The Spectrum CE System: A capillary electrophoresis instrument for the forensic laboratory workflow

insights from industryBenjamin Krenke Product ManagerPromega

In this Interview, NewsMedical talks to Benjamin Krenke about the Spectrum CE system for Forensic laboratory workflow.

What are the key features of the Spectrum CE System that empower forensic scientists to achieve more in the lab?

The Spectrum CE System offers several benefits to forensic scientists who want to improve efficiency in the lab. By physically separating the addition and removal of sample plates from where analysis is performed, the Spectrum CE System allows users to queue new work while another plate is actively being analyzed.

Continuous access to four 96-well plate positions allows flexibility in run scheduling. Plates can be run overnight, over the weekend, or while you are out of the lab, which increases output. For some labs, there is less need to batch samples into fewer plates to ensure instrument availability.

We have also strived to reduce the cost of ownership and sample processing costs with system and consumable pricing.

Most importantly, the Spectrum CE System was created to support next-generation 8-dye chemistry, which offers more information from challenging casework samples, including degraded or ancient DNA. The Spectrum CE System supports 8-color kits; labs can use the existing 5- and 6-color kits that they have previously validated and still take advantage of the increased throughput and flexibility the Spectrum CE System offers.

Trusted support from Promega provides scientists with guidance in installation and troubleshooting, so they can confidently operate the instrument.

Spectrum CE System: A capillary electrophoresis instrument built for the forensic laboratory workflow

Image Credit: Promega

How does the Spectrum CE System improve data quality and accuracy?

The system ensures simplified system operation and automated plate tracking. The Spectrum CE System’s integrated barcode readers automatically record the barcode on sample plates to improve sample tracking. This feature also facilitates the automatic import of sample information, reducing run set-up time and potential for error.

Spectrum CE System: A capillary electrophoresis instrument built for the forensic laboratory workflow

Image Credit: Promega

There is also a forensic-tailored interface. The Spectrum Control Software has been refined with extensive testing by forensic practitioners to streamline the interface and ensure intuitive operation. The Spectrum CE System provides a large display with its standalone computer to comfortably set up and monitor runs, visualize data, and troubleshoot.

Training on the instrument is also anticipated to be easier, as the Spectrum Control Software is intuitive to use, thanks to the input and feedback provided to us by practitioners throughout the software design and creation process.

Full data analysis is performed with GeneMarker®HID Software for Spectrum CE Systems, which has been demonstrated to complete the analysis more quickly than the competing analysis software.

In addition to supporting 5- and 6-dye STR multiplexes, Spectrum enables 8-dye PowerPlex® STR systems. These 8-dye kits provide more information from the most challenging samples for the following reasons:

  • “Mini-STRs” for enhanced detection: PowerPlex® 35GY System includes the amplicons of 15 loci that have been reduced in size to less than 250 base pairs in length. These “mini-STRs” are less likely to fail to amplify or “drop out” during the analysis of degraded DNA or inhibited samples, which maximizes the number of loci “called.”

  • Y-STRs for sexual assault investigation and familial searching: The PowerPlex® 35GY System is also ideal for working with sexual assault samples or familial searching. The kit includes 11 STR loci that are located on the Y-chromosome. By including a Y-STR haplotype with every analysis, fewer samples will need a separate secondary amplification and analysis with a Y-STR multiplex. Furthermore, these Y-STRs can help labs determine the number of male contributors in a mixture sample.

  • Quality indicators for improved efficiency: Finally, the PowerPlex® 35GY System includes two Quality Indicator peaks to help forensics labs work efficiently by quickly taking the guesswork out of determining if the amplification was impacted by inhibition, sample degradation, low template, or no template. Having this information can help labs decide if they need to repurify the sample, reamplify with more sample or confirm these are the best achievable result from the sample. By combining these Quality Indicators with the high-throughput capabilities of Spectrum CE System, PowerPlex® 35GY System may help forensics labs to efficiently work through their casework backlog, for example.

