fluorescence assays

By Dr Stefan Haberstock

Cell-based assays are giving us deeper insight into cellular mechanisms in a true biological context, and fluorescence assays are playing a leading role. Applications range from cytotoxicity, proliferation, apoptosis and G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling assays to high-throughput screening (HTS) drug discovery.

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Understanding imaging cell counting solutions


By Siegfried Sasshofer

All researchers performing cellular assays – research or clinical - need a cell counting solution. Cell counters are used to count cells in a culture to determine density, concentration or viability. Having established the need to count cells, how then to understand the many cell counting technologies available? Manual or automatic? Non-imaging (electrical resistance, flow, spectrophotometry) or imaging?

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When assessing confluence for cell-based assays, variety is not the spice of life

By Siegfried Sasshofer

Imagine life science research without cell-based assays. Or without cultured cells of all types to power those assays. Healthy, high-quality cells at the right point of confluence are vital for proliferation, kinetics, cytotoxicity, and gene expression studies particularly during long-term experiments. With so many different cell types, assay formats, and detection methods the variability inherent in cell-based assays can be enormous. There’s no room for inconsistency in cell counts and confluence assessments — it’s counterproductive and just wastes time. What’s the best way to improve counting accuracy in your cell-based assays?

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How to accelerate assay development and reduce cycle times

By Michael Fejtl

Successful assay development is of utmost importance for cost-efficient drug discovery. In vitro and cell-based assays serve as a first step to evaluate the biological effects of chemical compounds by cellular, molecular or biochemical approaches. The derived assay readouts may be relevant to human health and disease and can identify potential therapeutic candidates in the drug development pipeline. Ensuring minimal cycle times for assay development is an essential step in making a drug discovery program more cost-efficient. In this article, we present the key challenges for reducing cycle time of assay development and what it takes to solve them.

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Putting stem cells at the heart of predictive drug toxicity testing

By Kevin Moore

In the pharmaceutical industry, stem cells play a growing role in all phases of drug discovery, from disease modeling and early target discovery to their use in developing innovative cell therapies. Increasingly, a major development impact factor for stem cells is their capacity to serve as a self-renewing, sustainable source of differentiated cell models to support predictive toxicity testing in early stage drug discovery.

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These 7 trends are reshaping assays for drug discovery and development

By Michael Fejtl

Cell-based and in vitro assays are cornerstones of successful drug discovery and development, informing critical decision points at every stage of the process, from target identification through to pre-clinical testing. Poor assay choices can lead to irrelevant, variable or misleading results that translate into delays and costly program failures further down the line. Here we look at some recent assay technology trends that promise to improve productivity and reduce attrition rates in drug discovery and development. With them come new or more intense challenges for successful assay development and implementation, but in the long run, their added information content may make them the more cost-efficient alternatives.

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Automating your research? Consider these must-have features when choosing a liquid handling system

By Kevin Moore

The trend towards more automated workflows in research is helping to significantly improve data quality as well as laboratory productivity. But when it comes to choosing an automated system for liquid handling and dispensing, it can be difficult to decide between the large range of technologies and platforms currently available. Here are a few pointers to help you select the features that are most important for your lab.

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Getting a handle on screen design in complex biological systems: SLAS2018 track

By Simon Fogarty

Designing an effective biological screen is always a case of knowing when to quit versus when to keep going, so you don’t miss potentially important factors. When working with complex biological systems, rational screen design becomes even more of a challenge. A main presentation track at SLAS 2018 will focus on that question. Entitled "Assay Development and Screening", the track will include a number of relevant sessions, including "Screening to Optimize Chemical and Biological Space," chaired by Fred King, Ph.D., Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation. We spoke to Dr. King to learn more.

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Phenotypic screening as a pathway to personalized medicine for neurologic diseases

By Simon Fogarty

A main presentation track at SLAS2018 entitled "Cellular Technologies" will include the session "Development of Cellular Models for Phenotypic Screening," chaired by Kristen Brennand, Ph.D., New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator and Associate Professor, Departments of Genetics and Genomics, Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. We spoke to Dr. Brennand about the key topics, highlighted trends, and target audience for the talks and presenters he has prepared.

