Welcome to the Tecan blog. Here’s where we take a closer look at research and development stories, trends and developments shaping the diverse areas in which our customers and partners work.
The blog is written for anyone interested in laboratory automation, clinical diagnostics as well as developing their own automated lab systems. Updated regularly, you will find a wealth of information on the latest trends from the thought leaders.
So why not subscribe today to receive an email summary of our blog posts?
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, playing a major role in many diseases, from cancer to coronavirus. There is now significant evidence that HMGB1 is essential for SARS-COV-2 replication, as well as potentially being a therapeutic target in severe cases of COVID-19.1 In this article we examine how we can effectively measure HMGB1 accurately in serum and other samples and begin the journey from research to clinic.
Low drug efficacy and safety concerns are the main reasons for late-stage withdrawal of drugs in clinical trials and account for 87% of all phase III submission failures.  Toxicity towards certain organs like the heart, liver or kidneys plays a central role in many of these unsuccessful trials. For the monitoring of tissue-specific toxicity, human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) are increasingly used as a powerful tool to develop cell models, since they are more relevant, scalable and reproducible model systems compared to traditional animal models and standard immortalized cell lines. Production, handling and differentiation of iPSC and other stem cell-derived models is very time-consuming and greatly benefits from automation. This article explores some of the factors to consider when automating for stem cell handling and differentiation.
Getting to market quickly is essential when introducing new instrumentation into a fast-paced industry sector like genomics. When the pressure is on, rapid prototyping can be the key to quickly and efficiently building a reliable product that fulfills all the needs of your customer. In this article, we take a closer look at what prototyping involves and how you can accelerate the process to get your instrument to market faster than your competitors.
How the human body deals with infection depends on an individual’s immune response. When looking at the body’s response to SARS-CoV-2, the state of the immune system has a crucial impact on the clinical outcome. For example, HMGB1 (High Mobility Group Box 1) protein is a key mediator of the immune system, and as such it has been shown to be critical in the replication of SARS-CoV-2. This article outlines the potential roles of HMGB1 in the race to find solutions to the coronavirus pandemic.
Imagine discovering that one of your company’s core liquid handling procedures has been generating variable results from one automation platform to the next, or one lab to the next. The impact could have devastating consequences for your work, if not for your career. Fortunately, an ISO quality standard has been established to help reduce the risk of this quality management nightmare becoming a reality.
Getting to market in time with a fully functional IVD instrument that is automated requires precision planning and laser focus at all stages of development. At the onset of your project, it is important to weigh the development risks and consider the impact those may have on time it takes to introduce your instrument to market. One of those development risks to evaluate is whether partnering with an OEM developer with automated liquid handling experience is a viable option for your project. Or if the option to develop your instrument in-house is the best way to proceed.
With complex products like laboratory instruments used to automate genomic testing, time to market is often a critical factor in determining whether or not to go ahead with product development. The obvious problem is that as projects become more complex and involve more teams with mixed competencies, calculating the time to market becomes more challenging. Based on my experience, here are some of the top reasons why companies significantly underestimate their time to market projections. If you can avoid these common pitfalls when launching new lab instruments and genomic tools, then the risk of your project being delayed is significantly reduced.
The accurate measurement of female hormone levels is at the very core of women’s reproductive health and general wellbeing, whether searching for potential causes of infertility, or treating debilitating premenstrual or menopausal symptoms. These tests were traditionally blood-based. However, saliva-based testing is now recognized as a highly accurate and painless alternative. In our final article in this series, we examine some of the different saliva-based testing technologies and protocols available for measuring and monitoring female hormone imbalance.
Research using stem cells and stem cell-derived models holds huge promise for drug discovery and therapeutic applications. However, creating, characterizing, maintaining and expanding stem cell-derived models and therapeutics can be a time-consuming and error-prone bottleneck. The emergence of genetically engineered induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) has opened the door to more relevant and reproducible human model systems and scale-up strategies, yet many challenges remain when it comes to the practical application of iPSC in the lab. In this article we take a look at the advantages that iPSC technology brings as well as some of the main challenges that must be addressed to increase research output and quality.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to look at laboratory routines to see if they are really pandemic proof. For example, the explosive demand for high throughput genomic analysis often creates pressures upstream to process many more samples and prepare high quality DNA. The rapid shut down of non-essential workplaces and services coupled with the surge in demand for laboratory testing put immense strain on multiple aspects of normal laboratory operations such as strict rules on the need for personal protective equipment which was in limited supply and required physical distancing. Consumable stocks and reagents also dwindled as they were being used at a much faster rate and the supply chains were affected by global demand. Now that limitations of current laboratory routines have been highlighted, it’s time to consider how to make laboratories pandemic proof.
Designing and manufacturing lab instruments that include automated liquid handling is challenging at the best of times, but in the face of increased demand for faster testing, it’s even more critical to select the right partner and reliable components. The global COVID-19 pandemic is posing unprecedented challenges for laboratories as they race to meet the demand for accurate, large-scale testing in a short amount of time, and without the risk of cross-contamination.
