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Tecan Journal

Selected issue: 2/2020

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A beacon of light in the coronavirus pandemic

UK Biocentre has been central to the UK Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, repurposing its entire facility to become a national center for SARS-CoV-2 molecular testing. To help meet an ambitious target of 100,000 tests per day across the country, the organization has established a new mega-lab, partnering with Tecan to design and commission a suite of liquid handling automation platforms in just a few weeks.

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Customized solution supports automated compound management in core facility

G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) have an integral role in the development of various diseases, and are therefore a key focus for many researchers investigating novel drug targets or attempting to understand more about human health. Scientists at ShanghaiTech University have implemented Tecan Labwerx™ customized laboratory solutions for compound management in their busy core facility, and are using these automated systems to process high throughput assays, ultimately resolving important GPCR structures.

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Racing against a pandemic

The emergence and outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at the end of 2019 has created an urgent need for testing to help limit the spread of COVID-19. AusDiagnostics has used its patented, multiplexed-tandem PCR technology to develop a test to detect SARS-CoV-2 and distinguish between the different causes of coronavirus-like infections.

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Improving quality of HIV diagnosis in Kenya

Gaining an accurate diagnosis of HIV is essential to ensure that patients get the right treatment, and that the disease is contained as much as possible. In Kenya, where HIV is prevalent, the quality of testing across the country is being monitored through a program established in 2007 that sends out manually produced proficiency testing panels. The demand for this service has grown immensely with the development of point-of-care testing and, to address this, the National Public Health Laboratory has turned to automation to produce more samples in a shorter timeframe and with improved accuracy.

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Transferrable skills

The COVID-19 pandemic has required an unprecedented level of collaboration within the scientific community, as labs around the world aim to characterize and understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus in order to develop and implement new diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines. This cooperative approach has led to some unexpected partnerships, as techniques and knowhow from across numerous disciplines are brought together to accelerate research and testing activities. Professor Nir Friedman’s team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been at the center of one such situation, using its knowledge of workflow automation from investigating yeast genomics to develop a novel large-scale sequencing-based assay for the detection of SARS-CoV-2.

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Using saliva to study hormones

Hormones are specialist chemical messengers that provide a communication system between different parts of the body. They affect everything from growth and metabolism to appetite and mood, while also playing a vital role in puberty and fertility. When hormone imbalances occur, they can lead to a number of health issues, including infertility and menopausal problems in women. Medicare PLUS is using saliva testing to identify these hormone level imbalances for individuals across Slovenia and further afield.

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A sensitive subject

Determining if a new cosmetic product, pharmaceutical ingredient or chemical substance is harmful to humans is a key prerequisite for product safety and consumer protection. Traditionally, skin sensitization testing relied on animal models, but these approaches are expensive, time consuming and raise ethical questions, while only offering limited human relevance and accuracy. SenzaGen has developed a unique, in vitro approach to sensitization testing, combining cell biology and flow cytometry with genomics-based screening and machine learning-assisted classifications.

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A smooth path for novel biologics

Cell culture is at the heart of the production process for many biopharmaceuticals, but finding the optimal conditions to maximize yield can be a complex and time-consuming process. Traditional process development relies on costly and labor-intensive set-ups, significantly limiting throughput and the range of experimental conditions that can be assessed. Scientists in Roche Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) have adopted an alternative approach, combining single-use microbioreactors with advanced automation and analytical platforms to streamline the workflow.

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Generating success in regenerative biology

Stem cells offer the potential to revolutionize the treatment of many currently incurable conditions, as well as providing invaluable research tools to further our understanding of biological processes. Since stem cell pioneer Dr James Thomson derived the first human embryonic stem cell line in 1998, this has grown into a whole new field of biology. Dr Thomson and his team at the Morgridge Institute for Research are still at the forefront of this research, using their vast knowledge and experience to develop novel therapeutic approaches and tackle many of the unanswered questions in developmental biology.

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Print your own DNA

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe has highlighted the need for the rapid development of new diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines in response to emerging infectious diseases. Advanced gene assembly techniques represent a powerful tool to aid these efforts, and are currently allowing the construction of synthetic SARS-CoV-2 genomes for research and development activities. Codex DNA is at the forefront of this approach, using its knowhow and BioXp™ 3200 system to supply labs across the globe with the gene constructs required to accelerate the design and optimization of vaccines and treatments.

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A jump start for nucleic acid processing

The ever-increasing throughput and ever-decreasing cost of next generation sequencing have made this technology a practical and affordable solution for everything from molecular diagnostics and antimicrobial susceptibility testing to crop research and environmental monitoring. For many of these applications, the bottleneck in the workflow – which can account for considerable hidden costs – lies in sample extraction. Tecan has partnered with Zymo Research to offer labs an automated and optimized solution for nucleic acid processing.

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Empowering CORE oncology research

Christophe Deben and the team at the University of Antwerp’s Center for Oncological Research (CORE) were the lucky recipients of a fully loaded Tecan Spark® Cyto plate reader with live cell imaging and real-time cytometry, after winning a Tecan competition in October 2019. The center is now using the instrument to support its revolutionary research in immuno-oncology.

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