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Tecan Journal

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Flexing Automation Capabilities

Many diagnostic laboratories rely on PCR-based tests to identify a range of illnesses, from gastrointestinal and respiratory infections to tropical diseases. However, processing the samples manually can be time consuming and prone to errors, limiting the number of tests that can be carried out in a day. Automation can increase throughput, but is not always practical for smaller laboratories that do not need to run hundreds or thousands of samples at a time looking for the same pathogen. Certest Biotec – a Spanish biotechnology company – has developed the VIASURE V-Flex, an automated and flexible workstation for nucleic acid extraction and PCR set-up, that can be used to run multiple different PCR reactions on a single plate.

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Powering Next Generation Genomics

Spatial genomics is a rapidly growing field, allowing researchers to explore gene expression in the context of tissue location. Vizgen has developed the MERSCOPE® Platform, the first commercial high multiplexing, high resolution in situ solution to combine single-cell and spatial genomics analysis. Powered by MERFISH technology, this system not only enables the visualization of gene expression, but also where – and to what abundance – genes are expressed in tissues.

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Seeing is believing: harnessing the power of automation in single-cell genomics workflows

The prevalence of eye diseases is rising around the world and, for most of them, there are no effective therapies available. Disorders that impair vision – such as macular degeneration or glaucoma – are a leading cause of disability and loss of an independent lifestyle in aging populations. At the other end of the spectrum, myopia – or short-sightedness – is also on a steep incline, with up to 90 percent of teenagers being affected in some regions. Researchers in Basel are using various cutting-edge tools – including single-cell genomics – to understand the molecular mechanisms behind some of these diseases, with the aim of developing effective therapeutics.

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Dramatically increasing throughput and efficiency of SPR analysis to accelerate drug discovery

Surface plasmon resonance biosensors have become the go-to technology for drug discovery in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, offering label-free, real-time measurements that characterize the interactions of nearly any molecular system. Carterra is a leader in high throughput biology solutions, and the company’s LSA® platform combines patented microfluidics technology with real-time high throughput surface plasmon resonance to enable 100 times higher throughput for monoclonal antibody screening and characterization.

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Automating microbial strain development for a sustainable future

Transitioning from the world’s current petroleum-based industry to a sustainable bioeconomy depends upon the microbial upcycling of plant-based feedstocks for monomer production. Researchers at Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) in Germany have introduced automation platforms to enable the rapid engineering of microbial strains that can convert renewable raw materials into value-added compounds.

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High speed immunodiagnostics with multicolor imaging

FantasiaBio, based in the Jinhua region of China’s Zhejiang province, understands the power of imaging live cells, and has created a range of fluorescence-based tools to exploit the power of multiplexed live cell imaging for clinical research and development. In 2020, the company developed an innovative in vitro assay to quantify neutralizing antibodies against SARS- CoV-2, allowing researchers to evaluate an individual’s level of protection after administration of a COVID-19 vaccine. Qin Xiao-Feng, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at FantasiaBio, explained: “The kit uses a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) as a pseudotype vector with a green fluorescent protein (GFP) payload. If the COVID-19 vaccine stimulates effective production of neutralizing antibodies, the VSV pseudovirus is unable to infect human target cells, so the GFP gene is not expressed in these cells. The expression of GFP can normally be seen using a fluorescence microscope, and the number of green ‘dots’ is inversely proportional to the antibody activity. However, imaging in this way requires researchers to be sitting in front of a microscope for long periods of time to manually assess samples, which is time consuming, laborious and leads to inter-operator variability in results. We therefore needed a way to streamline and accelerate whole-well imaging for multiwell plates.”

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Diagnosing hormone-based disorders using saliva

Diagnosing hormone-based disorders using saliva samples dates back to the 1980s, but it is only the sensitivity improvements over the last decade that have led to saliva-based diagnostics becoming a viable alternative to blood testing. Biovis’ Diagnostik, a medical laboratory based in Limburg, Germany, has been at the forefront of saliva diagnostics since 2012, providing comprehensive testing to improve the analysis of hormone-based disorders.

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Working together to untangle IVDR

The European Union’s In Vitro Diagnostics Regulation (IVDR) replaces the In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Directive (IVDD), completely overhauling the regulations regarding pre- and post- market requirements for IVD devices. This has implications for the entire supply chain, from manufacturers with responsibilities for design, development and commercialization, to agreements between manufacturers and key economic operators, such as importers and distributors. The regulation also introduces specific requirements and limitations on hospitals and labs developing their own diagnostic tests, which must review and, if necessary, replace in-house assays with commercially available CE-marked, IVDR- certified alternatives to ensure compliance for the chosen application.

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Building capabilities in optical genome mapping – going beyond next-generation sequencing

Large structural variations in the genome are responsible for many diseases and conditions, including cancers and developmental disorders. Gene changes – including insertions or deletions, translocations, inversions and duplications – can lead to alterations in how and when a gene is expressed, impacting on a wide range of in vivo processes. Bionano has developed an optical genome mapping platform offering high speed, high throughput whole genome mapping to support genomic research into human disease.

