On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization designated the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. Less than a week later, Hamilton Company announced two new workstations—the MagEx STARlet and the PCR Prep STARlet—set up for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis and research, such as R&D stages of a treatment or vaccine that will be produced through bioprocessing. To find out how the company did that so fast, GEN spoke with director of robotics, Michael Mouradian.
“It was a complicated process,” Mouradian said, “but we have the infrastructure. We saw the increase in demand for such workstations go up in late December, and it really scaled up in the past couple of months.”
He described the project as an “all-hands-on-deck collaboration” with some departments working around the clock. Hamilton reached out to experts across the U.S. to build the needed assays. “We also collaborated with partners, including Thermo Fisher Scientific and other leading chemistry providers,” Mouradian said.
Beyond developing these COVID-ready workstations fast, Hamilton is delivering them even faster. “Our typical response for orders is four to six weeks,” Mouradian pointed out, “but we’re turning around these instruments in days.”
Making these workstations, though, required risk. “Our field teams risked going into COVID-19 testing labs,” Mouradian said, “but I didn’t have to ask my team to take on the risk, because they know it’s what our community needs.”
Plus, putting together these workstations so fast requires more work than usual, adding overhead to the development. When asked if it can ever be profitable to make such a quick-paced commitment, Mouradian said, “We are taking on this commitment for the health of the community, not for profit.” He added, “It’s our duty to take on the risk and design and leverage our technology.”