Tech, such as automated liquid handling, lab robot arms and other laboratory robotics, has proven to make lab work more efficient, less strenuous and reduce human error. But, picking the best processes to automate can be confusing when you’re just setting out.
As a rule, the best place to start with lab automation is the dull, strenuous and repetitive jobs taking place in the pre- and post-analytical stages. By automating these tasks, you take the pressure off staff to be stood over their assays for hours and hours every day, and give them more walkaway time to focus on the work that uses their expertise and skill set.
With that in mind, we’ve listed some of the lab processes that are prime for automation this year and beyond.
(PS. If you’re still struggling to know where to start with lab automation, why not check out our (Total) Beginner’s Guide to Lab Automation).
Biobanking is a process that’s gained significance in the lab space recently because of the increase in quality requirements for biological samples in biomedical research and other areas.
It involves the quality-assured collection, processing and storage of biological samples with defined pre-analytical history. But, due to increasing demand, more and more samples need to be acquired and prepared to ensure the best possible sample quality.
Automation technologies are ideal for guaranteeing this kind of repeated quality and ensuring samples are achieving standardization.
Cell cultures have long been an essential part of basic biological research and drug discovery, and they are also one of the most popular processes for automation today.
The process of manually manipulating cells can be laborious, slow and repetitive – not to mention error-prone. And, since complexity and throughput have all increased throughout recent years as demand has increased, it’s becoming more challenging to do it at the kind of scale required by many modern labs.
By automating the feeding and passaging of cells, the active time required for the daily tasks involved in cell cultures can be significantly reduced, and the variation created by human error and different operators is eliminated.
Personalised medicine (or precision medicine) is the process of separating people into different groups and tailoring medical decisions, practices, interventions and/or products to each individual based on their predicted response, or risk of disease.
It’s rapidly becoming a key component of healthcare plans in lots of countries. But the advancement of science and the availability of data means that it needs to be supported by automation technologies to be truly scalable.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or enzyme immunoassay, is a plate-based assay technique that allows lab workers to detect and quantify soluble substances such as antibodies, proteins, hormones and peptides. The processes of ELISA includes reagent dispensing, microplate washing, incubation and absorbance measurement – all repetitive and laborious processes that are ripe for automation.
Most traditional instruments on the market that automate the processes of ELISA were designed to analyse immunoassays in large hospitals. While these instruments can perform a large quantity of different assays every day, they’re bulky and expensive – before we even touch on the costly and frequent maintenance requirements.
However, as lab automation tech has developed, ELISA equipment is becoming smaller and more affordable, and innovation in this space will continue over the next few years.