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The Blog dot

Welcome

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 to receive an email summary of our blog posts today?

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Creating a cost-effective walkaway automated workflow is a breeze with these top tips

By Siegfried Sasshofer

An automated liquid handler for sample processing can significantly increase your productivity. It becomes even more powerful when integrated with other workflow components to enable you to create fully automated walkaway processing for applications such as sample and library prep for next generation sequencing (NGS), or cell-based assays. The question is how to choose components and integrate them.

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How to choose the right liquid handling automation for your lab

By Ralf Masantschek

Automated pipetting is among the most effective ways to minimize human error, increase precision and accuracy, and speed up a lab workflow. However, deciding what the ‘must have’ components are that you need for successful automated liquid handling depends greatly on your goals and applications.

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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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SLAS2018 dives into the role next gen sequencing and genomics will play in drug screening

By Kevin Moore

Next generation sequencing (NGS) and the related applications for cell-based assay development are poised to be a powerful combination in the field of genomics. SLAS 2018 dives into this topic in the track "Assay development and screening" which includes the session "Utilizing the power of NGS and genomics in screening," chaired by David Piper, Ph.D., Director, Research and Development, Cell and Synthetic Biology, Thermo Fisher Scientific. We spoke to Dr. Piper about the key topics, highlighted trends, and target audience for the talks and presenters he has prepared.

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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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Innovations in biobanking for biomarker and drug discovery highlighted at SLAS 2018

By Kevin Moore

Biomarker discovery and development depends critically upon the accessibility and quality of biospecimens. Higher throughput and more integrated approaches for biospecimen management and biobanking are becoming increasingly important to avoid industry bottlenecks, as the number and diversity of samples expands rapidly. The track entitled "Biologics Discovery" at SLAS 2018 will include the session "Biobanking: At the Intersection of Biospecimens and Discovery." We interviewed the chair of the session, Dr. Andy Zaayenga of SmarterLab, to find out more.

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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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How to boost productivity for LC-MSMS sample prep

By Agnieszka Sitarska

Choosing a method and developing a protocol for small molecule LC-MSMS sample preparation can be a complex process. An effective shortcut is to use an extraction plate built for automation. With fewer processing steps and an automation-ready format, the use of extraction plate technology can help make tedious LC-MS sample prep processes more routine, whether it’s the analysis of testosterone in serum or anti-depressants in whole blood.

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Seven essential questions when automating your liquid handling

By Kevin Moore

Automated liquid handling can eliminate many tedious tasks, improve your productivity and free up valuable time for better things…but only if you implement the right solutions. Whether you are working in genomics, cell biology, drug discovery, molecular diagnostics or something completely different, the right liquid handling system can make your life a lot easier. We’ve collected some of the most important questions to consider before taking the plunge with a new automated liquid handling system.

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Diagnosing Alzheimer’s earlier: the biomarker breakthrough

By Alexandra Sommer

The race to find a way of spotting and treating Alzheimers at an early stage is heating up but there’s a long way still to go. Or is there?

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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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Make versus buy strategy:  Why, when, and how to use a liquid handling OEM components partner

By Claudio Bui

When designing products that include automated liquid handling, how do you decide when and what to buy from an OEM components supplier vs. designing in-house? How do you then decide who will be the right partner for you?  A well-planned “make versus buy” analysis and OEM-components partnering strategy can significantly augment the expertise of your own team. It can free up internal resources for other projects, reduce long-term costs, and ultimately help get your products to market faster.

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Spit-and-measure testing – identifying over-production of cortisol

By James O'Brien

The presence of excess cortisol hormone in saliva can be an indication of a number of serious biochemical imbalances that include chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, obesity, diabetes and conditions like Cushing Syndrome. Increasingly, spit-and-measure testing is becoming the go-to test for cortisol. 

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ROI from the LC/MS lab: challenges in a regulated environment

By Rohit Schroff

The popularity of mass spectrometry based testing is growing all the time. As a result, businesses in the diagnostics industry offering mass-spectrometry-based clinical assays, especially analytical laboratories in toxicology environments, are facing a number of major challenges. These include meeting scaling requirements that are non-linear, overcoming regulatory uncertainties while guaranteeing business continuity, raising ROI on LC/MS instruments and lowering turnaround times.

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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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Personalized next generation sequencing in companion diagnostics: the promise and the challenges

By Alexandra Sommer

The drive to make healthcare more targeted and more personalized has accelerated the application of increasingly sophisticated technologies, such as next generation sequencing (NGS). The result has been the introduction of some NGS-based tests to be used to direct targeted therapies to the right patient. The power is great, but the challenges are many, including how to standardize for routine use.

