It is said that one of the most disliked blog entries is a top 5 list; however, in the spirit of other bloggers, I’m going to ignore that sagely advice and offer the Top 5 Advances in Sample Management Technology. Hold Tight – Let’s Go:
1. DMSO Water Adsorption: Mention the name Chris Lipinski to any medicinal chemist and she will tell you about the ‘Rule of Five’; the evaluation of drug likeliness developed and popularised by Lipinski. However, he also gave light to another important fact – in the early ‘90s, I repeatedly suggested that the compound samples were not frozen in the freezer, my suggestions were quickly dismissed repeatedly (to be fair, I looked foolish more times than not). However, Lipinski popularised some already known facts about DMSO adsorbing water which depresses the freezing point and reduces solubility. Today, we take this for granted, but I wonder how many more successes High Throughput Screening would have had if we had thought about this before?
2. Liquid Handling: In the early days, sample processing was dependent on an army of temps pipetting samples by hand, of which I was one! Today, the market is inundated with several instrument options, all of which are accurate dispensers – all capable of copying plates out for screening within seconds. Next time you are upset because the machine refuses to complete the task you want – stop and think what it would have been like if you had to do it all by hand. Love the machine and it will love you back!
3. Automated Storage: Again, another automated system I have experienced through its evolution to its current stage. One company, commissioned an automated store the size of a building – a bold vision with unique challenges and associated issues (100’s of gallons of spilled DMSO). Like all good projects, though, it was delivered late and over budget, but it was also the first glimpse of what an automated store was capable of. Today, though, we have a range of options from ‘bench-sized’ to ‘building-sized’ and multiple vendors through which these systems can be made possible.
4. LIMS: In the early days, ‘LIMS’ was a word document – in fact, much praise was received when I successfully converted it to Excel! After this, an in-house application was developed for sample management. Today, there are a wide range of applications in the market ranging from easy-to-use/simple products such as Samples to enterprise level applications which are designed to manage your samples, run your robotic systems and book your kid’s next dental appointment (well, maybe not the last one)!
5. 2D Barcoded Tubes: Years ago, if you dropped a rack of tubes on the floor – you could kiss those samples goodbye. Plus, moving tubes around the lab was considered an error prone affair. This resulted in the sample manager never being able to ‘truly’ say the sample was the correct one unless they had ‘solid’ block racks. With the advance of 2D barcoded tubes and readers, we can now pick up a tube and scan the permanent barcode on the bottom of the rack to reveal the ID. No more lost tubes! Today, the cost, usability and ease of use for both the tubes and scanners has been significantly reduced – bringing this technology into the reach of even the smallest company. Ziath, along with Biosero, was started with a goal to democratise the access to this market by reducing the skill and money barrier.
So, these advances have put effective sample management into the hands of everybody; the advance of biobanking has shown just what can be envisioned with this technology. Every day, we speak to people wishing to do new and interesting things and working together allows us to do more.
Blog Entry Written By: Neil Benn of Ziath Ltd.
‘In the next blog entry, I’ll attempt to gaze into the crystal ball and predict the advances which will move samples management forward into the next decade (I’ll not be committing to five, though)!’
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