Product News: Applied Biosystems Simplifies Real-Time PCR

25 Jan 2007

Applied Biosystems, an Applera Corporation business, today announced a new instrument system for conducting genetic and genomic analysis experiments using real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology.

The new StepOne™ Real-Time PCR System was developed in response to the growing market of researchers interested in lower throughput applications of real-time PCR. The StepOne system provides both new and experienced researchers with a highly-functional, easy to use and cost-effective way to conduct real-time PCR experiments. The new system complements Applied Biosystems’ comprehensive portfolio of real-time PCR instruments for high and mid-throughput applications, providing life scientists with a variety of systems that are appropriate for their particular laboratory environment and budget.

Often referenced in research published in primary journals, real-time PCR is a laboratory method used to simultaneously detect and determine the amount of nucleic acids present in samples. This kind of data helps life scientists to more precisely assess how changes in the amounts of key DNA or RNA sequences contribute to the development of disease or how they relate to biological processes in plant and animal cells. This technique, which is well established in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical research industries, is increasingly being adopted by scientists from additional industries such as animal science, microbiology, food science, plant biology and agriculture.

"As an academic lab, budget considerations greatly influence decisions we make about how to equip our laboratory. Until now, researchers in our lab have had to share a real-time PCR instrument with multiple labs. However, this limits access to the instrument," said Scott Briggs, Ph.D., assistant professor, Biochemistry, Purdue University, who is one of the early users of the StepOne system. "The StepOne system offers us an affordable way to incorporate our own real-time PCR instrument into our lab without compromising the data quality or flexibility we've come to expect from Applied Biosystems’ real-time PCR systems. In addition, the new and intuitive software will allow us to easily expand the use of real-time PCR in our gene expression studies."

The StepOne system can be used in a variety of laboratory applications that include gene expression, viral load, and genotyping. When scientists use the system to investigate how changes in expression levels of key genes impact biological processes, they will benefit from a technology that simultaneously copies and determines the amount of target DNA or RNA sequences present in samples. Using the StepOne system to automate this technology, scientists who previously did not have access to real-time PCR technology will be able to generate more quantitative data from smaller samples and foster greater reproducibility of results compared to other PCR methods. For viral load applications, researchers can use the system in clinical research to determine the number of copies of viral RNA molecules present in blood samples.

In addition to gene expression and viral load applications, the StepOne system also empowers life scientists to perform SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) genotyping procedures that rapidly transform collected DNA samples into computerized data that can be used to identify biological markers to study disease.

Among the StepOne system’s features that make it easy to use is intuitive software that simplifies the process of operating the instrument system. Beginning users benefit from wizards that can be tailored to run specific experiments and guide new users through set up, operation and analysis. More experienced users can customize experiment design parameters such as thermo cycling protocols and nucleic acid template types.

Additionally, the StepOne system can be connected to a local area network, making it possible for researchers to participate in distributed research collaborations, such as those commonly conducted in academic and public research environments. This promotes the sharing of data across laboratories, making information more accessible to larger groups of scientists. These same networking capabilities empower researchers to download data from remote locations, streamlining the task of monitoring the progress of experiments.

For researchers in smaller laboratories who now share the use of real-time PCR systems located in core lab facilities, the StepOne system offers the potential for having greater accessibility to a real-time PCR instrument. The low cost and space-saving footprint of the StepOne system makes it easier for lab managers to both provide individual researchers with personal real-time PCR systems, and to fit several systems on space-limited bench tops.

“Applied Biosystems developed the StepOne System to enable a broader range of life scientists to experience the benefit of real-time PCR based upon their specific laboratory environment and research objectives,” said Mark Stevenson, president of Applied Biosystems molecular and cell biology division. “We expect that the combination of functionality, low throughput and ease of use will make this technology increasingly accessible to the growing number of researchers who are interested in its quantitative results.”

The StepOne system expands the family of real-time PCR systems offered by Applied Biosystems for laboratories of all sizes. For production scale sample throughput Applied Biosystems offers the 7900HT Fast Real-Time PCR System. For mid-to-high sample throughput researchers can choose from the 7300 Real-Time PCR System, 7500 Real-Time PCR System, or 7500 Fast Real-Time PCR System. To support these platforms, Applied Biosystems has pre-designed more than 700,000 TaqMan® Gene Expression Assays and over 4 million TaqMan® SNP Genotyping Assays. Complementing these off-the-shelf products are custom TaqMan® Assays which are available for customer specific gene expression or genotyping assays. The StepOne System will be available for purchase beginning in early February.