Industry News: Labcyte CTO Ellson Awarded for Acoustic Dispensing Technology

24 Mar 2006

Richard Ellson, Chief Technical Officer for Labcyte Inc., has been awarded the 2006 SBS PolyPops Foundation Award by the Society for Biomolecular Sciences for his work developing acoustic dispensing technology.

This technology, used in the Echo 550 and Echo 555 liquid handlers, enables users to move liquids with sound. In these systems, acoustic energy is focused through the bottom of a microplate well to eject a droplet of fluid and transfer it directly to a well in another microplate. This completely eliminates any physical contact with the material being moved leading to improved precision and accuracy, reduced costs and waste, and better qualitative results. The Society for Biomolecular Sciences presents the PolyPops Award annually to members of the scientific community who have shown true innovation in the area of Microplate Development and Design.

When informing Mr. Ellson of the award, the SBS noted that the technology “enhances the capability of transforming compound handling and high throughput screening into several drug discovery applications, and [that it] is rapidly being adopted into production systems throughout the drug discovery industry.”

The Society will officially present Mr. Ellson with the award at its 12th Annual SBS Conference and Exhibition in Seattle, WA, in September. The award includes recognition in The Journal of Biomolecular Screening as well as a $2500 honorarium.

Upon being informed of the award, Mr. Ellson said, “I am delighted that the Society for Biomolecular Screening has acknowledged the technology and what it can do for the pharmaceutical industry. This technology and its commercial manifestation in the Echo liquid handlers and Echo qualified microplates has been a group effort involving dozens of people. The hard work and innovative thinking of the team at Labcyte transformed the original ideas into a usable technology.”

Mr. Ellson, a founder of Labcyte Inc., previously held positions at Xerox PARC and Kodak where he worked in liquid handling, imaging and plastics manufacturing. Mr. Ellson holds a B.S. in Fluid and Thermal Science from Case Western Reserve University with a minor in life sciences, M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. His contributions were acknowledged by a Kodak Doctoral Award through which he took a two-year paid leave to study mathematics at the University of Illinois. He is an inventor on over 50 issued U.S. patents and has published numerous articles. Mr. Ellson is an active member of the screening community as a frequent conference speaker, a member of SBS, reviewer for The Journal of Biomolecular Screening and editor for The Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation.

The acoustic dispensing technology for which the award was given transfers compounds directly to assay plates eliminating intermediate dilutions and the concomitant loss of compounds by adsorption to tips and well surfaces. Pharmaceutical researchers have proved that these losses can lead to failure to identify potential drugs. Elimination of the consumables associated with intermediate dilutions also results in savings that approximate the cost of the instrument in one year. Labcyte Inc. provides two instruments that use ADE—the Echo™ 550 liquid handler, which is used in seven of the 10 top pharmaceutical companies, and the recently introduced Echo 555, which was designed for UHTS laboratories requiring very high throughput.