An interview with Juerg Bass from Integra Biosciences, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of automated pipetting robots.
Please can you outline the gap that exists between multichannel pipetting and laboratory robots and how INTEGRA Biosciences aim to provide solutions in this area?
Both manual pipettes and laboratory robots are indispensable tools in today’s life science laboratories. Traditional manual pipettes are easy to operate, very affordable but limited regarding throughput. Laboratory robots offer fast, automated pipetting but require time to program, set up and come at a much higher price tag.
Based on many discussions with scientists, it seemed only natural for us to develop new and unique products that take the best from both worlds:
- easy to operate
- high throughput
- excellent reproducibility of results
The VOYAGER pipette is a good example of how throughput can easily be increased while keeping costs down.
Up until now, scientists working with different sized labware, e.g. microcentrifuge tubes and Agarose gels, had to use a single channel pipette in order to pipette from the tubes into the gel’s cavities.
With a VOYAGER motorized tip spacing multichannel pipette, they now simply press a button to adjust the tip spacing between different labware. You can imagine how much faster transfers are if you can fill eight gel pockets in one run instead of going back and forward eight times with a single channel pipette.
How much of a problem is repetitive strain injury (RSI) with multichannel pipetting and how ergonomic are your pipettes?
Prolonged manual pipetting sessions can lead to RSI. Especially labor intensive pipetting tasks, e.g. serial dilutions with multiple mixing steps involved.
This is why every pipette manufacturer claims to have the most ergonomic pipette. But is there really such a thing like “the most ergonomic pipette”?
At INTEGRA Biosciences, we believe less manual pipetting increases ergonomics. And since we like to come up with radical new approaches, we developed the very affordable ASSIST.
The basic concept is simple: choose any of our VIAFLO electronic multichannel pipettes, click it into the smart adapter of the ASSIST, press the run button and watch it do your pipetting work.
An electronic multichannel pipette that you do not have to hold anymore really puts an end to the “most ergonomic pipette” discussion.
Why aren’t robotic systems always the best solution?
It is well worth checking your own requirements versus the latest developments in handheld pipetting. If you face a bottleneck in your process because your traditional 8 channel pipettes cannot keep up with the workload anymore, make sure to take products such as the VIAFLO 96 / 384 into consideration before buying a robot.
The VIAFLO 96 / 384 is a handheld 96 or 384 channel electronic pipette with 6 interchangeable pipetting heads covering different volume ranges. It is as easy to use as any of our electronic multichannel pipettes, but lets you pipette effortlessly 96 or 384 samples at once.
Effortlessly? Yes, because of the servo-assisted steering that allows precise targeting of wells in microplates without physical efforts. Using repeat dispensing, eight 96 or 384 well plates can be filled in less than 30 seconds. But the VIAFLO 96/384 costs only a fraction of a laboratory robot with comparable throughput.
VIAFLO 96/384 is also considered a walk-up-and-use system: no programming or setup is needed and training is a matter of minutes. Everybody in the laboratory can use it like any other handheld pipette.
How do your products impact the overall reproducibility of assays?
Achieving reproducible pipetting results depends on many factors, such as pre-wetting, pipetting angle, tip immersion depth and pipetting speed, to name but a few.
The VIAFLO electronic pipettes and ASSIST product combination ensures consistency of all liquid handling parameters, thus guaranteeing unmatched reproducibility at this price point.
VIAFLO 96 / 384 offer similar advantages regarding reproducibility. Being able to dispense 96 or 384 samples at once with exactly the same pipetting parameters leads to increased reproducibility compared to handheld pipetting with traditional pipettes. This is also true for time-critical assays, such as ELISA.
How easy-to-use are Integra Biosciences’ electronic pipetting products?
In almost any laboratory, you see a lot of scientists literally hammering their pipettes onto the tips because they are rightly afraid of tips leaking or falling off from any generic pipette cone.
Obviously, loading tips requiring hammering is not really user-friendly. This “technique” does not only increase chances to develop repetitive stress injuries (RSI) but also results in uneven heights of tips on multichannel pipettes and tips that may leak or even fall off at times, ruining hours of work.
In order to have an easy-to-use solution, we introduced the GripTip concept on all our pipetting products. GripTips pipetting tips snap onto all our pipetting devices, ensuring easy loading and disposing as well as a consistent height on all multichannel pipettes. And most importantly; GripTips will never loosen, leak or fall off and absolutely do not require any “hammering” techniques.
The GripTip interface is not the only concept universal to our pipetting products, so too is the easy to navigate touch wheel and color screen user interface, which facilitate the handling significantly.
What feedback have you received on your electronic pipettes and how do you plan to develop them going forwards?
I think our customers really appreciate our efforts in coming up with new and unique concepts focusing on increased pipetting productivity and reproducibility rather than just adding another “most ergonomic pipette”.
Sometimes, there are surprises too. While knowing the ASSIST does increase the reproducibility of pipetting results significantly, we still thought customers would love the automation part of it best. But much of the feedback we are currently getting puts emphasis on the increased reproducibility and thus the better and more consistent results scientists achieve.
As for future developments; our increased direct sales approach allows us to have a close relationship with scientists all over the world. Consequently, we find out first-hand what the needs and future requirements of our clientele are.
Striving for unique products offering that perfect balance between affordability, ease-of-use, increased pipetting productivity and reproducibility is what we will continue to do in the future.
Where can readers find more information?
About Juerg Bass
Juerg Bass has been in the pipetting business for 27 years, holding different Sales & Marketing positions in one of the largest Swiss laboratory robotics companies before joining INTEGRA Biosciences back in 2003.
Since then, he has been involved in Key Account and Area Sales Management as well as in Business Development. At the beginning of January 2013, he took over as Marketing & Communications Manager.