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CRISPR: editing the drug discovery workflow

By Enrique Neumann

Gene editing is crucial to pharmaceutical development. CRISPR-Cas9 promises to revolutionize the role gene editing plays in drug discovery and even therapeutics.

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Solving the top four automation challenges of the discovery lab

By Simon Fogarty

At Tecan, we’ve been solving lab automation problems for over thirty years. In planning for SLAS, I was asked an interesting question: what are the main automation challenges that people face in drug discovery and screening? I can break them down into categories, and illustrate them with the most common requests that we get.

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How to choose a small molecule extraction method and develop a protocol for LC-MSMS sample prep

By Agnieszka Sitarska

In the previous article in this series it became clear that high productivity in small molecule LC-MSMS relies on effective sample prep that supports reproducible results and minimizes downtime for sensitive LC and MS equipment. The ideal sample prep protocol should be simple, cost-effective, and enable matrix depletion with the option to concentrate analytes independent of matrix components. The questions are, which method should you choose and how should you go about optimizing it? Let’s start by looking at the range of methods currently available.

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Struggling to balance GxP compliance and productivity? Not all automation platforms are created equal

By Jason Meredith

In an increasingly regulated industry, clinical laboratories and manufacturers of in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests are feeling the pressure to ensure regulatory compliance, while at the same time striving to increase productivity and bring innovative technologies on stream. At times, this balancing act can seem like a losing proposition.

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Boost your productivity in small molecule LC-MSMS with better sample prep

By Agnieszka Sitarska

Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MSMS) adds a lot of analytical power when you need to quantify small molecules in body fluids, but a simple approach of ‘dilute and shoot’ is not going to be enough to ensure robust analysis. Sample prep methods can well be the single biggest time consumer you are facing, which means that a wise choice of sample prep method is a great opportunity for improving lab productivity.

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How to stay ahead of the pack on your next liquid handling automation project

By Claudio Bui

Everyone knows if you work harder and faster you’ll get done sooner, but then many are left wondering why they didn’t get to market first. It may seem simple, but when it comes to life science laboratory automation it’s not as easy as it seems.

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Why automation of laboratory developed tests is key to easing regulatory compliance

By Jason Meredith

Hospitals are becoming the new centers of innovation for novel clinical diagnostic tests. While this is enabling more sophisticated and personalized approaches to disease prevention, early diagnosis, and targeted treatment, it also has the potential to create major headaches for regulatory management of clinical labs.

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Breaking through the sample preparation bottleneck

By James O'Brien

Quality sample preparation is fundamental to the analytical process. No wonder it can take up to 60% of a laboratory technician’s time. Today’s robotic systems are turbo charging this process – especially when it comes to detecting residual antibiotics.

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Human genetics – mapping the future of medicine

By Nicholas Smith

Human genetics and drug discovery are now inextricably linked. Large pharmaceutical companies, small biotech and even academic laboratories are sequencing data to identify potential targets for new therapies. But is this information being used to the best effect?

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Next generation sequencing. Knowledge is power

By Nicholas Smith

Scientists around the world have made great strides in genetic testing. But when it comes to realizing the benefits across a wide range of medical specialties access to information is key.

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Miniaturize your PCR set-up

By Dr Manuel Bauer

Why would you want to miniaturize your PCR experiments if they are working well as they are? Because manual PCR setup is tedious and hand pipetting is error-prone. Miniaturization allows for automation, minimizing the labor- and time-intensive aspects of PCR setup and the risks of manual error and cross-contamination.

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Achieve validation faster – integrate Tecan IQ/OQ validated tips into your automated liquid handling solution

By Severin Heynen

As we have seen in the previous posts in this series, developing validated analytical methods becomes more cost- and time-effective when solutions with guaranteed compatibility are incorporated into the analytical system. 

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Make your lab work flow with Fluent ID™

By Florence Collins

A long-term clinical lab study lasting over 10 years showed that more than 60% of all mistakes in the stat lab (the lab that receives high priority samples) can be attributed to the pre-analytical phase. This figure has not changed much from 1997 to 2007,1, 2 despite advances in the technology.