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Partnering for progress in oncology

Tecan recently teamed up with Nature Medicine to host a symposium on the latest ground-breaking research into cancer diagnosis and treatment, from novel biomarkers to personalized vaccines and cell-based therapies. A select group of industry leaders and key experts in oncology came together for a two-day event in Boston, Massachusetts, to accelerate research and clinical discoveries through better partnering between industry and academia. This summit highlighted Tecan’s dedication to assembling leaders in cancer – along with technologists, vendors and solutions providers – so they can share knowledge and expertise, and work collaboratively to battle cancer.

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Analyzing poor quality RNA: how low can you go?

NGS is a vital tool used for studying the structure and function of DNA for multiple applications. However, there are several challenges commonly encountered when using this technique, particularly when working with degraded or trace levels of RNA. These issues motivated research staff at Kazusa DNA Research Institute in Japan to search for library preparation kits that would enable high quality sequencing for its customers when working with low quality samples.

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Tecan Gives Back initiative supports research into cancer prevention

Tecan Gives Back is an employee-driven initiative supporting charities that help to improve people’s health and quality of life. Created as part of the company’s 40th anniversary celebrations, the scheme gives employees the opportunity to earn ‘kilometers’ for their chosen charity by engaging in fitness and wellness activities, or by volunteering. These are then pooled and converted into cash donations at the end of the month-long challenge. One of this year’s beneficiaries is World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), a global research charity focused on reducing the risk of developing cancer and improving the outcomes for those already diagnosed.

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Novel methods guiding cancer treatment

Multiple myeloma (MM) remains an incurable blood cancer, but recent advancements in treatment have significantly improved patient prognosis and quality of life. UK-based specialist diagnostic company The Binding Site has developed a new strategy that monitors pre-cancerous conditions associated with MM as well as treatment success, helping to guide therapeutic pathways with more accurate information.

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Improved prostate screening to help men live long and prosper

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, killing hundreds of thousands each year. However, the current routine screening method for checking prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels generates false positives in an alarming number of cases, leading to thousands of unnecessary biopsies each year. To combat this, Life Length has developed ProsTAV®, a state-of-the-art in vitro diagnostic test that uses telomere associated variables (TAVs) to identify patients with a higher risk of prostate cancer, aiding screening initiatives and reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies

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Taking new cancer cures from bench to bedside

Many of the anti-cancer drugs currently used for chemotherapy work by causing replication-associated DNA damage that kills individual cancer cells. While this can be an effective way of treating the disease, the drugs often also indiscriminately affect healthy cells, causing unpleasant side effects for the patient. To help resolve this problem, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden are developing DNA repair inhibitors that are able to selectively introduce toxic DNA damage to cancer cells, while avoiding causing harm to normal cells, to support the successful treatment of cancers and improving patients’ experience of chemotherapy.

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High throughput automation and genomics for an antimicrobial resistance surveillance system for diverse applications

Dr Sam Abraham is an associate professor at Murdoch University, Australia, with a research interest in antimicrobial resistance and drug discovery. His presentation at Tecan’s virtual Genomics Symposium can be viewed here.

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Supporting Zika virus drug screening in Brazil

Several outbreaks of the Zika virus have been reported around the world since its discovery in 1947, but a commercially available treatment for the disease is still not available, and scientists continue to search for the best antiviral agent. Professor Martin Würtele and his colleagues in the Department of Science and Technology at the Federal University of São Paulo recently published a study identifying several natural substances that showed potent antiviral activity against the Zika virus protease.

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Revolutionizing long DNA synthesis by speeding up the process

Synthetic DNA has become the central component of countless scientific and technological innovations across many applications, from biopharmaceuticals to biofuels. However, research and drug development pipelines are often hindered by the cost and the length of time that it takes to obtain long sequences of DNA or multiple DNA variants. Ribbon Biolabs, based in Vienna, is addressing this issue by combining automation and adaptive algorithmic control with highly precise, optimized enzymatic synthesis.

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Salivary stress biomarkers to nose out the benefits of healthcare clowning to children with psychiatric disorders

Several studies have shown that healthcare clowning has a strong positive effect on pediatric patients in general, but there is limited research into its impact on those with psychological disorders. RED NOSES Clowndoctors Austria – an organization with decades of experience in healthcare clowning – is addressing this issue through a collaboration with the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Vienna. A joint study is currently being conducted in several psychiatric in-patient wards across Austria, using salivary stress biomarkers to assess whether clown visits are really benefitting patients.

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A dream team for bioanalytical drug testing

9-Delta Analytical LLC in California provides independent forensic and clinical toxicology testing services for academic research groups, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies across the USA and Canada. Focusing mainly on human samples, the company uses numerous analytical techniques to screen for a wide range of legal and illicit drugs.