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Can DIY automation solutions bridge gaps in drug discovery? SLAS2018 takes a look

By Simon Fogarty

In the rapidly evolving, data-driven life sciences sector, it is increasingly common to see labs developing their own in-house solutions to enable scale-up of novel methods, and to bridge technology gaps not yet filled by automation providers. The track "Automation and High-Throughput Technologies" at SLAS 2018 includes the session "In-House Automation: Devices and Software Developed Internally," which will explore this growing trend. We interviewed the session chair, Louis Scampavia, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute to learn more.

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Advances in assay development are focus of SLAS2018 track

By Kevin Moore

From phenotypic assays to 4D cell tracking, high-tech methods are of increasing importance for complex screens. This expanding area will be a main presentation track at SLAS 2018 entitled "Assay Development and Screening" and co-chaired by Dr. Ralph Garippa, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Dr. Edward Ainscow, Carrick Therapeutics. Dr. Garippa provides more insight on this timely and broad-ranging track, which will highlight case histories in assay development, implementation for high throughput screening (HTS) campaigns, and triaging for hit confirmation.

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SLAS2018 will explore advances in high throughput phenotypic screening

By Simon Fogarty

High throughput screening methods for phenotypic drug discovery are in demand, as novel disease models arise and increase in complexity. A main presentation track at SLAS2018 entitled "Automation and High-throughput Technologies" will include the session "Automating Target-Based and Complex Phenotypic Drug Discovery," chaired by Shane Horman, Ph.D. of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation. We spoke with Dr. Horman to learn more about the key topics, highlighted trends, and target audience for the session.

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Phenotypic screening means exciting times for drug discovery

By Kevin Moore

Phenotypic screening is back, with exciting implications for the discovery of new and more effective drugs. The reason? Constantly improving cellular technologies and instrumentation, and drug discovery and development programs bringing us closer to truly realizing the potential of precision medicine.

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It’s about time. Nobel Prize honors pioneers in circadian clock biology

By Kevin Moore

Like gravity, some phenomena are so integral to our existence that we’re barely conscious of them. Maybe that’s why the research community was largely taken by surprise when it was announced that this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three American scientists for their seminal work on circadian clocks ¹. But consider the synergies with next gen sequencing (NGS) and gene editing technologies, and it becomes clear that the implications of their work are far-reaching. 

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How to make your genomics research more reproducible

By Kevin Moore

The repeatability of biomedical research has become a major issue, and the ability to achieve reproducible research results can only be as good as the liquid handling performance. Automation has become a given step in the drive to generate reproducible data so how well can automated liquid handling perform in, for example, genomics applications?

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Drowning in data: Can precision medicine get smart enough, fast enough?

By Nicholas Smith

Cognitive computing and artificial intelligence have the power to save us from drowning in the vast and growing sea of data needed for precision medicine, but what will it take to achieve a timely return on investment? Experts from multiple disciplines will gather to share their perspectives on this challenging problem at the upcoming Tecan Symposium in Salt Lake City on November 14th.

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Crisis of confidence: How reproducible is your research?

By Kevin Moore

Data driven decision-making depends on generating reliable data in a timely fashion. But the reproducibility of biomedical research results, or rather lack of it, has become a big issue. A recent Nature survey¹ revealed a “reproducibility crisis” in the research community, with 70% of respondents having failed to reproduce the work of other researchers, and over half even failing to reproduce their own results. 

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Why an Academic Laboratory Does Not Need Automation, and 5 Reasons Why I Disagree

By Rick Luedke

You may be convinced that your academic research laboratory is humming along just fine and cannot benefit from, take the time to consider, and perhaps most of all, afford adding automation to your workflow.

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How automated test tube barcoding adds reliability and stops unnecessary errors

By Florence Collins

Scinomix, Inc., founded in 2001, creates customized solutions for labeling tubes, vials and plates in many life science applications. We took the chance to ask Nigel Malterer (CEO) and Jonathan King (Automation Software Engineer) at Scinomix about how automated barcode labeling solutions are helping to improve productivity, reduce errors and costs, and increase control over lab workflows.

