The global COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented demands on pathology services to test patient samples for the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus alongside their pre-existing respiratory virus panels. This extreme influx of samples quickly exhausted the capacity of existing systems in the Microbiology and Molecular Pathology Department at Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology (SNP) – part of the Sonic Healthcare Group – in Brisbane, Australia, creating a clear need for additional automated liquid handling instruments.
INTEGRA’s Australian distributor, BioTools Pty Ltd, has partnered with SNP to support COVID-19 testing using the ASSIST PLUS pipetting robot, helping the laboratory team to increase sample processing capacity and fast track COVID-19 assay development while reducing manual processing. Using the ASSIST PLUS – in combination with a VOYAGER adjustable tip spacing pipette, Low Retention GripTips™ and SureFlo™ 10 ml Reagent Reservoirs – has enabled the lab to quickly develop and validate an automated pipetting protocol for PCR setup in low volume, 384 well plates. This miniaturization doubled the available testing capacity and simultaneously reduced consumption of expensive PCR reagents of dwindling availability, with associated cost savings.
SNP successfully validated the automated protocol against its existing manual processing method, performed using a handheld electronic pipette. The results were shown to be reproducible, precise and accurate, with no contamination observed in either the control or patient samples. The compact, easy-to-use ASSIST PLUS pipetting robot, complete with validated protocol, was fully deployed within five working days to support COVID-19 testing of patient samples and alleviate pressure on staff time.