Laboratory Automation

It’s surprising how much pharmaceutical research to date has been more art than science. Computing power is still a long way off predicting the properties of proteins and cells from their DNA, so until then the more research that can be accelerated by automation (e.g. lab robots, lab-on-chip) the better.

And this is being driven by the big pharma companies who can’t afford the failure rate at late stage drug development, or worse after release which can result in multi-billion law suits. I attended an excellenty talk by the chief scientific office for GE Healthcare recently and they are mass producing stem cell lines, and the machinery to test them, so that drugs can be tested for cardio-toxicity much earlier on in the development process.


Transcriptic: The Robotic Cloud Laboratory –
Transcriptic is a robotic cloud laboratory for the life sciences. Our automated, scalable platform accelerates time to market, reduces costs, and improves reproducibility.

Emerald Cloud Lab –
A web-based life sciences lab, developed by scientists for scientists.

Latest News

Robot revolutionises study of new molecules – Independent – 18-Jul-2018
University of Glasgow chemists have trained an artificially-intelligent robot.
AI robot automatically explores a very large number of chemical reactions.
Machine-learning algorithms can uncover new reactions and molecules.
Could lower costs for discovering new drug molecules.
Already discovered a range of previously unknown new molecules and reactions.

Robots grow mini-organs from human stem cells – Science Daily – 17-May-2018
Traditional way to grow cells is a 2D culture.
Three-dimensional organoids behave similarly to real organs.
Robotic system automates growing organoids from pluripotent stem cells.
Could greatly expand the use of mini-organs in drug discovery.
Can produce thousands of kidney organoids over 21 days.
For repetitive tasks like this robots do a better job than humans.

SFU’s robotic chemical biology research lab – The Peak – 20-Mar-2018
New Centre for High Throughput Chemical Biology (cHTCB) facility.
Conducts a high volume of experiments much faster than previously possible.
Can analyze up to 50,000 compounds a day.
Uses robotics integrated with liquid-handling devices and sensitivity detectors.
Screening process procedures include culturing cells and analyzing data.
Current research includes antibacterials, cancer treatments, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Robotic labs for high-speed genetic research are on the rise – Economist – 1-Mar-2018
In the basement of Imperial College sits the London DNA Foundry.
Similar biofoundries are being set up around the world.
Biotechnology companies can outsource their own laboratories.
A robotic arm shuttle small plastic dishes between the machines.
The foundry can mix 150,000 samples of DNA in a morning.
Transcriptic allows storage of entire cell lines.

Robot Scientist Uncovers Antibacterial Kills Malaria – GEN News – 18-Jan-2018
Eve was developed by scientists at the Universities of Manchester, Aberystwyth, and Cambridge.
It (she?) automatically develops and tests hypotheses to explain observations.
Able to run experiments, amend hypotheses, and then repeat the cycle.
Artificial intelligence lets Eve take an intelligent approach to science.
Eve has discovered that triclosan may help the fight against drug-resistant malaria.
Triclosan is an antibacterial safe enough to be incorporated into consumer products.

Robots Run Experiments While Scientists Sleep – Forbes – 21-Dec-2017
Transcriptic robotic cloud laboratory allows users to run synthetic biology experiments remotely.
Software helps scientists plan experiments and execute them flawlessly.
Can lead to faster, more reproducible research.
70% of scientists said they couldn’t replicate another scientist’s experiment.

The Lab of the Future: AI and Microfluidics – Technology Networks – 27-Nov-17
Integration of robotics and automation has revolutionized procedures.
Microfluidics enables the analysis of extremely small fluid volumes.
Able to house multiple experiments on a single chip.
Liquid handling robots are capable of processing thousands of samples.
Machine learning enables interrogation of both unstructured and structured data.

Automating histology for the busy pathologist – Digital Journal – 11-Nov-2017
Aquaro Histology obtains investment to commercialize automated microtomy technology.
Plan to to automate section cutting, relaxing, and mounting on slides.
Histopathology is an important tool for disease diagnosis.
Temperature and time controls lead to improved consistency of sectioning.
Also lowers risk of cross-contamination occurring.

Interview with PCR Workflow Automation Company CEO – Labiotech – 2-Oct-2017
Wouter Uten recognized a need in the diagnostic industry for more automated laboratory workflows.
Automated labs had extraction robots and liquid handlers to feed PCR instruments.
But lacked software that could interpret PCR results automatically.
Need to replace users copy-and-pasting results from spreadsheets into the LIMS.
UgenTec performs machine learning on the raw data from partners’ assays.

A new breed of scientist, with brains of silicon – Science Mag – 05-Jul-2017
Robots use sound waves to create droplets a thousand times smaller than one a human can transfer.
But they also plan the experiments – interpreting data and generating hypotheses.
Zymergen tunes industrial microbes that produce ingredients for biofuels, plastics, or drugs.
This is already a $160-billion-per-year sector.
Can run a thousand experiments per week compared to a typical human’s 10 per month.

Robotics collaboration helps work on disease detection – University of Nevada – 18-May-2017
University of Nevada, Reno working with robotic precision liquid equipment from Hamilton Company.
Developing rapid diagnostics and therapeutics for infectious diseases.
System is able to detect how much virus or bacteria a person has in them from both qualitative and quantitative approaches.
The automated liquid handling functions provide a more accurate and faster turnaround time when conducting experiments.

Robots Are Working 24/7 To Cure Cancer – Gizmodo – 2-Sep-2016
Specialised robots work non-stop to rapidly testing hundreds of treatments for kids with high-risk cancers.
Suite of tests analyse the samples and test them against libraries of drugs.
Also includes several advanced gene sequencing tests.
Drug sensitivity tests performed to better tailor treatment to the child’s individual cancer.
Identifies drug combinations most likely to be effective in stopping the growth of each individual patient’s cancer cells.
Australian Cancer Research Foundation Child Cancer Personalised Medicine Centre is headquarters for the Zero Childhood Cancer program.

Lab robot accelerates cancer treatment research – Kurzweil AI – 23-Sep-2015
Uppsala University research system finds optimal treatment drug combinations by planning, conducting and analyzing its own experiments.
Handles dozen drugs simultaneously – aiming for hundreds in future.

Automation reduces medical testing from weeks to minutes – Pacific Business News – 3-Aug-2015
Hawaii-based Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. purchases WASP robot (Walk Away Specimen Processor) by COPAN Italia .
Uses high-resolution camera and mass spectrometer to identify pathogens.
Quicker results and overcomes shortage of trained microbiology personnel in Hawaii.

Robotics in pharmacy automation – Express Pharma – 6-Jul-2015
Increased laboratory throughput. Free up researchers from repetitive tasks. For example, robotic pharmacies are expanding rapidly within hospitals and clinics.

Ultra-Fast Software Developed to Scan the Human Genome – Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News – 2-Feb-15

Artificially-intelligent Robot Scientist ‘Eve’ could boost search for new drugs – Cambridge University – 4-Feb-15

Engineers devise technology for rapidly testing drug-delivery vehicles in zebrafish – MIT – 30-Sep-14


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