Company Capabilities and New Products on Display at SLAS 2019
This year’s Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) meeting was held February 2–6 in Washington, DC, as part of the conference’s bicoastal schedule. According to organizers, attendance totaled 5,126, the highest in its history in DC. The number of companies exhibiting increased 4.0% from last year’s event held in San Diego, California (see IBO 2/15/18) to 311 companies, and was a 5.9% increase from the last time the show was held in DC (see IBO 2/15/17). Next year’s conference will be held January 25–29 in San Diego.
At the conference, Bio-Rad Laboratories announced the introduction of an API for its ZE5 flow cytometer. The API allows the device to interact directly with an ecosystem of liquid handlers and other components, allowing use in high-throughput screening applications. The API is now available and offered as an upgrade for current as well as newly sold systems.
Corning highlighted its 3D cell culture solutions and its offerings designed to make automation easier. The company told IBO that 3D solutions offer the ability to find lead compounds that cannot be found using a 2D approach.
The Corning products on display included the 1536-well microplates for growing spheroid cell cultures, which feature the company’s Ultra-Low Attachment for cell suspension. Developed for 3D high-throughput screening, the microplate was introduced last summer and addresses the substantial interest in 3D screening for drug discovery and development, according to the company.
Gilson announced the launch of its line of connected pipettes, the Trackman Connected, enabled through its PipettePilot app and related accessories. The system allows users to plan and execute their pipette plans more efficiently and robustly through the use of a visual guide and automated pipette controls. The plate plans are then stored and tracked through the app for full documentation. The system also includes an environmental sensor to document the conditions during the run, including temperature, humidity and pressure.
In addition to the Trackman Connected launch, Gilson also featured at the show advances in its SciNote ELN (which they are co-marketing with BioSistemika). The two major improvements included the automatic transfer of the pipetting data from the Trackman Connected system into the ELN, as well as an AI component to help users document and write Materials and Methods sections of papers from experiments documented in the platform.
Lonza’s technologies for pharmaceutical research include nucleofection, which it calls the technology of choice for non-viral delivery. The company sells both nucleofector kits and instrumentation. On display at the show was the 4D Nucleofector LV Unit, the company’s largest-volume closed system for transfection, which can be used with up to two billion cells for applications such as research of CAR-T and gene therapies.
The company also exhibited its automated endotoxin testing platform, the PyroTec PRO, a plate-based robotic system for endotoxin detection, with WinKQCL 6.0 software for automated template creation. Applications include endotoxin testing of medical devices. The system incorporates Lonza’s chromogenic tests for bacteria endotoxin testing, with plans to introduce pyrogene testing in the near future.
“Scientists should be able to focus on their work, not learn how to use the tools.” The founders of NanoTemper, who are scientists themselves, had this as their mission and vision when designing their newest instrument, the Dianthus protein characterization system, for efficient drug discovery screening. The Dianthus is capable of screening 10,000 compounds per day and an output of 384 data points in 30 minutes. According to the company, the Dianthus provides the lowest price per data point due to low sample volume requirements, reduction in assay development time, no down time, no maintenance and data analysis software. While pricing is variable, there are three different packages available.
With long shelf lives, NanoTemper’s 384-well proprietary plates can be sealed, enabling use of the same plate (though not the same wells) for different experiments, allowing for a flexible throughput and savings in plate cost. The Dianthus is fully automated and can be integrated into any part of the workflow. The data analysis capabilities are comprised of an intuitive control software, as well as the screening software in which you can accurately measure the KD values and get raw data.
While NanoTemper also offers other systems that conduct protein stability measurements, the company hopes to use the Dianthus as a way to move affinity binding measurements from academia to the pharmaceutical industry. The company told IBO that it approaches problems in a different way, one that challenges the “gold standard,” by regarding its instruments as a cohesive workflow and not the last checkpoint.
NanoView Biosciences launched its first platform, the ExoView System, at SLAS 2019. The system is designed to collect and characterize exosomes, small extracellular particles known to play a role in a wide variety of biological processes. Collection and characterization of exosomes has been challenging in the past because of their small size and inability to be imaged directly. The ExoView uses a proprietary interferometric imaging technology along with fluorescence imaging to view and characterize the surfaces or payloads of the exosomes directly. The device is shipping and available for $99,500.
PerkinElmer exhibited a wide range of instrumentation and consumables at SLAS this year, emphasizing the ability to easily couple each to provide labs with a total solution and scalability. As the company told IBO, PerkinElmer differentiates itself by being a full solution provider. The company also stated that its goal is to position itself as a provider for both centralized and decentralized diagnostics, as decentralized diagnostics become increasingly important and require smaller volumes.
At its booth, the company exhibited a number of different systems that can be combined into an automated workflow. They included the chemagic Prime workstation for DNA and RNA extraction and liquid processing of 96 samples at a time. The Prime is available for $130,000–$140,000 with the ability to bundle with other PerkinElmer products, such as reagents and plates.
Designed for users with lower-throughput needs, such as decentralized service labs, the chemagic Prime Junior for extraction and liquid handling processes up to 48 samples at a time. The instrument also performs eluate handling and has reserved deck space for automated PCR NGS, or general assay setup. Currently available for RUO applications, the system is in the process of gaining CE-IVD approval.
Also available is the chemagic 360, released two years ago, for nucleic acid extraction; the LabChip GX Touch for measuring the concentration of DNA in a sample; and the JANUS liquid handler for sample preparation for sequencing and PCR.
Synchron and Festo
Lab automation firm Synchron partnered with technology manufacturer Festo at SLAS 2019 to showcase their DNA Cruiser, an ultra-high throughput DNA extraction instrument. Capable of conducting up to 38,400 extractions in one day, the company recently completed its first installation for Enza Zaden, a vegetable seed company, and is on their second installation. Set up for processing in a series instead of in parallel, the cruiser is fully automated and comprised of six “function stations.” The carriers bring the plates from function to function, which allows for high volumes of DNA to be extracted more efficiently. As a result, the system increases lab safety by reducing the time scientists must interact with potentially dangerous chemicals.
Installation time varies depending on the customer’s need, as Synchron and Festo’s partnership provides custom product and services. Installation can take from half a day to several days without disrupting processes in progress. A Festo representative is always be available to aid with installation and engineering services under the partnership. The companies hope to move the system into the microbiology and life science markets for applications, such as automating the inoculation of petri dishes and automating ELISAs.
Tecan launched the Tecan NGS DreamPrep system, an automated solution for NGS library preparation, leveraging its Fluent liquid handling automation platform and Infinite plate-reader technology as well as their newly acquired NuGEN Technologies reagents (see IBO 8/31/18) to provide a complete solution for library preparation and online sample QC. The complete solution delivers prepared and QC’d libraries from genomic DNA ready for downstream sequencing on Illumina platforms.