Saliva-based tests are a reliable and proven method for measuring female hormone levels, as well as being highly accurate and painless for the patient.¹ This article takes you through five key steps to consider when setting up saliva-based testing for measuring and monitoring female hormone imbalance.
How do you prepare for the unexpected? The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light how challenging it is for labs and production facilities to scale up quickly in times of need. The sudden surge in demand for laboratory solutions at the very time that we are experiencing unprecedented constraints on the workforce and global supply chains is a wake-up call. This has put pressure on infrastructures in every sphere connected to the healthcare industry—from R&D and manufacturing to clinical diagnostics. Even relatively small labs and organizations have been required to rapidly shift focus and massively expand their outputs at an unprecedented rate.
There is, however, a silver lining: the current pandemic compels healthcare industry leaders to question the agility and scalability of their laboratory solutions—both now and in the future. With the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS), the field of metagenomics has exploded in recent years, as scientists are now able to study microbes as communities instead of individual organisms. This has revolutionized our understanding of the relationships between microbiota, human health, and the environment.
Steroid analysis using a saliva sample first appeared in the scientific literature more than 40 years ago.1 Now, as then, saliva sampling presents an attractive alternative to blood testing because it is non-invasive, easily repeatable, can be performed in settings that may not be conducive to blood sampling, and is less stressful and more convenient for patients.
From top global instrument makers to smaller startups, life science companies face a challenge when developing and launching new IVD products in a fast-paced market. How do you create a product that meets market needs without overdeveloping it? You want a development effort that keeps costs in a profitable range while still delivering value to your customers. And you want to launch your new product within a window of time that makes it unique on the market.
Female hormone levels have been measured using blood tests for decades.1 However, blood sampling is costly, invasive, and often logistically difficult, so there is a shift towards the adoption of tests based on more convenient and cost-efficient sample types, such as saliva. Saliva-based tests are considered a reliable and proven method for measuring female hormone levels, as well as being highly accurate and painless for the patient.1 In this blog series, we look at how saliva testing for female hormone imbalance is changing the clinical diagnostics landscape, and positively impacting women’s health across the globe.
There is a definite role for IgG4 testing when diagnosing and treating pathologies that are associated with elevated levels of specific IgGs, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.¹,² This is despite the fact that IgG4 testing has had a lot of bad press over the years, mainly because it has been shown that elevated IgG4 levels for certain food antigens may simply be an indicator of exposure and tolerance of a specific food, rather than an indicator of “true” food intolerance.³ With that in mind, we look here both at the science behind the tests, and the evolving IgG and IgG4 ELISA testing market.
Women are affected by the ever-changing levels of their female sex hormones throughout all stages of their lives. These fluctuations may be normal or abnormal and may affect the development of a young woman’s secondary sexual characteristics, menstrual cycling and associated disorders, pregnancy and infertility issues, cardiovascular and bone health, and perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Saliva hormone testing is easy to do and is often the first step in diagnosing and better understanding the cause of a variety of women’s health problems. Saliva testing is a simple and noninvasive method of measuring female hormones that offers advantages over traditional blood testing as a female hormone imbalance test.
As we saw in part 1 of this blog series, liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is potentially the new gold standard for therapeutic monitoring of immunosuppressant drugs (ISD). However, for this technology to become widely adopted, the methodology needs to be standardized globally, including addressing bottlenecks both at the pre-analytical stage of sample preparation, and within the process itself. Here we take a look at the top four pitfalls to avoid when implementing LC-MS/MS for ISD monitoring.
Food intolerance or sensitivity to many common foods, such as gluten, dairy or other products, appears to be on the increase. This begs the question: does food intolerance really exist, or is it simply a trendy fad in today’s health-conscious society? In this new blog series we start by reviewing the science behind food intolerance, outline its potential causes, and investigate how it could be reliably diagnosed and treated using IgG-based tests such as ELISA.
The In Vitro Diagnostics (IVD) medical device market is fast-paced and highly competitive, with new and advanced applications appearing every day. High technical risks, cost overruns, schedule delays and missed end-user targets are just some of the pitfalls that can derail a project or lead to an unsuccessful product. Moreover, the expertise requirements and regulatory landscape for IVD medical devices continue to grow in complexity, making it even more difficult for a diagnostics company to keep pace and bring its platform solutions to market in a timely manner and with the appropriate mechanisms in place to fully support the customer. Here we take a closer look at why a systematic risk-based development approach is essential for IVD device development, and how the right OEM partner can be crucial for success.
You are considering an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) partner to support you in bringing your idea to market. The planned in vitro diagnostic device may require components, robotics and modules. You may need integration into an existing platform or the development of a completely new customized system. You may need to react quickly to unexpected circumstances requiring rapid changes in the throughput of your instruments. What else should you take into account when selecting an ideal OEM partner?
Every partnership has two sides and each must work together to reach success. In this case, there is the OEM partner and an OEM customer. Would any OEM partner fit with any OEM customer? There are several success factors that OEM customers and OEM partners need to consider to develop a successful partnership.
You have made the decision to enter into the development of an IVD medical device for your customers. You have learned that inviting an OEM partner into your project could be beneficial to reduce risks and fill expertise or skill gaps, but you are still hesitant. What are the key elements that you should consider to ensure the success of the collaboration?
