Reliable automation of high-throughput PCR / sequencing plate production
23 Nov 2006

A compact, high throughput automation system from Velocity11 has enabled the Hubrecht Laboratory (Utrecht, The Netherlands) to routinely and error-free grid out genomic template DNA from 96-well deep well blocks into hundreds of 384-well PCR plates, setting up PCR and sequencing reactions.

The Hubrecht Laboratory, also known as the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology, is a fundamental research institute funded by the Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW). The functional genomics group, headed by Dr E Cuppen, has established efficient gene knockout technology in a range of model organisms. Their approach, also known as target-selected mutagenesis, is based on chemical mutagenesis followed by gene-based discovery of induced mutations. The Hubrecht Laboratory was the first to establish zebrafish knockouts and is still the world-leading lab for this technology.

Driven by a growing need for throughput for mutation discovery because screening intensities were increasing as the zebrafish knockout technology was offered as a service the Hubrecht Laboratory sought an automation solution that routinely and error-free would produce PCR / sequencing plates with minimal handling effort.

As a leading supplier of innovative automation technology solutions for life science laboratories, Velocity11 was familiar with many of the challenges of the Hubrecht Laboratory application. The Velocity11 VPrep / BenchCel/ PlateLoc automation system was selected because of its flexible interchange between 96 and 384-channel operation, ease of programming, speed of processing and the easy integration of all the required items. Running error-free 24/7 the VPrep / BenchCel/ PlateLoc automation system has enabled the Hubrecht Laboratory to increase throughput to 200 x 384-well plates per day (c. 75,000 reactions) creating considerable cost-savings.

The BenchCel™ is a robust benchtop microplate handling system that delivers the speed and precision of much larger and more expensive automation platforms. The BenchCel system features a novel high-speed plate shuttle that accesses the integrated microplate stacks and two peripheral instruments. Powered by the popular VWorks™ automation control software, and benefiting from an integrated labware database the BenchCel platform can integrate with a wide range of peripheral instruments, including all major Velocity11 products as well as various third party devices.

Velocity11's VPrep pipetting station is the fastest precision pipettor on the market. The VPrep features a choice of interchangeable heads for 8-, 16-, 96- and 384-channels. Eight pneumatic sliding shelves are arranged on either side of the pipetting head permitting access to the plates, while conserving deck space. The VPrep's head is fitted with a 2 axis positioning stage that accesses all quadrants of 96, 384, and 1536 well microplates. Integrated with a BenchCel automated microplate handling system, the VPrep will significantly reduce cycle time for even demanding pipetting protocols.

The Velocity11 PlateLoc is a thermal plate sealer characterised by its speed, small footprint, ease of use, and dependability. Designed to be versatile, the PlateLoc accommodates deep well, assay, PCR, DNA sequencing and compound storage plates. The PlateLoc forms a consistent seal around each individual plate well, creating a seal of very high integrity.

Looking to the future the Hubrecht Laboratory are investigating how the VPrep / BenchCel/ PlateLoc automation system can help them run large sets of PCR's to systematically amplify the open reading frames of large sets of genes from model organisms or patient material. These will serve as the input for emergent massively parallel sequencing technology.

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