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Rise in clinical metabolomics will benefit from automated sample preparation

By Christian Scherling

The evolution of metabolomics from research to applied science has not been as rapid or dynamic as genomics or proteomics. However, the promise of metabolomics as a diagnostic strategy is becoming much clearer.
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Using integrated solutions to efficiently meet regulatory demands

By Severin Heynen

Well-documented reliable, accurate data that meets regulatory demands is crucial for success  The key is to develop robust analytical methods based on instruments and other components that perform well together to ease the way forward through Installation Qualification and Operational Qualification (IQ/OQ) and method validation.

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The multiple challenges of efficiency and sensitivity in screening today’s drugs of abuse

By Christian Scherling

As the numbers of addicts and drug-related deaths continue to soar in the US and in Europe, forensic and diagnostic labs are looking for efficient methods to discriminate drugs of abuse that provide an easy workflow and are sufficiently sensitive to detect extremely low quantities of highly potent synthetic opioids in the urine of victims.

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Improving Reproducibility and Throughput Using Digital Dispensing in a Zebrafish Screening Facility

By Manuel Bauer

Robert Tanguary runs a zebrafish facility and use zebrafish as a high throughput in vivo model system to identify bioactive molecules. Essentially, they do rapid systems toxicology using zebrafish models to study the adverse effects of tens of thousands of chemicals beginning with a single-celled zebrafish embryo through a fully formed and functional organism.

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IQ, OQ and PQ for automated liquid handling – a key to success of your instrument and project

By Severin Heynen

Successful scientific projects build on accurate results from analytical methods that you have confidence in. In regulated situations, they must be backed up by routines and documentation that follow regulatory standards that satisfy the requirements of, for example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA).

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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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Separation anxiety? Miniaturized parallel chromatography could cure your protein purification woes

By Isabel Patocchi

In the US and EU, there are over 200 approved biotherapeutic drugs already on the market. The rush to evaluate the hundreds of candidates in the pipeline has created a demand for increasingly efficient high throughput technologies in process development.

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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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Everything Your Boss Wants to Know About Liquid Handling

By Bronwen Forster

What does the boss want to achieve by automating a process? The priority is enhanced data quality, followed closely by greater productivity, protecting your investment, and saving time and money. Tecan's Fluent® 780 can meet these critical demands.

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5 ways to secure accurate and reproducible data from your cell-based fluorescence assay

By Dr Christian Oberdanner

Achieving reproducibility in a cell-based fluorescence assay can be a real challenge. For example, you might run a very basic experiment to determine the optimal concentration of cell media supplements for your primary cell line. You're looking for differences in proliferation.

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Automation removes the colony-picking bottleneck

By Jana Langhoff

Manual colony picking is a highly labor-intensive task that is slow, tedious, and error-prone. Cost-effective automation makes the process more consistent and reliable, as well as considerably faster, enabling hundreds of colonies to be picked per hour, with secure sample tracking throughout the whole workflow.

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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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Ambry Genetics Builds a SuperLab to Automate NGS of Clinical Samples

SLAS2017 Presentation by Joy Rae-Radecki Crandall, Ambry Genetics

Ambry Genetics operates a CLIA-licensed genetics testing laboratory that processes clinical samples primarily using next-generation sequencing (NGS), followed by Sanger sequencing to verify clinically relevant results and reduce false positives.

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Automated 3D Cell Culture and Compound Screening in Physiologically Relevant Tissue Models

SLAS2017 Presentation by Chris Millan, CTO, CellSpring

CellSpring’s 3D Bloom® biopolymer platform is based on an engineered extracellular matrix that supports the growth of cells in a 3D culture environment in the laboratory.Most cell types, including stem cells, primary cells, and solid tumor cells, can be grown in 3D culture in 96-well plates using the CellSpring technology.

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The Influence of Confluence - Is Your Microplate Reader Working Hard Enough?

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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Automating rapid, parallel high throughput screening to accelerate compound optimization

SLAS2017 Presentation by Dr. Bernhard Ellinger, Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, IME, Hamburg, Germany

Fraunhofer IME has had very good success using the Tecan Fluent®  to perform fully automated screening of smaller compound batches rapidly and accurately, in parallel against multiple analytes and with multiple readouts.

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Minimizing Data Variability Caused by Your Microplate Reader

SLAS2017 Presentation by Siegfried Sasshofer, Product Manager, Tecan

The ability to reduce data variability can help greatly increase your confidence in your results. Statistically significant experimental results may not actually be achieved if you review your data and find the margin of error is too high. What do scientists typically do?