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Improving speed and accuracy of biomanufacturing for more rapid and cost-effective therapies

The biomanufacturing industry is constantly on the lookout for new technologies to improve the speed, accuracy and performance of its processes, particularly in the biologics arena. Biotechnology company ValitaCell has embraced this challenge, developing novel assays and label-free bright field imaging approaches employing artificial intelligence to complement fluorescence-based cell monitoring techniques.

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A voyage of discovery: exploring the role of HMGB1 in trauma pathology

Trauma is the main cause of premature death internationally, resulting in more deaths in people under 40 years old than all other causes combined. Even trauma victims receiving hospital care have a high mortality rate, in part due to massive systemic inflammatory reactions leading to the dysfunction of organs that were not initially injured. A team at Oslo University Hospital in Norway has been investigating the role of the protein HMGB1 (High Mobility Group Box 1) in the development of trauma pathologies and its potential as a clinical biomarker or therapeutic target in these cases.

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Fighting the opioid epidemic by reducing manual labor and increasing throughput

Opioid addiction, alongside addiction to other substances, is a significant public health, social and economic challenge in the US. In 2017, the opioid epidemic was declared a public health emergency by the Department of Health and Human Services, with one of its aims to improve access to treatment and recovery services. Despite this, over 100,000 US lives were lost to opioid overdoses in the year to April 2021. Increasingly, outpatient centers such as Ideal Option are providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – combining approved medications with counseling and support therapy – to offer a ‘whole-patient’ approach to treatment of, and sustained recovery from, these addictions.

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Quality food and feed enzyme development at the industrial scale

The use of enzymes as biocatalysts in industrial applications has steadily gained popularity, as it offers an efficient way to use raw materials while minimizing waste. This approach has been successfully scaled for commercial processes in the pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries, largely thanks to the use of automation to screen, optimize and produce suitable enzymes. Roal Oy in Rajamäki, Finland – a leading producer of industrial enzymes – has automated large parts of its enzyme discovery and screening activities to accelerate product development and optimization.

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Trust your gut – advances in microbiome DNA analysis

The human gut microbiome has been found to affect metabolic health and nutrient absorption, and preliminary research also suggests that it contributes to the development of the immune response, food allergies and intolerances, obesity, and a wide range of other conditions. This field is the focus of Ortho-Analytic, an integrative medicine laboratory based in Wallisellen, Switzerland, that identifies bacterial, fungal and parasite DNA found in stool samples. The company uses molecular genetic analyses to build a detailed picture of a patient’s gut microbiome, aiding practitioners in formulating specific treatment plans.

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Generating a cellular infection model for monitoring SARS-CoV-2 replication

Work to characterize and further understand the molecular pathology of SARSCoV- 2 became a focus for many virology departments following the identification of the novel virus responsible for COVID-19. Drs Marek Widera, Alexander Wilhelm and colleagues at University Hospital Frankfurt, Germany, turned their attention to developing an in vitro cell culture model that could realistically mimic the viral replication cycle, to decipher the mechanism of COVID-19 infection.

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Automating a herd of tests

The COVID-19 pandemic is an important reminder that pathogens are not only transmitted via air and contact with other humans, but also from animals and through food. This highlights the need for effective diagnostic tools that offer fast testing of animal and environmental samples to help monitor livestock and aquaculture. Qualyse is a French company that does exactly this, using advanced laboratory automation to provide immunoserology and molecular diagnostic testing for up to 12,000 samples a day.

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Exploring zoonotic pathogens in Australian livestock

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing issue preventing the effective treatment of numerous parasitic diseases in both humans and animals. The lack of effective antimicrobials for the treatment of a growing number of diseases represents a serious threat to global public health, making it imperative that governments and societies around the world take action to tackle this issue. Scientists at the University of Murdoch in Australia are studying antimicrobial resistance in livestock – which can potentially spread to humans – using a statistical approach of surveillance to monitor the situation more closely.

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Mitosis as a potential therapeutic target for cancer? A divided topic

Mitosis plays an essential role in growth and cellular replacement, and is often dysregulated in cancers, making the process of therapeutic interest. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC Chapel Hill) are developing novel cell imaging tools to help them classify key components of mitosis and identify new therapeutic targets.

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Pumping a way for effective gas emission monitoring

Continuous emission monitoring systems that detect gases or particulate matter concentrations are important in various industrial settings, where they are used to ensure that potential sources of pollutants comply with environmental regulations. Inspire Analytical Systems (IAS) is a German manufacturer of calibration gas generators for analyzers and sensors that offer highly precise and continuous monitoring of gas emissions.

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Tecan acquires medical device specialist Paramit

Paramit Corporation is the latest company to join the Tecan Group, bringing with it a wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as a fresh perspective to engineering and manufacturing, that will resonate throughout the whole organization. Paramit was acquired in August 2021, heralding a unique opportunity to combine the expertise of both companies and provide high quality solutions to the life sciences, in vitro diagnostics and medical device markets.

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