Spectrum CE System: A capillary electrophoresis instrument built for the forensic laboratory workflow

Image Credit: Promega

Can you explain how the Spectrum CE System's automation capabilities help streamline forensic workflows and increase productivity in the lab?

The four-plate capacity and continuous plate access offer significant scheduling flexibility, where the laboratory case workflow drives instrument use rather than the instrument schedule “running the lab.” This flexibility ensures that analysts are getting the most out of their time in the lab and minimizes the need to wait to batch samples with colleagues because they are no longer worried about “tying up” the instrument to do their own run.

Moreover, as opposed to the two-plate capacity offered on other systems, the four plates extend sample processing into non-working hours: overnight, weekends, and holidays. This will increase lab productivity and allow staff to move to case reporting more quickly. By eliminating scheduling challenges and supporting chemistry from key vendors, the instrument gives forensic analysts unmatched flexibility in how they process samples using short tandem repeat (STR) analysis.

Spectrum CE System: A capillary electrophoresis instrument built for the forensic laboratory workflow

Image Credit: Promega

What are the applications supported by the Spectrum CE System, and how does it accommodate different sample types and sizes?

Designed with forensic laboratories in mind, Spectrum CE supports fragment analysis applications, such as short tandem repeat (STR) analysis, a widely used application for human identification efforts.

What kind of training and support does Promega offer to ensure scientists can optimally use the Spectrum CE System and maximize their results?

Keeping your lab up and running is critical. Promega provides attentive and experienced support and service to labs, regardless of the STR chemistry they are using. These services include:

  • Instrument Support Scientists (ISS) and Genetic Identity Technical Support and Training Managers (TSTM). Users get remote and on-site training, support, and service when needed. These groups ensure that system installation, system training, and application training are done with care and expertise so that customers can get the most out of their Spectrum CE instrument as quickly as possible.
  • Promega offers several warranty and service options to keep your Spectrum CE System running smoothly with preventive maintenance and repair service.
  • Spectrum CE System includes a one-year Standard Warranty. The Standard Warranty covers all parts and labor for on-site repair service and one Preventative Maintenance visit at the end of the first year of ownership. A Premier Warranty Upgrade is available and provides faster response time for on-site service. Service Agreements are then available to extend this service to subsequent years of ownership.
  • Promega’s Validation Services Team (VST) can provide customizable system testing and documentation to bring the Spectrum CE System online in individual laboratories. As former practitioners, the VST understands that the forensics validation process can be highly complex and time-consuming for laboratories.
  • They offer tailored validation services for Spectrum CE System based on the laboratory’s needs and preferred scope of work.
    • Phone-based and on-site consultation
    • On-site bench work tailored to your requirements
    • Rapid turnaround of comprehensive data analyses and in-depth summary reports
    • Data analysis using GeneMarker®HID, GeneMapper® ID or GeneMapper® ID-X software
    • Electronic data package provided
    • Post-validation teach-back training and support

Learn more about the Spectrum CE System and PowerPlex® 35GY System.

About Benjamin Krenke

Benjamin Krenke is a Senior Global Product Manager for Genetic Identity at Promega Corporation. Ben has over two decades of experience developing and commercializing new DNA typing assays, instrumentation and software for human identification. Most recently, Ben has focused on the development and launch of the first 8-color, capillary electrophoresis system (CE) for the forensic community. Ben is excited to see the impact on difficult case samples provided by the next generation of 8-color DNA typing kits enabled by this new CE system.

About Promega 

With a portfolio of more than 3,000 products covering the fields of genomics, protein analysis and expression, cellular analysis, drug discovery and genetic identity, Promega is a global leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to life scientists in academic, industrial and government settings.

Promega products are used by life scientists who are asking fundamental questions about biological processes as well as by scientists who are applying scientific knowledge to diagnose and treat diseases, discover new therapeutics, and use genetics and DNA testing for human identification.


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