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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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The regulation of lab developed tests: an uncertain future

By Nicholas Smith

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) goes forward with its proposed guidance to regulate laboratory developed tests (LDTs) in the same way it does manufacturer-derived tests, then much is going to change for clinical laboratories, their industry partners that produce the reagents, assays, and instruments needed to perform these tests, and the clinicians and patients who have come to rely on LDTs to fill the gap in diagnostic testing.

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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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The regulation of lab developed tests: How not to inhibit advances in personalized medicine

By Nicholas Smith

The intention by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a new guidance that would bring oversight of laboratory developed tests (LDTs) directly under FDA regulatory control, instead of the current paradigm in which LDTs are regulated by FDA's Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), is creating much uncertainty and not a little distress. What would this significant change mean for laboratories that already rely on LDTs, are improving existing tests and actively developing new ones?

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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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Navigating the Future of Laboratory Developed Tests - The Impact of New FDA Guidance

By Nicholas Smith

Uncertainty and concern best describe the prevailing feelings of many researchers, clinicians, and companies that develop, manufacture, and implement laboratory developed tests (LDTs). The reason for all this uncertainty is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) stated plan to issue a new guidance that would change the paradigm for regulating LDTs.

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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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Standardized verification of pipetting performance is key to efficiency and regulatory compliance

By Agnieszka Sitarska

Whatever you are using automated liquid handling for, be it drug development, next generation sequencing, assay development or basic research with cell-based assays, getting correct results is crucial to reaching your goals, quickly and efficiently. And you also need to prove the validity of your data for regulatory compliance. The question is, how can this be achieved with little effort?

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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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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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‘Tips’ to ensure sterility in your automated pipetting processes

By Severin Heynen

If you need to absolutely guarantee that the tips you are using are sterile when they arrive on your lab bench then there are a few critical points to consider.

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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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Implementing NGS for HLA typing: preparation is the key to success

By Jon Smith

If you’ve decided to take advantage of next generation sequencing (NGS) for HLA typing, your timing couldn’t be better.  With the recent introduction of more affordable bench-top sequencers and targeted HLA sequencing panels, NGS is more accessible than ever.  Of course, integration of a new technology into a busy lab takes careful planning to avoid teething problems, so now is the time to consider the impact an NGS system will have on your lab, and what you can do to make the transition as smooth as possible.   

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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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Options to Reduce Time-to-Market with Your Next Liquid Handling Instrument Development Project

By Claudio Bui

When developing a liquid handling instrument, it is important to be first to market for early market leadership. Dr. Claudio Bui, Head of Product Concepts, Tecan, considers key elements to completing a project quickly and efficiently, including common pitfalls.

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Harnessing the power of NGS with automated solutions for HLA sequencing

By Jon Smith

For patients in need of vital transplants, fast and accurate tissue typing can mean earlier treatment and a better chance of survival.  Next generation sequencing (NGS) is revolutionizing human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing by providing allele-level resolution in a single high-throughput step. 

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Intelligent robot for colony picking and complete MALDI target preparation

By Kevin Trümpi

Today’s automated microbiological lab uses matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) for quick, effective and cost saving identification.

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The leader in next generation immunodiagnostics

By Nicholas Smith

Jeff Bishop, Vice President, Research & Development, Singulex, explains the proprietary single molecule counting (SMC™) technology which has become today’s gold standard for immunoassay technology.

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It's a match: The marriage of HLA typing and NGS is a step forward for precision medicine

By Jon Smith

They don’t take up much room in your DNA – a mere 4 megabases on the short arm of Chromosome 6 – but Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genes play a defining role in whether you will develop an autoimmune disorder, fend off an infectious disease, or have an adverse reaction to potentially life-saving treatments. 

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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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The importance of liquid handling QC in an automated lab

By Kevin Moore

Dana Campbell, Field Support Specialist, Artel, considers the importance of quality control (QC) from an applications perspective.

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Accurate, robust serum testosterone analysis

By Rohit Shroff

Stone, Senior CLS Specialist, UCSD, presents the benefits of testing for testosterone using LC-MS versus immunoassays, particularly in the case of female and pediatric patients.

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Automated mass spec immunoassay workflow

By Agnieszka Sitarska

The mass spec immunoassay (MSIA) workflow was developed to provide a simple, automated process for purification of targeted analytes for downstream detection using multiple analytical techniques, such as mass spectrometry.

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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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Automation in the LC-MS lab

By Vince Ahlheit

Vince Ahlheit, Senior Application Scientist, Tecan, provides insight on the benefits of automation in the clinical laboratory.

