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Editorial Article: Automation of Drug Discovery Sample Preparation and Liquid Handling: An Interview with Dr. Nicole Isserstedt-John

27 Nov 2014

Drug discovery applications often require varying steps of sample preparation for clean-up protocols, DNA and RNA extraction, PCR and real time PCR through pipetting. Many of these often time-consuming and error-prone steps can be automated through liquid handling technologies. Michelle Maxwell, Drug Discovery and Development Editor, spoke with Dr. Nicole Isserstedt-John, CyBio Product Line Manager at Analytik Jena, about the future of automated liquid handling and the advances in the CyBi®-FeliX product line.

Dr. Nicole Isserstedt-John is the CyBio Product Line Manager at Analytik Jena, with a PhD in cellular and molecular biology. She joined CyBio AG six years ago as an application scientist. Dr Isserstedt -John commented: “At that time, I worked at the University of Jena in a group which worked on atherosclerosis research. During this time, I established a bio bank of mouse tissues, with different ages, gender and genotype. This involved much time-consuming, error-prone pipetting for applications such as DNA and RNA extraction, clean-up, PCR and real time PCR. I thought that there must be a better or automated solution for bio banking sample preparation. I wanted to makes things easier, so I opted for liquid handling automation.”

What applications do you work on? What are the specific techniques you use in your lab?
As a manufacturer of liquid handling products, we focus on customer-specific applications and optimized solutions for customers. This opens up the possibility of an entire spectrum of applications that can be automated. Our devices, including the CyBi®-FeliX, are mainly used in drug discovery. In the last year, we have implemented special customer applications into our CyBi product line. For example, pipetting of cells on microscopic slides, pipetting on microfluidic chips, ELISA assay, PCR sample preparation, HTRF® cellular phospho-assay and dialysis in the 96-well micro plate format with the Scienova Micro dialyzer Kit.

Most recently the CyBi®-Disk Workstation has been used in automated media exchange in the 3D in vitro Pannus-Model with the 96-well plate format.

With the CyBi®-FeliX technology interesting applications can be realized: For example the automated fluorimetric detection of alkaline DNA unwinding (FADU) assays, to determine the DNA-damaging impact of radiation and genotoxic substances in mammalian cells, with our OEM partner Cetics Healthcare Technologies, or automated patch clamping with Nanion Technologies’ Syncro Patch 384 PE, another OEM Partnership.

What is it about the CyBi® technology that enables it to be used for so many drug discovery techniques?
The CyBi®-FeliX is the newest product of CyBio product line and is the most compact benchtop liquid handling device (with a footprint of only 650x450mm). The liquid handler has a unique deck design, with 12 positions on two different levels. The instrument can be equipped with the appropriate accessories for any application and can be tailored to individual needs. Fully automated accessories include shakers, magnetic adapters and barcode readers.

What is the future of the CyBio product line?
We are ready to launch our new software - CyBio® Overture - at SLAS 2015. That enables the automation of an application without programming and scripting. The software provides the visual and intuitive design for automation of the method, the ability to calculate concentrations and it provides a labware-independent workflow.

We will also be presenting an example of automated cytotoxicity profiling, the result of a collaboration with Promega.

In addition, we want to use the extremely compact design of the CyBi®-FeliX for specific closed applications such as hit picking and NGS sample preparation, as well as those for working in a sterile environment, a special CyBi®-FeliX for the laminar flow hood.