If you’re thinking about automating your in vitro diagnostic (IVD) product it can be hard to decide whether to outsource to an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) partner or keep the development in-house. While the familiarity of a DIY solution might be appealing there are a number of hidden pitfalls that could hamper your progress.
Finding the right OEM partner for your IVD medical device could give you the edge by avoiding these pitfalls and giving your project a speed and performance boost needed to help you get to market faster.
Introducing a new in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) lab automation solution can add an entirely new dimension to your existing product portfolio and business. Launching a complete system that provides harmony between chemistry and assay workflow, instrumentation, software analysis and reporting is a complex endeavor that demands careful planning and execution.
Generating reproducible, accurate ELISA data starts with reliable reagents that are highly sensitive and specific. These are often available as kits that need to be incorporated into an efficient workflow. Unfortunately, running ELISA manually involves multiple manual wash processes and pipetting steps that are time-consuming, increase the risk for human error, and lead to poor reproducibility. Automation is the best route to smoothening the workflow and increasing data reliability.
With more than 50% of preclinical results estimated to be irreproducible, the reliability of methods, assays, and protocols is a major concern in all areas of research. Many critical assay workflows, such as those for ELISA tests, are prone to error, even when using a high quality kit. While ELISA kits provide a solid basis to generate reliable data, troubleshooting the complete assay workflow is the first step toward pinpointing additional sources of variability and error that must be addressed in order to increase reproducibility and confident decision making.
It can be easy to dismiss outsourcing lab automation in favour of seemingly less expensive do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions. However, outsourcing is more cost effective than it might seem. By taking advantage of the expertise of Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) partners, who can also offer a variety of flexible financing options, outsourcing could well be the right solution for your business. Here are some of the main ways in which OEM partners can make your automation project more cost-effective.
One of the steps in DNA sample preparation that is often overlooked when moving from manual to automated methods, is the quantification and normalization of nucleic acid samples that are destined for downstream analysis in different techniques and applications such as genotyping and NGS.
With open source software and high quality off-the-shelf components, do-it-yourself (DIY) lab automation solutions are trending. While developing lab automation in-house might seem attractive at first glance, the road is littered with hidden pitfalls that can derail internal projects. Finding an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) partner can be a cost-effective way to circumvent the pitfalls and mitigate risks by working with a trusted automation expert.
As a diagnostic product moves through its lifecycle, its development, engineering and customer support needs change. In order to extend the period of product profitability and customer loyalty for as long as possible, you must start planning for the next evolution of the product from the beginning. Involving an OEM partner in your product lifecycle management (LCM) from the start can help you create products that are easier to service at a lower cost and with fewer long-term risks.
Applications based on next-generation sequencing (NGS), and more recently third-generation sequencing, play a central and ever-growing role in disease research. There is a concurrent need for reliable, high-throughput nucleic acid purification systems to feed samples into the analysis workflow for these applications. To meet this need, laboratories must either invest in more manpower to process samples manually, or transition to a liquid handling platform that can automate the workflow in a manner appropriate for the downstream application.
The global trend toward more stringent regulatory control of in vitro diagnostic (IVD) medical devices is sending shock waves through the industry. Now that we have passed the halfway mark in the transition to Europe’s new In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR 2017/746), it’s crucial that diagnostics businesses critically evaluate their entire supply chain to close any gaps and ensure IVDR-compliance can be maintained throughout the device lifecycle. An important question to ask is whether outsourcing your IVD projects will help or hinder your efforts to comply and remain competitive in this shifting regulatory landscape. In the final blog of this 2-part series, we consider the advantages of partnering and the factors that are crucial for success.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS*) has revolutionized genomic research, allowing entire genomes to be sequenced in a single day. This has led to massive advances in the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, answering genetic questions from a wide spectrum of applications and biological systems. Today, NGS is an essential tool for any biologist. Ultra-high throughput NGS solutions have a wide range of applications and are fully scalable—from rapid SNP genotyping of a single individual, to whole genome sequencing (WGS) of entire populations. The explosive demand for NGS often creates pressures upstream to process many more samples and prepare high quality DNA to feed into library prep and analysis. In this article we explore the ideal DNA requirements for NGS and look at some of the most critical parameters for developing an automated nucleic acid extraction workflow.
With the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS), the field of metagenomics has exploded in recent years, as scientists are now able to study microbes as communities instead of individual organisms. This has revolutionized our understanding of the relationships between microbiota, human health, and the environment.
For product manufacturers in the medical and diagnostics equipment industry, developing an effective product lifecycle management process is no longer a “nice to have” but a “must have”. From managing the cost of product ownership to transitioning product updates without disruptions in regulatory compliance, a long-term holistic view of product lifecycle management can help you maintain customer loyalty and build trust in new product development.
Is your business IVDR-ready, or are there treacherous gaps in your strategy? This November marks the halfway point in the five-year transition to the In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR) 2017/746—a major regulatory overhaul that calls for reclassification and recertification of all IVD devices registered in the European Union. With its expanded scope and more stringent requirements, IVDR impacts the entire supply chain. The May 2022 transition deadline may seem a long way off, but there’s no time to lose. In this 2-part series, we help you take stock of the situation, with a special focus on how to prepare when it comes to managing OEM relationships and new partnerships.