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Benefits of automated sample preparation for urine toxicology

By Rohit Shroff

Anthony Nuccio, Chief Operating Officer, ADO Health Services introduces their sample preparation process, which begins at the point of collection.

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Lament of the dead cancer cell

By Oliver Schmidt

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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Molecular diagnostics addresses diverse market needs

By Nicholas Smith

Steve Pemberton, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, reflects on applications across multiple market opportunities including IVD, food & beverage and highly complex CLIA laboratories and the resulting value proposition of Rheonix. 

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Benefits of saliva hormone testing

By Magali Fischer

A symptomatic menopausal woman may require periodic testing of her estrogen and progesterone levels to make necessary adjustments in the dosing of hormone replacement therapy. An athlete undergoes steroid hormone testing leading up to a major competition to assess his level of exercise-induced exertion and optimize his training routine.

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The choice is clear: saliva vs. blood diagnostics for hormone testing

By Magali Fischer

Diagnostic testing has a long, bloody (i.e., blood-based) history, and when a physician orders a test, the usual response is to strap on a tourniquet, pull out a syringe, and extract a venous blood sample. For some tests, though, and, especially to measure levels of steroid hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, or cortisol, a blood sample might not be the best choice. 

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Diagnostic saliva hormone testing

By Magali Fischer

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.

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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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When an illness is not just in your head

By Beatrice Marg-Haufe

It is becoming increasingly clear that at least some medical conditions previously ascribed only to genetic and biochemical changes in the brain, including neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders, are linked to alterations in the gut microbiome. Metagenomic research is underway using next-gen sequencing (NGS) and microarrays to characterize the healthy gut microbiome and to identify and quantify aberrations in the types and levels of microbes inhabiting the intestines of patient populations at various stages of disease.

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Synthetic biology has real-world applications

By Beatrice Marg-Haufe

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.

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Metagenomics - coming soon to a city near you

By Beatrice Marg-Haufe

Urban planning, urban warfare, urban decay..., and next up, urban metagenomics. If you had any doubt that we are living in the genomics era, consider this: On June 21st 2016, the International MetaSUB Consortium began collecting and mapping the genomes and epigenomes of microbial samples from 54 cities worldwide.

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Agrigenomics: Tools for plant and animal breeding, fish and fowl

By Enrique Neumann

The term genomics might at first lead you to think of the human genome and the new micro-industry subsectors it has spawned, from prenatal genetic screening for heritable diseases (and one day perhaps to select for "desirable" traits) to companion diagnostics for personalized medicine, and nutraceuticals targeted to correct imbalances in the gut microbiome.Those same types of genomic applications and many, many more can translate directly to the plant and animal world, in which agrigenomic technology is transforming traditional approaches to breeding of commercial species and monitoring and protection of wild populations.

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Six benefits to implementing LC-MS sample prep automation

By Rohit Shroff

Rohit Shroff, Head of Sales Development Tecan 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.

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Metagenomics may provide answers to irritable bowels, asthma attacks and body odor

By Beatrice Marg-Haufe

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.

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Five secrets to a successful IVD OEM partnership

By Nicholas Smith

You are considering an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) partner to support you in bringing your idea to market. The planned IVD device may require components, robotics and modules. You may need integration into an existing platform or the development of a completely new customized system. What else should you take into account when selecting an ideal OEM partner?

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The gold standard ELISA for measuring HMGB1

By Oliver Schmidt

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.

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Lab developed tests and FDA regulations in the IVD market

By Nicholas Smith

Today there is much discussion on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation and oversight of Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs). The debate features numerous topics including the necessity for regulation, whether the FDA has the authority to regulate, the feasibility of the proposed regulations, and the effect on innovation if indeed regulation is put into place.

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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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IVD instrument development with an OEM partner: Six essential elements for success

By Nicholas Smith

You have made the decision to enter into the development of an IVD system solution 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?

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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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Reducing risks in IVD instrument development

By Nicholas Smith

The In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) medical device market is one where new and advanced applications are appearing every day. Equipment expertise and regulations are becoming increasingly complex to the point that a diagnostic company may not be able to keep pace and bring their platform solution to market in a timely manner with the appropriate support level required by the customer.

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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?

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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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Automating liquid sample preparation workflow optimizes your clinical LC-MS investment

By Rohit Shroff

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.

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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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Time to add LC-MS sample prep automation to your clinical/diagnostic testing lab menu

By Rohit Shroff

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).

