Automating sample preparation

20th May 2013

Sample prep requirement can be perceived as a burden to research. Here Silke Ubben looks at the benefits of automation.

The PIPETMAX is an easy-to-use, personalised, automated liquid handling platform designed for turn-key research application solutions.

PIPETMAX targets molecular biology applications, automating the monotonous and error-prone sample preparation steps traditionally accomplished with manual pipettes. It occupies a nitch between large, expensive automated liquid handlers and manual pipettes.

PIPETMAX is the next logical step for a manual pipette user. Virtually any manual pipetting process can be automated with PIPETMAX, freeing the lab members to focus on more important aspects of their job. This means that it fits in to a molecular biology process throughout the sample preparation steps, before the samples are analysed and after they have been collected.

Like a pipette, the PIPETMAX is designed to be small and affordable enough for personal use or use in a small group. It will work alongside lab members, fitting neatly into their current benchtop space and their budgets.

The system features two exchangeable pipetting heads which can be used at one time and are easily switched out by hand. The tray base is customisable for different plate usage depending on application, and the moving XYZ system can reliably target 384-well plates. The instrument is fully enclosed to protect samples, but the enclosure is removable for use within a fume hood. Easy to use software is included for protocol configuration.

PIPETMAX can be used for the following applications: PCR/qPCR; cell-based assays;NGS prep; ELISA prep; tip-based sample prep.

Advantages of protocol automation with PIPETMAX include:

- Reduce the possibility of human error - In the laboratory environment; mistakes can be costly to the bottom line. Automating a multi-step pipetting protocol can help reduce the risk of error and waste, saving time and costs.

- Improved accuracy and precision - Reliable data and results that can be easily duplicated is crucial to the research process. Automation ensures solid results that can be replicated.

- Flexibility of an open platform - Just because scientists use a particular kit today does not mean they'll use it next year. Unlike some other platforms, PIPETMAX can be programmed to run a variety of different kits from different manufacturers. This means that no one is locked in to a particular kit manufacturer or reagent supplier.

- Ease of adoption - While most automated systems force users to learn some form of programming, PIPETMAX users have the option to download pre-developed and manufacturer verified protocols from Gilson and Gilson partners.

- Increased performance and consistency - No two people pipette the same way. Variability between pipette users can result in variability in results. This can often require tasks to be repeated until results are consistent; wasting time and resources. Automating the process ensures consistency in each result, every time, regardless of who pushes the button.

- Increased laboratory productivity - Once the pipetting protocol has been established within the software, PIPETMAX allows laboratory staff to focus on other aspects of their work as it runs in the background.

- Increased safety through ergonomic solutions - PIPETMAX is the ultimate ergonomic pipetting solution since the samples are processed automatically, limiting exposure to dangerous samples and repetitive manual processes.

What makes PIPETMAX different?

Currently, the majority of automated liquid handlers tend to be in the $50,000 to $150,000 price range. They are sophisticated platforms with correspondingly complex operating software, and are often a purchase justified by a multitude of needs for multiple users. At a core facility they are often difficult to find available time on, commonly placed in a central location, and are risky for user-to user contamination issues. These platforms also involve a level of training that is not in any way suitable for simple, quick liquid handling prep tasks. For producing one or two plates, they are considered not worth the effort of setting up.

At the other end of the spectrum, manual or motorised pipettes are available for this task, but simple repetitive tasks (kit based assays) still require the researcher to be present for what is often a mundane and tedious process. The researcher's presence adds little value to this process.

This latter scenario is the most common situation for academic/biotech labs.

For more information at

Silke Ubben is European Marketing Communications Manager, Gilson International BV, Den Haag, The Netherlands.




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