Bigger is not always better in production. What matters is the right size platform for a particular task. Even in large-scale drug research and manufacturing, companies “may use one or more small liquid handlers, but only in a few portions of their assay,” says Mellisa Enriquez, an expert in the global life science industry and senior marketing manager at Opentrons Labworks. “In fact, Opentrons has a few large pharmaceutical companies that bought multiple OT-2’s for a specific part of their assay.” Opentrons’ pipetting robot is only about as big as a microwave oven.”

Still, Enriquez adds, “It really is dependent on their workflow, but the norm would be larger liquid handlers are used in large-scale drug research and manufacturing.”

Part of the challenge to using smaller robots in regulated environments arises from software, or rather the lack of it. “There’s a lot of compliance, monitoring, documentation, protocol scheduling, etcetera that is reliant on an instrument’s software that most of the smaller liquid handlers do not provide, including the OT-2,” Enriquez continues. “However, it doesn’t mean to say that these larger companies have not employed companies such as HighRes Bio and Biosero to integrate multiple smaller instruments and bridge that software gap.”

When a bioprocessor can solve the software challenge, a smaller platform offers valuable benefits. According to Enriquez, the top benefits are a smaller lab footprint and lower cost. Consequently, “a small platform is a very good solution to relieve assays with bottlenecks and further increase throughput,” she says. “For example, if part of the biosynthesis includes a next-generation sequencing step and there are bottlenecks in the extraction, purification, bead processing, etcetera, the team can deploy multiple smaller instruments to relieve that bottleneck.”

So, bigger is not always better in bioprocessing. What is better is the right size platform for a particular task.

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