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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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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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Saving time with the Fluent® approach

By Kevin Moore

In this video presentation from SLAS 2016, Joe Zer, an Associate Scientist at Dart NeuroScience, working in a CMG lab that handles over 1000 compounds a week from different sources, explains in detail why his company started using Fluent®.

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How to become fluent in compound management

By Kevin Moore

With years of experience in lab automation, Wolfgang Jörg at Boehringer Ingelheim needed to find a new automation solution for a colleague working with compound management. Presenting at SLAS 2016, Wolfgang said, “We decided to test Fluent® 780. Tecan loaned us the system for free to test for six months providing we agreed to purchase if the system met our expectations.” With its high throughput, flexibility and accuracy, the system exceeded their expectations and has become a critical component in their high throughput compound management solution.

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Better together? Phenotypic screening and target-based screening

by Simon Fogarty

Now that phenotypic screening is well and truly back, how do you take advantage of its many benefits, especially if you’ve already made a considerable commitment to target-based screening? The simple answer is: you combine the two.

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Automated metabolic analysis in photodynamic tumor therapy

By Siegfried Sasshofer

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.

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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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Miniaturization empowered - discovering the remarkable benefits of the Tecan D300e

By Dr. Manuel Bauer

As Product Manager for Liquid Handling and Robotics at Tecan, I had the opportunity to introduce the power of the Tecan D300e Digital Dispenser at SLAS2016. You can view the presentation here. Without giving too much away, all you need to do is add your liquid and the dispenser does the rest.

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The heart of the matter: finding the 99th percentile for high-sensitivity troponin assays

By Alexandra Sommer

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.

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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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Oncology prognostics: Why analyzing circulating cell free tumor DNA matters

By Nicholas Smith

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.

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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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Ramping up NGS in oncology: Is sequencing tumor DNA enough? Part II

By Achim von Leoprechting

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is poised to become a decisive tool in diagnostic, therapeutic, and prognostic applications in oncology. In the first part of this two-part series, we saw that sequencing tumor-derived DNA alone can risk incorrect diagnosis by misinterpreting somatic alterations as being tumor-specific. This pinpoints the need to sequence normal tissue in parallel to map out the somatic alterations already present in the patient, which clearly has implications for the future of NGS-based diagnosis and workflows in the clinical laboratory.

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Ramping up NGS in oncology: Is sequencing tumor DNA enough? Part I

By Achim von Leoprechting

Massively parallel sequencing has rapidly become a must-have tool of the trade in molecular biology and drug discovery research. In recent years, the cost of next-generation sequencing (NGS) has declined exponentially, while throughput, accuracy, and read lengths have soared, and multiple regulatory-compliant sequencing technologies have achieved commercial success.

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Epigenetics: Adding a new layer to health - Part II

By Kevin Moore
(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.

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Epigenetics: Adding a new layer to health - Part I

By Kevin Moore
(Part 1 of 2). 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.
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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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Breaking the resistance to anticancer drugs - Part III

Part 3 of 3:  Let’s make this personal - A more individual treatment


By Simon Fogarty
In the first part of this series, we introduced you to imatinib (Gleevec). This drug was originally launched in 2001 as a potent treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). It also proved to be effective against a number of other cancers.
Before the introduction of Gleevec, a diagnosis of CML was effectively a death sentence. The initial promise of spectacular results in treatment were, however, dampened somewhat by the development of resistance. But genetic research is now changing the rules.

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Breaking the resistance to anticancer drugs - Part II

Part 2 of 3: Chasing a moving target 


By Simon Fogarty



A tough obstacle: The body's own defense system
'The so-called ‘War against Cancer’ started with US President Richard Nixon’s National Cancer Act of 1971. It turned out to be many battles on many fronts as cancer was confirmed to be not one but a myriad of diseases. Not only that, but each cancer cell in a given patient has a different genetic make-up.
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Breaking the resistance to anticancer drugs - Part I

By Simon Fogarty
In 1996, Dr. Charles Sawyers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, USA, became involved in the initial testing of a drug for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The drug, imatinib (later to be launched as Gleevec), could be taken once a day with few side effects and had a dramatic clinical result. Even patients in advanced stages of the disease, reliant on oxygen and with only a few weeks to live, became symptom-free almost immediately. The trouble was, those same patients quickly developed a resistance to the drug and suffered a relapse.
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Molecular diagnostics – a closer look at sample to answer

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?

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The next giant in genome sequencing? China

What’s driving China’s massive growth in next generation sequencing (NGS) and how are its home-grown companies making the most of it? 

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