Innovating, developing and bringing a new automated liquid handling product to market quickly, before requirements and needs change, is no easy feat. A software development kit (SDK) supporting your platform and components enables your developers to spend less time worrying about how to control robotic components and more time creating optimal interactions between the end-user and their application. Let’s look in more detail at what a robotics SDK is, what features it should have, and what benefits the right SDK can bring to your development timeline.
Advances in the treatment of disease, such as the many different types of cancer and cardiac diseases, mean that organ and bone marrow transplantation is on the rise.1 This rise has in turn generated an increased need for accurate immunosuppressant drug (ISD) monitoring. This 3-part blog series will walk you through the challenges of adapting gold standard mass spec methods such as LC-MS/MS for ISD monitoring, and explore ways to avoid the associated pitfalls.
Lab automation and liquid handling solutions are evolving rapidly, shaped by many of the same forces and disruptive technologies that define the fourth industrial revolution. Alongside Industry 4.0, you could say that the era of Liquid Handling 4.0 has arrived. In today’s fast-paced environment where engineers need to develop and adapt analytical platforms rapidly to address new markets and ever-changing applications, the choice of core robotics architecture and components can be crucial for success. Here are some important questions to ask when selecting OEM components and robotic platforms for automated liquid handling.
Taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell…humans rely on five exquisitely powerful senses to negotiate even the most mundane tasks. Liquid handling robots don’t have that luxury; they are required to perform repetitive, high-precision tasks more accurately and reliably than humans could ever manage. Choosing pumps with inbuilt sensors for liquid level detection (LLD) gives your liquid handling pump the “sixth sense” it needs to avoid costly errors and ensure liquid transfer accuracy every time. Here’s what you need to know about LLD when choosing a pump for your automated liquid handling platform.
Analytical instrumentation is evolving so fast that engineers run the risk of their robotic platforms becoming obsolete before the development cycle can be completed. The competitive life science instrumentation market is expanding at an impressive 8.2% CAGR and is projected to be worth $85 Billion by 2022.¹ To keep ahead of the rapid rate of change, having a strategic OEM partner that is committed to continuous innovation and improvement is crucial. How can you be sure that your automation components provider or OEM partner has what it takes to help you deliver your automated liquid handling solution with the reliability and performance your customers expect? Here are some important questions to consider.
Your diagnostics equipment business is growing in leaps and bounds. And no wonder—BCC Research reports that the global market for in vitro diagnostic (IVD) products is growing at a rate of 6.7% and should reach $102 billion by 2022.¹ The faster your diagnostics equipment business grows, the harder it may be to deliver the level of service your customers expect. The right service support partner can help you keep pace with growing demand.
Here are six essential criteria to consider when choosing a partner.
Customer service has become a crucial battleground for all types of industries, including life science, medical diagnostics and pharma. A study by NewVoiceMedia1 revealed that customer service plays a significant part in overall customer experience, which is costing companies more than $75 billion a year. Some 67 percent of customers have become “serial switchers,” willing to switch brands because of a poor customer experience, according to the study. Lackluster customer service almost guarantees that the next time your customers have a need they will look elsewhere.
The syringe pump is the workhorse of any automated liquid handling instrument. A single syringe pump may complete one cycle every second, and as many as 4 million cycles in its lifetime. Keeping your pump syringes and components in top condition will allow them to run smoothly and deliver their best performance. Over time, syringes may start to wear, and therefore volumetric and positional precision and accuracy are likely to decline. Maintenance and replacement will restore its performance.
Live cell imaging is one of the most important techniques in the life sciences today. But behind every great imaging assay, pity the poor scientist grappling with the demands of biological variability and complex kinetic cell assays. Live cell experiments are often synonymous with unsociable working hours, tedious protocols and unrepeatable results. In this blog we explore what it takes to tame automated cell imaging assays and take back control of kinetic experiments to get reliable results more quickly, with fewer errors, and less aggravation.
The impact of pump pressure sensors on your automated liquid handling pump performance is often underestimated and underappreciated. The saying, “You don't know what you’ve got ‘till it's gone” applies to many things in life – including fluidic pumps. When device sensors are doing their jobs, the end-user will never know, but when the sensor feature fails to perform, the consequences can be costly and catastrophic. Today’s smart technologies empower pressure sensor functionality more than ever. Why are pump pressure sensors essential for automated liquid handling systems? What benefits do they offer? How do they increase functionality and address process security risks?
More than 90% of patients with signs and symptoms of myasthenia gravis can be readily detected and treated with a range of effective therapies. The key to early diagnosis and treatment that can lead to remission is the selection of sensitive, specific, and proven assays to detect and quantify the autoantibodies that cause myasthenia gravis. Fortunately, there are high-quality assays on the market that can save you valuable time in diagnostic procedures*, eliminate the need to develop in-house solutions, and ensure accurate and early disease detection.
