When times get tough, manufacturers of laboratory automation equipment rely on out-of-the-box thinking to provide greater economy and efficiency for life scientists. “LabAutomation,” held in Palm Springs the last week in January, showcased more than 4,000 hardware and software advances, including open architecture, to make various systems compatible with one another, modularity that allows for growth and change as needed, innovation that decreases sample and reagent volumes, and increased communication between scientists.
à Among the tool companies highlighting new products at “LabAuto” was Agilent Technologies. “Agilent’s broad portfolio is designed for plug-and-play solutions that integrate equipment from the competition via open architecture, enabling scientists to focus on science, rather than manual tasks that create significant inefficiencies in the lab,” said Rob Nail, GM of Agilent Automation Solutions (formerly Velocity11). The company’s Direct Drive Robot incorporates a fourth axis for wrist motion, an integrated teaching button, the ability to stop on unintended contact, and a compact and flexible small footprint. VWorks Automation Control Software runs Agilent and third-party software and includes a hit-picking wizard.
à Everybody in the lab can be a power user with the Intellectual Scheduler for the POD™ 810 system, which assembles assay-ready plates on demand, according to Jean Shieh, product manager at Labcyte. The drag-and-drop software-based scheduler is easy to learn, use, and change, she added. Labcyte also introduced the Deerac Q, a benchtop liquid-handling system incorporating both disposable tip transfer for DNA samples and noncontact PCR reagent dispensing for low-volume assays. The company’s acoustic droplet ejection technology uses sound to move liquids.
à Art Robbins Instruments unveiled the Gryphon, a personal-sized version of the company’s Phoenix liquid-handling system, explained John Clemente, East Coast sales manager. Using a combination of interchangeable multiple syringe heads, pipette tip heads, and noncontact dispensers, the Gryphon minimizes the amount of reagent volume needed and performs a variety of microtiter plate assays.
à BMG Labtech launched its PHERAstar FS HTS microplate reader incorporating tandem technology that uses highly sensitive, filter-based detection in all modes, explained E.J. Dell, Ph.D., business development and applications scientist. PHERAstar FS has an ultrafast UV/Vis spectrometer for absorbance, a dedicated UV-laser for all TR-FRET-based assays, top and bottom reading for cell-based assays, and on-board reagent injectors that measure and read at the same time for calcium assays and cell membrane assays, Dr. Dell reported.
à VaryScreen™ I from Hudson Control Group is a multiassay screening and development system that enables investigators to rapidly switch assays, including AlphaScreen, luminescence, FRET, ELISA, fluorescence polarization, and UV/Vis absorbance. “Appealing to investigators who want to handle a greater number of assays rather than dedicating a system to one type, it allows the user to conduct many assay types on a single workcell and model changes within assays, which is critical to validating assays in real time,” said Phil Farrelly, president.