Instrument makers need validation, too!

Jul 28, 2016

liquid-handlingHave you ever stopped to think about how the liquid handling instruments in your lab are made? That, just like with assay development or any other experiment, someone has to take the time to validate that everything is working as expected and, when problems arise, track down the source and fix the issue?

I recently spoke with a product development scientist at one of the big instrument makers about how he turned to Artel’s VMS during the development of one of their new instruments. Because of the confidential nature of the process, we’ve kept the identity of the scientist and his company anonymous. The instrument in question automates a previously manual and time-consuming liquid handling step, reducing hands-on time for the operator and increasing the reproducibility of the process.

During development, one of this scientist’s responsibilities was to keep an eye on the accuracy and precision of the different liquid dispense steps. Ironically, the process was very hands-on: “We basically had a single channel electronic pipette. We would set it to manual, aspirate all the liquid from a well, and check the reading to figure out how much volume was there. We’d do this well-by-well, and it would probably take us 40 minutes to check the volume of all the wells in a 96-well plate.”

This volume-checking process was especially critical as they ironed out how the valves were working, but checking the dispense accuracy was slowing them down. That was when they reached out to learn more about a new technology, the VMS. The VMS was originally developed to help a compound management team in pharma efficiently figure out how much volume they had in their compound plates. With its pressure-based volume measurement system, the compound management group could survey an entire 96-well plate in 35 seconds and obtain an accurate picture of the sample volume present in each individual well.

It really let us open up our study and increase our sample sizes so we could get better data.”

—Product Development Scientist

It turned out that this capability—fast volume measurement of multi-well plates—was exactly what the product development team needed. They could validate the dispense volumes of their instrument and ensure accuracy within +/- 5% in just a fraction of the time it took for the manual check. “It really let us open up our study and increase our sample sizes so we could get better data.”

Since this instrument is already simplifying workflows for its users, the product development scientist has now moved on to his next project.

So the next time you stand in front of one of the instruments in your lab, take a minute to think about all the people who spent crazy amounts of time checking volume dispense accuracies, temperature stability, and all the other critical parameters needed to ensure your studies keep moving forward efficiently, accurately, and with good precision. It can be tough and sometimes tedious, but, like you, many of us in product development like to know that we’re doing our part to push science ever onward.

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About the ExpertTanya Knaide

Tanya Knaide

Tanya Knaide is a scientist with over 10 years of experience in leading new product development projects, product launch campaigns and uncovering customer needs to develop innovative new products and services to satisfy them. As Product Manager at Artel, Tanya has led cross-functional and inter-organizational teams that span across R&D, engineering and marketing and ensured that development and marketing projects deliver benefits to the customer in a timely manner.