What happens when lab automation projects are unsuccessful? One out-take is learning what 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 reveals the top 5 pitfalls of custom automation based on real experience.
“Myasthenia gravis is eminently treatable,” say researchers at UCL’s Institute of Neurology1. Yet clinicians still find it challenging to detect and manage. In a new webinar entitled “Autoantibodies in Myasthenia Gravis,” Dr. Jan Damoiseaux, a Laboratory Specialist in Medical Immunology at Maastricht UMC+ in the Netherlands, explores the underlying mechanisms of the disease and explains how a two-assay strategy can improve the accuracy of determination of autoantibodies and help monitor therapeutic efficacy to improve patient outcomes.
With high-throughput genomics impacting every corner of biology, the demand for more efficient Next-generation sequencing (NGS) workflows is growing rapidly. Automating the process of NGS sample preparation is crucial to avoid inaccuracies due to human error, bottlenecks that delay sequencing results, and the additional expense of re-running sequences. What are the most important factors for an engineer to consider when selecting a pump to meet the stringent performance required for an automated NGS library preparation system?
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is driving dramatic progress in many fields of research. However, the value of NGS data is often limited by factors such as poor analysis pipelines and poor library quality. One way to improve the quality of your libraries is to optimize your NGS library prep, but this can be challenging, as the process involves multiple steps that can introduce user-user variability and the risk of contamination.
With “fake news” topping the headlines these days, we’re painfully aware that hearing just part of the whole story can lead to seriously wrong ideas that can have embarrassing or even disastrous consequences. The same is true when analyzing cell populations. Every individual cell has its own story to tell, so population averages and random samples are often misleading. When running assays on a cell imaging system, microplate reader or flow cytometer, can you be sure you are getting the whole truth? If not, it may be time to consider whole-well imaging.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has generated a raft of new developments and discoveries. However, NGS is a complex process, and scientists face many technical difficulties throughout the workflow. NGS sample preparation, for example, can be a significant source of inefficiencies that could hinder your research and stifle your progress by wasting resources and increasing costs. So, what can you do to improve your sample preparation efficiency?
Today’s hematology labs are faced with escalating demands to deliver robust and accurate blood test results quickly. At the heart of automated diagnostic systems for blood analysis are liquid handling pumps, which must deliver precise and accurate results every time. As well as being reliable, they must also be affordable and easy to maintain. Unfortunately, not all pumps deliver to these exacting standards. What are the most important factors for an engineer to consider when selecting a pump to meet the stringent performance required for a hematology automation system?
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease with an estimated prevalence of 14-20/100,000 population in the U.S.1 and 1-9 /100,000 population in Europe.2 Many affected individuals go undiagnosed. Myasthenia gravis can cause severe muscle weakness and greatly impact quality of life. Diagnosis can be difficult, but state-of-the-art disease biomarkers and targeted assays are available to increase the likelihood that a patient with myasthenia gravis is diagnosed early and can be treated appropriately. How can these biomarkers and use of the correct assays also help clinicians monitor therapeutic efficacy and support better treatment outcomes for their patients?
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is helping to advance genomics research at an unprecedented rate. However, the process can be technically challenging, and any errors can significantly impact the reliability and accuracy of your results. NGS library preparation and QC can have a major impact on your success, especially as poor-quality libraries can skew your results and reduce the accuracy of your data.
From the perspective of a lab automation systems engineer, specifying the optimal liquid handling pump and associated fluidic components is often central to the design process, especially for products that will be used in a clinical lab or other highly regulated environments. What questions should you ask in order to select a pump that can handle all of your system’s intended applications? Here’s what our liquid handling experts from Tecan's OEM Partnering team have to say.
Automated lab analytics solutions are increasingly taking to the cloud to give labs real-time visibility of instrument and consumables usage. This is valuable information – for example to understand what throughput is available to scale up and complete programs in weeks and hours rather than months. But what about the worry of data security when implementing cloud-based software? Here are seven steps you can take to make sure your data stays safe in the cloud.
Research and technology development focused on synthetic biology (synbio) and systems biology are expanding, as are its real-world applications. Even as more traditional synbio approaches, which involve engineering microbes to produce novel drugs or chemicals and creating entirely new microorganisms, continue to advance, synbio innovations are driving the technology into advanced biofuels, biosensors, diagnostics, and other promising application areas.
The "first" genomics era began with the landmark Human Genome Project, which launched in 1990 and was completed in 2003, leading to the sequencing of the 20,000-25,000 human genes. It gave birth to an omics revolution and, by necessity, a series of increasingly sophisticated technologies and techniques for performing shotgun and whole genome sequencing with greater accuracy and efficiency.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is being increasingly recognized as having potential for the treatment of tumors, especially dermatological. But using conventional manual methods of recording the metabolic processes that occur as a result of adding the photosensitizer to target cells has major limitations.
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?
