Automation for genomics partnership

Automata has announced it is partnering with the Advanced Sequencing Facility (ASF) at The Francis Crick Institute, a world-leading laboratory at the forefront of genomics, to unlock the power of open, integrated automation for genomics sample preparation.

The partnership is based on the premise that automation can unlock a step change in the potential of genomics labs. Genomics sample preparation workflows are ideally suited for automation given the need for robustness and scalability, and together, the teams are automating three workflows to decrease manual touchpoints, increase throughput and optimise R&D flexibility.

Jerome Nicod, Head of the Advanced Sequencing Facility at the Francis Crick Institute comments: “At the ASF, we believe integrated automation is the path forwards in the field of genomics, and the results we have been seeing so far from the Automata platform support this. The major benefit of our walkaway workflows is the ability to prepare samples and generate data rapidly, accelerating the pace of discoveries at the Crick. This includes the validation of CRISPR genome editing, the extraction of genetic material from fixed tumour samples for cancer research and genomic surveillance of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Automating three of the lab’s critical workflows

In close collaboration, the teams have completed two walkaway workflows, with a further workflow in progress. These workflows use the first version of Automata’s lab bench solution, made up of four laboratory instruments, six benches and four robots.

Until now, automation in genomics labs has demonstrated limited capacity. It has tended to mean a series of specialised instruments still reliant on humans for the repetitive manual work of moving consumables between them and waiting for processes to finish. This has limited the ability for labs to scale; restricted scientists' true ‘walkaway time’ from the bench; locked trained lab staff into repetitive manual tasks; and has therefore still been prone to manual error and contamination.

Today, open, integrated automation solutions have the power to help laboratories scale. Benchtops can be physically and digitally connected such that entire workflows become seamless automated processes, with built-in versatility to build and edit multiple different workflows. Platforms can be made to be collaborative - able to work alongside humans - and to interact with the present range of equipment in a laboratory.

With Automata’s solution, the ASF is parallelising multiple workflows to optimise flexibility, throughput and reliability. Nicod adds: “It is our close partnership with the Automata team that has driven this success, with a dedicated field application scientist and field application engineer working closely with our laboratory scientists to optimise the deployment at every stage.”

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