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Live cell assays - six things your cells would tell you if they could talk

By Dr. Christian Oberdanner. 

Cell-based assays are a core research tool, offering an informative and cost-effective counterpart to in vitro and animal tests.  Where destructive methods involving cell lysis once predominated, live cell assays are now commonplace, with measurements collected in real time, either at a single time point (end-point assays) or repeatedly over the course of minutes, hours or even days (kinetic assays).

Read more

Spark® multimode microplate reader for high performance cell-based fluorescence assays

By Dr Stefan Haberstock

As we have seen in the previous posts in this series, implementing fluorescence detection will be a quick and effective route to improving the quality and sensitivity of your assays. Achieving optimal fluorescence assays requires an optics system with both sensitivity and flexibility.

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How to develop an optimal fluorescence assay

By Dr Stefan Haberstock

Fluorescence detection can give you the ability to develop assays with extreme sensitivity, high robustness and a broad dynamic range. Success involves addressing several challenges, such as the careful choice of excitation (Ex) and emission (Em) wavelengths and the selection of flexible and sensitive optics, as we will see here.

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How to make the right choice for barcoding sample tubes – standards, challenges and considerations

By Florence Collins

Barcodes play a central role in minimizing the risk of error in lab automation by providing secure tracking of components throughout the workflow. Barcode-guided lab automation can be simple and cost-effective, with significant paybacks thanks to productivity increases. 

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Tecan delivers sterile tips to your lab bench

By Severin Heynen

As we have learned in previous posts in this series, only pipette tips marked ‘sterile’ are guaranteed with a sterility assurance level (SAL) of 10-6. Pipette tips labeled as ‘Pre-sterile’ do not give such sterility assurances.

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A brighter future with fluorescence-based assays

By Dr Stefan Haberstock

Compared to many other detection technologies, fluorescence provides hard-to-beat performance and flexibility. Fluorescent labels are stable for months, deliver high sensitivity and the diversity in available dyes gives nearly unlimited possibilities in assay design. This and many other advantages make implementing fluorescence detection one of the easiest and safest ways for you to improve the quality and sensitivity of your assays.

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Precision and accuracy – two pillars of data reliability

By Agnieszka Sitarska

The life science industry is constantly fighting to improve throughput and reduce costs through the ‘industrialization’ of research and development. You have to strike a balance between moving quickly (productivity) and ensuring that you are actually moving in the right direction (quality). Lab automation, including automated liquid handling, plays an essential role in ramping up productivity. Ensuring high quality liquid handling is therefore the key to securing the reliable data you need to meet your program goals.

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From cartilage to cancer: 3D microtumors can change drug discovery

By Kevin Moore

How can we improve upon the completely artificial situation that we have today for screening drugs? We spoke to Dr. Christopher Millan, Co-Founder and CTO of the up-and-coming company, CellSpring. Based in Zürich, Christopher Millan with his business partner, CEO Kramer Schmidt, are both Americans. We also asked Chris how two Americans end up establishing a biotech start-up company in Switzerland.

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Getting Fluent in compound screening – an early adopter speaks out

By Kevin Moore

With today's demands of throughput and flexibility, how can you perform screening better? We spoke to Dr. Bernhard Ellinger, Principal Scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology. Dr. Ellinger is one of the first testers of the Fluent®* 780 liquid handling automation platform from Tecan. He put the system through its paces in a diverse range of applications for over 3 years. Here’s what he learnt.

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How to reliably get more data from less volume

By Severin Heynen

With multiple tests to perform on a tiny volume, samples are getting more precious. And as Next Generation Sequencing pushes the envelope on cost and throughput, scientists are looking for ways of reducing reagent volumes without compromising on quality. Tecan has a tip.

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Automation using low volume disposable pipette tips

By Severin Heynen

The industrialization of biology has become possible thanks to the automation of repetitive tasks such as liquid handling, providing several benefits. It allows customers to extend their window of operations, achieve greater assay consistency and refocus expertise away from repetitive processes. In addition, moving manual steps, such as pipetting into the control of robots also enables secure downsizing of formats, including sample and reagent volumes. 