Automation, miniaturization, cell based assays and 3D cell culture
Anatomical pathology labs face ever-increasing pressure to meet demands for enhanced throughput, improved quality and cost savings. Additionally as we saw in the previous article in this series, anatomical pathology has to adapt to disruptive new methods that replace or enhance traditional ones and automation that will play a key role in reducing waste, error, and hands-on time. Employing automation solutions built for traditional methods can result in compromises in compatibility, throughput, and quality, which mean that novel solutions may be required. In this case, it may be time to consider partnering to develop the automated pathology system that delivers the performance a modern anatomical pathology lab needs.
How to overcome challenges like inefficient workflow and a lack of suitably trained staff is the question increasingly facing laboratories in markets ranging from diagnostics to food and beverages. Could sample-to-answer systems be the answer?
Improving lab procurement processes involves more than just putting e-procurement or lab management software in place. In most cases accessing, managing and analyzing the data that you use to support purchase decisions and feed into e-procurement tools is still a big challenge. In previous articles, we explored the value of automated collection of usage data from lab instruments and robotics. What capabilities and features should you look for when deciding which tools will best support your needs? Here are our top picks.
Rohit Shroff provides insight from customer success stories on the benefits of automation in the clinical laboratory. Specifically, he answers the question “what can automation do for me” by illustration of the impact that these solutions have every day ... showing how sample prep automation has overcome workflow bottlenecks in the clinical LC-MS lab with real world tangible results. He shares multiple success stories of labs improving their client services by adopting automation to address the hurdles of productivity, implementation speed, compliance, reproducibility, efficiency, and employee satisfaction and retention.
As labs face tighter profit margins and the need to minimize cost of goods, there is increasing pressure to implement more efficient and responsive mechanisms for procurement and inventory management. A large proportion of annual spend goes towards consumables like disposable pipette tips, microplates and kits. Procurement strategies based on lean and ‘just-in-time’ principles can improve cost-efficiency by reducing overhead and warehousing expenses. However, this often comes with a significant risk: without enough data about both availability of consumables and what you have in stock, you could run into costly unexpected out-of-stock scenarios. Here are three essential questions to ask when looking to reduce the risks of creating leaner, ‘just-in-time’ procurement processes.
As a procurement planner in the competitive life sciences sector, how do you ensure your organization adapts swiftly to the rapidly changing demands of customers and stakeholders? Whether supporting a CRO, pharmaceutical company, clinical lab, biotech business or academic department, procurement teams are under constant pressure to manage risk, reduce costs and keep their organizations profitable. Advancements in technology and business practices are widening the influence of procurement on business operations, requiring procurement teams to collaborate even more closely with other functions, including lab management. Here are three major trends that are transforming procurement management:
When you design a complex laboratory automation system or device, every OEM liquid handling component that you integrate into it should be reliable, dependable and expected to perform to the highest industry standards. Subpar quality is not an option. If the intended use of the system includes critical tests for clinical diagnostic purposes, the consequences of failure or poor performance of liquid handling components could be more costly than you bargained for, including irreparable damage to your company’s reputation and even worse – it could pose serious risks to patients’ health. Integrating components into your system that are reliable and have a durable design should be an essential consideration.
The anatomical pathology – or histopathology – workflow has not changed in decades, yet volumes increase and laboratories expand. A serious shortage of qualified personnel is making matters even worse. Added to that, errors arising largely from manual procedures cause extra work, and unfortunately it is the patients who suffer the consequences. Modernization may be essential for survival of histopathology labs but making the business case for automation can still be a challenge, especially given that it may involve bold and potentially costly changes to well-established protocols and lab infrastructure. Here are 5 compelling arguments for automating your histopathology lab now.
So you’ve made the investment in liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in your clinical/diagnostics laboratory and now you need to get it up and running…adding value to the lab and generating a return. The job will certainly include moving from manual to automated sample preparation methods. This can seem an overwhelming task, especially when it involves solid phase extraction (SPE). Sean Orlowicz, Manager, PhenoLogix, offers guidance on a collaborative approach for application support and sample preparation method development.
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.
HMGB1 is a key mediator in the immune response and increased levels can be important indicators of disease. In this, the last in our series on HMGB1, we will look at the performance of the IBL HMGB1 ELISA Kit, which has been used to demonstrate the value of total HMGB1 as a clinical biomarker in a wide range of sample types and diseases. This kit is regarded by key opinion leaders as the gold standard in the field and has been used in more than 800 publications.
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.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology continues to advance at a high speed, and a growing range of new applications is constantly being developed. Microbiology and antibiotic susceptibility testing is one such application area where greater process efficiency and sample throughput are essential to reap the benefits of NGS. Major bottlenecks in NGS for translational research and clinical diagnostic applications often occur through failure to integrate processes upstream of the actual sequencing step. While automation brings clear benefits, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works because each lab has its own unique demands. Here we take a closer look at how a pioneering clinical microbiology lab found the right solution for their challenging application.
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.
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.
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.
With next-generation sequencing (NGS), the combined use of different instruments, workstations, manual approaches, and software can lead to unnecessary, time-consuming complications and errors, especially in high-throughput environments. NGS workflow automation is helping to streamline the process and produce faster results, yet there are still a number of practical challenges that can impede implementation and efficiency of NGS. Read on to learn 5 steps you can take to improve next generation sequencing applications in medical microbiology.
