Lab automation success story

A leading Dutch genome diagnostics lab is using a semi-automated tube picker to retrieve DNA samples accurately and rapidly from its extensive biobank

The Genome Diagnostics Laboratory (AGDx) is centred at the VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam, the largest University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. Bringing together a network of medical specialists in cardiology, paediatrics, oncology, neurology, endocrinology, haematology and ophthalmology, AGDx is designated as the European reference centre for genetic testing of familial hypercholesterolemia, imprinting disorders and cardiogenetics. Publishing over 50 research paper a year, lab specialists at the AGDx work at the leading edge of genome diagnostics. The laboratory is licensed by the Royal Dutch Government to perform clinical genetic tests.

Senior chief analyst in the AGDx laboratory, Dr Marja van Stralen says: “A few years ago, with stored DNA samples rising exponentially, the situation had arisen that we could no longer find the right samples so easily. As a result, our laboratory switched from the classic microcentrifuge tubes to 2D barcoded tubes in SBS format 96 position racks for storage of all DNA samples to enable us to efficiently manage our DNA biobank.”

Van Stralen explains that, “In recent years, specialised knowledge has been increasingly required to perform DNA diagnostics and there are more and more diseases in which DNA diagnostics can support the correct diagnosis with current techniques. As a result, the number of requests to our lab grows every year. So it is vital that we can quickly and accurately pick specific DNA samples enabling us to use the right tests with our various diagnostic techniques. Efficient picking of samples is especially important in larger studies that require a lot of biobank DNA materials to be found quickly.”

Van Stralen says that the since the arrival of the Mohawk semi-automated tube picker, just over a year ago, “We have been able to accurately pick and process more DNA samples in an efficient manner. As a result of this successful implementation, and the great support received from Ziath, our lab is in the process of acquiring a second Mohawk.”

Fast, efficient solution

The Mohawk semi-automated tube picker employs a linear rack reader and 96 pins that allow a frozen or thawed sample tube to be raised when a rack is scanned according to a picklist. This innovative technology avoids the need for slow, expensive robotics that can take minutes to process racks. With Mohawk, a rack is scanned, tubes are selected and picked in seconds. The system needs no set up or calibration. Control is achieved via through software that provides an intuitive interface for fast and effortless operation.

Tubes are picked from a single rack, or a picklist can be set up to select tubes across multiple racks. Pick list operations are normally started from reading the 1D code on a rack placed onto the system, but manual selection is also possible.

For extra sample tracking and security, the Mohawk can be connected directly to a 2D barcode scanner for tube confirmation. It can also generate picklists directly from the tube barcodes. And a 1D scanner for reading the rack barcode is included.

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