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Make sure your sterile pipette tips are really sterile

By Severin Heynen


Maintaining control over sterility is critical to success in many academic and clinical research applications, including microbiological assays, biobanking, and handling cells.

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Lament of the dead cancer cell

By Nicholas Smith

How do cancer cells die? Necrosis of a tumor, or unscheduled cell death, has been linked to tumors outgrowing their blood supply. But now it is believed that the release of HMGB1 promotes the survival of the remaining tumor cells.

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The economics of robotics

By Martin Braendle

Robotics and automation have become essential to the future plans of drug discovery and clinical diagnostic companies. Executives are looking to increase productivity and reduce costs, and automation fits the bill in every respect.

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11 key points to install and efficiently initiate a new automated assay system in your laboratory

By Hal Wehrenberg

Congratulations. It took you quite some time and effort to convince your management or institution on the value of investing in automating your experimental or clinical workflow. The applications were submitted, the presentations were made and the wheeling and dealing to secure the budget resulted in you and your team landing the investment. You've arrived. Now all you have to do is choose the robot and get it up and running.

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Five essential software questions to ask before buying a liquid handling instrument

By Hal Wehrenberg

All automation is controlled by software and understanding the differences between options can be complicated. Underestimating the impact of software may set back your budget or critical timelines.

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Automation, miniaturization, cell based assays and 3D cell culture – the new standards for phenotypic screening

By Simon Fogarty

If you’ve decided you need to incorporate phenotypic screening into your discovery program and you know that one of the new generation of automation platforms is the way forward, what factors should influence your choice?

A Q&A session with Kevin Moore, Manager Liquid Handling Product and Applications Management at Tecan, offers a view of what you should consider.

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Counting cells is a waste of time

By Siegfried Sasshofer

The hemocytometer has been around for 140 years. It’s an easy, reliable, and trusty tool for all kinds of cell counting applications. It’s beautiful and simple. But measuring the well-being of your cells one click at a time is slow and tedious, and can be near impossible for adherent cells. Shouldn’t you be doing something else with your time?

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Cell counting by the numbers

By Michael Fejtl

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.” Lord Kelvin knew that. To be confident in your results, to quickly move your studies forward, and to be the first to publish your conclusions, you need to know that your numbers are right. The proof you need lies in reproducibility, and reproducibility in any cell-based assay starts with accurate cell counts.

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Simplifying cell assays with automated confluence determination

By Michael Fejtl

When it comes to drug development, the challenge is always to create as much in-vivo relevant data as possible. The more relevant in-vivo data you can gather, the lower the risk of the drug not passing a clinical trial.

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Accelerating the drug discovery process with assay optimization

By Siegfried Sasshofer

What are the benefits of the new Spark® 20M when it comes to accelerating the drug discovery process?  This presentation from SLAS2016 goes beyond discussing typical microplate readers and washers to covering processes for optimizing assay development. 

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The top 5 pitfalls of custom automation

By Avinash Peddi

What happens when lab automation projects are unsuccessful? One outake is learning that creates a stronger process and methodology. That's exactly what we found at Tecan after working with several hundred customers on lab automation for multiple projects. This presentation from SLAS2016 reveals the top 5 pitfalls of custom automation based on real experience.

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"Self aware" automation - SLAS 2016 presentation

By Hal Wehrenberg

What happens when the robots in your lab become self aware? Take a closer look at this issue and the possibilities by watching this presentation on self-aware automation from SLAS 2016. 

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The short history of cancer research funding- Part II

By Martin Braendle
(Part 2 of 2. Read Part I). In 1948, Bill Koster of the Variety Club of New England and Dr. Sidney Farber working at the Children’s Hospital Boston had launched The Children's Cancer Research Fund, aimed at supporting a hospital dedicated to the research of childhood leukemia. But they needed a poster child to boost fundraising.

 
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The short history of cancer research funding - Part I

By Martin Braendle
In his book, The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee tells the story of one of the turning points in the history of cancer medicine. A turning point that he dates to May 1947. In this two-part article we will look at how cancer research has been transformed by fundraising. 

 

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