Are you ignoring valuable information about laboratory instrument and consumables usage because it is too difficult or time-consuming to collect and analyze? Is the information managed in too many disparate places and not easy to collect? Or maybe you feel like your spreadsheet-based analytics solution is too labor-intensive and prone to errors?
While MS has been around for over a century, the addition of liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in clinical testing laboratories has only become feasible in the last 15 to 20 years. Judith Stone, Senior CLS Specialist, shares her experience with implementing LC-MS in the clinical diagnostics lab. Judith examines what drives adoption of LC-MS in the diagnostic lab, effective operation with scale and cost pressure (in other words…how to still make some money on testing), the importance of automated liquid sample handling, and increasing FDA oversight on laboratory developed tests (LDTs).
The anatomical pathology – or histopathology – services sector is projected to grow, but histopathology labs the world over are struggling in the face of shortages in trained pathologists, increasing regulatory pressure, changing reimbursement policies, and shifting paradigms in healthcare. Modernization of this highly conservative field is imperative. What are the key drivers of change in the industry, and how can anatomical pathology labs prepare to embrace the future? Will automation and digitalization offer a solution?
We may well be on the threshold of a new hope for oncology. Shorthanded to ctDNA, circulating cell free tumor DNA is sloughed off from tumors. It can be detected in liquid biopsies of just a few milliliters of blood. This could revolutionize what oncology can achieve by diagnosing cancers earlier and more efficiently.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Clinical and public health microbiology laboratories reduce the burden of infectious diseases by detecting and characterizing pathogens in infected patients and communities. Next generation sequencing (NGS) analysis can improve clinical and public health decisions through more accurate and rapid determination of the sources of infectious diseases, as well as the epidemiology and evolution of infectious pathogens in hospitals. NGS is already used to make decisions in diagnositics.
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.
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.
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.
When looking to maximize productivity in life science R&D, drug discovery, clinical studies or clinical diagnostics, laboratory automation is a crucial element. You may already have identified great solutions to automate individual applications and steps in your workflows, but unless these systems work together harmoniously, your lab’s overall productivity could still fall short of the mark. Whether your application area involves clinical diagnostics, genomics, cell biology, drug discovery, protein purification or something else altogether, we’ve identified some of the most common roadblocks to successful automation.
The last decade has seen dramatic changes in the world of diagnostics, with experts even referring to the present time as the start of the fourth industrial revolution. Digitalization, along with other technological advances such as the increased use of automation and robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, is impacting every industry from manufacturing to pharmaceutical biotechnology. These technologies, as well as breakthrough research in various fields such as gene editing, stem cell technology and regenerative medicine, are having a huge impact on the clinical diagnostics industry.
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.
Previously perceived perhaps as the exclusive domain of health-food fanatics and well-heeled consumers, organic foods are attracting wider interest and claiming more and more shelf-space in our supermarkets. However, what does the organic label mean to customers, and does it give them the transparency they seek? Will future organic food science techniques be impacted by public perceptions, or will they drive the discussion?
It is estimated that every six months the world’s laboratories generate more biological data than has ever before been created in human history. Even in non-scientific publications, we read about synthetic biology, gene editing, gene sequencing, non-invasive prenatal testing, liquid biopsies and many more such buzz words.
As sequencing grows significantly in China, how are Chinese home-grown companies making the most of it?
In December 2017, the UK and China announced a joint initiative to advance collaboration in science and innovation¹. The first bilateral science and innovation strategy of its kind to be developed by China jointly with another country, the UK-China Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation builds on existing collaborations dating back to 2014, and represents yet another step change in China’s efforts to grow their leadership in healthcare markets. On the back of initiatives such as this, China’s home-grown companies are forging new partnerships internationally, and are well positioned to flourish as a result.
Similar to the highly competitive automobile industry, clinical laboratories and manufacturers servicing the clinical diagnostics and life science markets, are always under pressure to increase quality and reliability. Likewise, they must at the same time cut costs and bring new products to market in a climate of rapid global change and increasing regulatory pressures. Specialist car manufacturers are leading the way with innovative new approaches to cope with the challenges. Those who are successful have learned how to be more adaptable and how to get their innovative products to market faster.
Budget constraints and short-term funding are a fact of life for most research labs. The problem can be particularly acute if you are working with living cells, which presents complex technical challenges. Working with precious or irreplaceable cell samples, for example when researching rare diseases, adds additional demands. To make matters worse, the types of assays, methods and instrumentation you need to answer complex biological questions in live cell models may change significantly during the course of your research.
The world of diagnostics, like so many other industries, is entering what leaders in the World Economic Forum are calling the fourth industrial revolution. Digitalization, robotization and automation have given rise to highly flexible “smart factories” as well as laboratories that can handle both routine/high volume analyses and highly customized analyses at competitive prices. This is coupled with an ongoing integration of the entire value chain – from subcontractor to customer.
Hot on the heels of a hugely successful SLAS2018 conference in San Diego last February, Tecan teamed up with Titian Software at the end of June to hold an equally popular SLAS2018 workshop in Brussels. The focus this time was on integrating Mosaic, Titian’s sample management software, with Tecan’s latest Fluent® and Fluent Gx laboratory automation workstations.
