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Mar 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 5)

Review: LabAuto Product Introductions

Hardware and Software Solutions Intended to Increase Efficiency in Biotechnology Research

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    Symyx Technologies’ Powdernium SV

    à Symyx Technologies introduced its Powdernium SV (Storage Vial), a shaker powder dispense module for compound management, walk-up sample preparation, and reference standards preparation. Powdernium SV acts as a hybrid vial hopper and storage vessel for low-cost storage without subdividing materials to save and optimally manage precious resource materials, explained Brenda Waller, staff scientist. “A patent-pending valve cap provides precision flow regulation and quick-access storage without cross contamination to maintain integrity and the accuracy of powder dispense results. The disposable technology eliminates cleaning and carryover,” she explained.

    à Tecan Group reported that its SBS-format MCA™ 96 disposable tips offer many pipetting solutions for automated liquid-handling workstations. Catering to all liquid-handling applications in life sciences—with sterile, nonsterile, and filtered options—the new product design has been optimized for increased throughput and reliability to provide a cost-effective solution for laboratory scientists, according to Mark Torresan, sales representative.

    Torresan also discussed a novel technique for controlling pipetting workstations that does not require the user to have any previous knowledge of programming. Tecan’s Instant Pipetting™ relies on a touch screen to enable operators with any skill level to define applications and directly control pipetting with a liquid handling robot in real time, according to Torresan.

    “[The technology] turns your Freedom EVO® pipetting workstation into an automated hand-pipette,” he said. ‘Mettler Toledo introduced Quantos™, a benchtop solution for automatic weighing and dosing of powder compounds such as reference standards, APIs, and chromatography samples used routinely in the laboratory.  The procedure is now done manually with a spatula, according to John Willham, lab sales specialist. Quantos improves laboratory efficiency, conserves expensive or precious compounds, and provides a better way to work with potentially hazardous substances, improving speed, safety, and savings in the laboratory with an optional safety enclosure and auto-sampler, he said.

    à Nanopoint introduced a slide for culturing embryos for in vitro fertilization. The onstage incubator with a heating element enables imaging from the bottom. The IVF system is being beta tested. The objective is “putting embryos in an environment simulating in utero to determine embryo health,” according to Cathy Owen, president. The system also allows for the use of small volumes of reagents while keeping the embryo alive and maintaining full documentation capabilities.

    à Heidenhain develops and manufactures linear encoders that detect errors in the alignment of instruments that can cause damage to the equipment or errors in the results.  Available in the nanometer range, the encoders are placed where pipettes and other fragile equipment might be to ensure safety and accuracy, according to Kevin Kaufenberg, national sales and product manager.

    à Software as a service, or SaaS, is not your father’s LIMS, said J. Thomas Kent, president and CEO of Sciformatix, which released SciLIMS Samples and Storage Management for storage and inventory control in small to medium-sized labs.  The LIMS, which is modeled on Microsoft Outlook® and accessible via individual user subscriptions, operates on the internet, eliminating the need for complicated installation, downloading, or training, according to Kent.

    à Darwin 3.0, a LIMS from Thermo Fisher Scientific, gives pharmaceutical labs time savings in validation efforts and cost savings in production time. Darwin 3.0’s new fully validated web interface allows for more efficient reporting and sharing of test data across the lab, reported Gary Walz, Darwin product manager. Built on the Microsoft.NET framework, Darwin can be extended to include dashboard-ready tools for multi-user and multisite environments where the interface gives immediate information on resource and instrument utilization, he added.

    à BioMicroLab offers instruments for volume inventory management, sorting and weighing of vials and test tubes, and 2-D barcode decoding. Robotic platforms are compatible with SBS standards to enable integration with other HTS-oriented laboratory systems, said David B. Miller, president. New this year is the SampleScan A5 2-D tube reader that reportedly scans a rack of 96 tubes in 5 to 10 seconds and decodes them for LIMS input.

    à Ocimum Biosolutions unveiled its Biotracker™ 4.1 R&D Life Science LIMS release, in which all the LIMS methods are now accessible through advanced web services-based API, as well as a Java-based API to support the changing needs in the drug research and development environment. “What this means is that genomics universities and companies can support new biotech platforms and core competency advancements,” said Louis J. Ciabattoni, product manager, LIMS solutions.

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