Automated next generation sequencing (NGS) library preparation

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has revolutionized genomic research by empowering researchers to sequence genomes at speed.

Automating NGS sample preparation

ngs library prep automation

Automated instrumentation is already playing a vital role in underpinning genomic advances as laboratories respond to increased research demand and accelerating sample volumes.

But there are still many opportunities for optimizing sample management workflows to increase efficiency, automate repetitive tasks and assure sample integrity.

The tasks of pipetting, mixing, dispensing, incubating, and shaking are integral to genomics research. Automated liquid-handling technology therefore offers a significant opportunity to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of sequencing. With capabilities and functionality developing at a pace, the implementation of solutions poses several considerations for laboratory leaders.

Key opportunities and considerations for automation in NGS library prep

Automated platforms stand to deliver exceptional ongoing value to NGS laboratories. Research scientists are highly skilled and expensive resources, and so it's essential that their energy and expertise is directed away from repetitive, manual tasks towards areas that deliver the most value, such as designing experiments and analyzing results.

Automated liquid handling in NGS applications enables higher throughput by using multi-well 96 and 384 well plates, dramatically increasing reliability, accuracy, and speed. This higher throughput allows labs to generate more data from their available budget, ensuring their research investment is worthwhile research.

While there is naturally an upfront capital cost when investing in any automated liquid handling system, laboratories can recoup this initial outlay swiftly thanks to the demonstrable efficiency and productivity gains as well as a reduction in the required consumables.

New, affordable automated liquid handling technologies accessible for all will help democratize access to this transformational approach.

Automation technologies demand substantial square footage, and when deciding which instruments to choose, there are complex trade-offs that often include bench space considerations. Laboratory space is an issue across organization types, from academic research to larger pharmaceutical companies.

Eliminating redundancies in equipment by considering multi-functional technologies with a more compact footprint would offer numerous benefits. These include lower direct costs, lower environmental impact, and a greater per square footage investment return.

In the past, implementing automation solutions has relied on an in-house ‘expert’ to control and manage the robot. Identifying more accessible technologies with intuitive software can remove the 'fear factor' from controlling the automated instrument and empower every researcher within the lab with the tools to boost productivity and quality.

Software has historically been an afterthought, and many software packages have evolved incrementally over 20 years or more, building complexity on complexity. A few recent products in the market are bucking that trend to put software at the forefront of the user experience and make approachable graphical user interfaces that are intuitive and quick to learn.

Another emerging trend is the shift from the reliance on the instrument vendor for new protocols. This derives from easier-to-use software requiring less input from vendor experts and the emergence of cloud-based protocol sharing. Whilst many vendors provide access to new protocols, they can become a bottleneck in curating and distributing them.

Due to the rapid decrease in the cost of sequencing, sample preparation is often the bottleneck in next-generation sequencing (NGS) workflows. Volume miniaturization with automated liquid handlers has the potential to solve throughput and cost challenges, enabling researchers to process more samples while generating more data.

Benefits of miniaturizing next generation sequencing

Because NGS is based on the principles of RT-qPCR (elongation and fluorescence) and the protocol is simple additive, it is easily miniaturized. This saves on very costly reagents (polymerase enzyme, buffers, fluorescent dNTPs) which currently stand in the way of achieving the $100 genome using NGS technology.

Industry report:

Shaping a new era of genomics liquid handling?

Liquid handling automation promises to accelerate genomics research and next-generation sequencing (NGS) library preparation.

Our industry report gives you an overview of the trends innovations shaping the next era of genomic discovery.

Download the report

Case study

Evaluation of a novel, compact, automated
liquid handler for NGS library preparation

In recent years, advancements in the field of next-generation sequencing (NGS) have improved our access to detailed genomic information. Samples that are destined for sequencing need to be processed into libraries before they can be loaded onto a machine that performs the sequencing run.

In this poster, we evaluate the use of firefly, a novel and highly compact liquid handler, for the automation of NGS library preparation workflows. firefly is an extremely compact automated liquid handling platform, measuring 66cm x 56cm x 78cm (width x depth x height), making it easy to place in almost any laboratory that wants to improve efficiency by automating manual workflows.

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Miniaturizing NGS workflows

mosquito® & dragonfly® for genomics miniaturization

Combine nanoliter pipetting technology with non-contact dispensing for a proven solution to miniaturize many common NGS methods.

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Related products

Our range of liquid handling products provide ease of use, reliable solutions for automated NGS Sample Preparation.


Innovative all-in-one liquid handling brings together multiple technologies within a single compact design for more efficient library and sample preparation workflows and maximum output. Underpinned by powerful, intuitive software, firefly unlocks the potential of automation for all to accelerate genomic research.

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dragonfly® discovery

dragonfly discovery enables innovative, low volume reagent dispensing across a broad range of applications including genomics​, assay development, and 3D cell cultures. Highly repeatable and accurate low volume dispensing, rapid large volume dispensing, and ultra-low dead volumes allow researchers to minimize reagent costs, save time, and standardize assays for superior quality data.

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mosquito® genomics

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) costs have reduced, NGS sample numbers have dramatically increased leading to a sample and library preparation bottleneck. Harnessing automation and miniaturization enables researchers to realize the full benefits of the genomics revolution. Our solutions dramatically improve productivity and reduce cost per sample for applications such as PCR, quantification and normalization, synthetic biology and a range of NGS library preparation methods supporting single-cell genomics, transcriptomics, microbiome and metagenomics, agbio, clinical genomics and pathogen surveillance.

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apricot instrumentation provides accurate, precise and intuitive automated liquid handling technology for convenient general use across your entire team. The small footprint designs allow laboratories to maximize available space without compromising on pipetting performance.

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