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).
Previously, we looked at what differentiates a competent genomics scientist from a ”rock star”, and learned that the true geniuses are both fast and productive, but nevertheless always focus on quality. Similar to a conventional rock star, the genomics scientist needs high quality instruments that work in concert—at the same time and with great precision. In a perfect world, your equipment and automation solutions are integrated and have excellent precision, enabling high throughput genomics applications. But in practice, what does it really take to rock productivity in the genomics lab?
In this post we take a look at four of our clients to see how Fluent® laboratory automation solution has transformed their productivity and helped them become real rock-stars in the genomics lab.
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.
Butterfly disease has been called “the worst disease you’ve never heard of”. It’s an excruciatingly painful genetic condition that makes life miserable for the affected, and currently, there’s no cure. To make matters even worse, with as many as 27 different varieties of Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) and multiple genes/mutations, each patient is different, so there is no overarching, one-size-fits-all treatment solution. Despite its devastating effects on patients, mainly children and their families, funding is limited, as the disease is so rare: it affects only 1 in 20,000–50,000 of the population.
The challenge of drug discovery and development is putting increasing pressure on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to boost productivity through targeted and strategic improvements in the drug discovery workflow. Automation is clearly a way to significantly improve productivity and reproducibility, but only if you make wise decisions.
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.
Funding for the study of rare diseases and medical conditions (sometimes called orphan diseases) is often limited and short-term, which can put off both basic research and pharma investment. Yet there are numerous reasons why rare diseases deserve much more attention than they currently receive, instead of being left like orphans out of the research picture. Is it time for academia, pharma, biotech and society in general to re-think our views about investing in the study and treatment of rare diseases and medical conditions? We think so, and we’ll present five reasons why.
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?
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?
It’s an exciting time to be working in genomics. The explosion of sequence data and library preparation methods along with big advances in areas like gene editing and bioinformatics, is paving the way for breakthroughs that seem more like science fiction than science fact. But behind the scenes, day-to-day activities in the genomics lab can be a real drain on your resources and your patience, leaving you little time or energy to focus on the things that really matter. We all have only 24 hours in the day, so how is it that some genomics scientists are chronically stressed out and barely managing to stay afloat, while others seem to produce the goods with ease?
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.
(Part 2 of 2). The effect of one's lifestyle on the epigenetic steerage of future generations, reviewed in Part I of this series, is a sobering thought. But these insights in epigenetic-based gene regulation are also opening up new possibilities in the development of novel drugs to combat, for example, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, neurological disease and cancer.
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.
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.
The growing productivity crisis in drug discovery and development is forcing pharmaceutical companies large and small around the globe to rethink their research and development (R&D) strategies. As investors look to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for bigger returns, what will it take to maximize productivity and thrive in these challenging times?
Much of the work done in a genomics lab is repetitive, labor-intensive, and just plain boring. Is this really the best use of highly skilled scientists? How do you keep staff motivation up when another couple hundred samples roll into the lab? Most importantly, all this manual labor creates huge problems in terms of human error and amplified costs. Here are some major sources of tedium and error in the genomics lab where improvements can make a big impact—reducing costly errors, increasing productivity, and possibly even saving your sanity.
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.
Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year. Heart attacks are a primary symptom. The longer it takes to diagnose and treat a heart attack, the greater the damage. But progress in identifying relevant cardiac enzymes and other biomarkers has increased the likelihood of rapid and accurate diagnosis to ensure effective treatment and improve long-term survival. Several cardiac markers have been developed for the rapid diagnosis of patients with chest pain and suspected acute coronary syndrome. One of these markers, cardiac troponin, stands out and the ability to better define troponin levels is expected to help diagnose heart attacks more effectively, and even predict them.
Always a great forum for networking and sharing information on the latest developments and trends in laboratory automation, SLAS didn’t disappoint this year. The biggest buzz in 2018 focused on the increasingly important role that genomics is playing in the discovery of therapeutic proteins and the ability to target those drugs to specific gene mutations.
They say that the era of the $100 genome is upon us, but is that true for you? While cost analyses of DNA sequencing indicate that this landmark is finally within reach, the reality is that most NGS labs are still spending far more than that. Here we explore some hidden costs of NGS that occur upstream of sequencing. How many of them are culprits in your lab?
We are constantly bombarded with advice on what to eat and drink, and how to exercise. Pregnant women are particularly in the spotlight, being told to avoid exposing their developing fetus to alcohol, tobacco, chemical pollutants, and stress. Who can avoid the repeated warnings about how the environment affects our health, including provoking asthma, heart disease, and metabolic disorders?
In this dizzying maze of risk and uncertainty, scientific research and the pharmaceutical industry are striving to find new ways to combat disease. Rapid progress is being made on all fronts and a relatively new field,epigenetics, is often in the spotlight.
When introducing a new product to the automated liquid handling market, getting there first with high quality and reliable hardware is vital to capturing and maintaining early market leadership. How can you gain that advantage when you have to balance requirements for customized high-performance robotics against an accelerated product launch?