4 ways automation helps deliver better value in genomics research


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In the dynamic, fast-paced landscape of genomics research, laboratory heads are constantly challenged to do more with less and deliver greater value from their investment. With the cost of next-generation sequencing reducing year on year, there remain significant opportunities to maximize research value by adopting liquid handling automation to streamline library preparation.

Traditional multi-step library preparation protocols to prepare a sample for sequencing are time-consuming, error-prone, and costly. Dedicated automated liquid handling technologies can overcome these challenges to help laboratory leads maximize research productivity and deliver better value.

Below are four areas to consider...

1. Making better use of valuable people

Research scientists are exceptionally valuable resources, particularly in today's buoyant, candidate-led market with skills shortages in many key areas. It’s essential that we direct scientists’ energy and expertise towards areas that add the most value, such as designing experiments and analyzing results.

Where there is over-reliance on manual processes, expensive and highly qualified researchers are forced to spend their time on repetitive tasks instead of investing effort where their skills matter most.

By implementing an automated approach to library and sample preparation, resources can be redirected where they are most impactful. In addition, an automated approach relieves researchers of the burden of repetitive tasks, alleviating pipetting strain and improved job satisfaction, leading to higher staff retention and reduced hiring costs.

Automated instruments don't have to use lots of your valuable laboratory space either. In this blog, we look at how multi-purpose technologies are helping to tackle the laboratory space conundrum.

2. Reducing the cost of consumables

Enzymatic reagents used in genomics research are both challenging to work with and costly.

Traditional manual processes and protocols use more sample volume and reagent than is often required for the experiment, resulting in inefficiency and cost wastage.

Miniaturization techniques are now commonly used within high-throughput screening (HTS) assays. Genomics workflows are also extremely well suited to a range of lower volumes – depending on the application – which saves the laboratory cost and reagent.

Miniaturization can also help your lab to become more sustainable.

3. Increasing throughput and generating more data from budget

Automated liquid handling in NGS applications dramatically increases reliability, accuracy, and speed, facilitating the use of multi-well 96 and 384 well plates, even for complex experiments where multiple reagents are required. This higher throughput, combined with reduced costs, enables labs to generate more data from their available budget and ensure worthwhile research investment.

4. Mitigating the upfront capital investment with affordable systems

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

Historically automated systems have had a high price point, but increasingly there is a notable trend towards democratization with more affordable technologies that are accessible for all. In the past, complete liquid handling automation was often only achieved by bringing together several instruments to accomplish the individual tasks of pipetting, dispensing, incubating, and shaking.

As instrumentation capabilities advance, multi-functional technologies are increasingly realistic propositions. If one system can deliver all tasks, this also mitigates that upfront outlay and makes the investment more feasible for laboratories of all sizes.

Developing a compelling return on investment case becomes even more straightforward with more cost-effective options to take those first steps into NGS liquid handling automation. Increasingly, life sciences leaders consider value rather than simply cost when making investments in automation technology. This approach makes perfect sense given the step-change in productivity that automation can deliver and the high potential gains for more successful drug development, disease understanding, and human health.

Unlock the potential of automation with firefly®

firefly-intro-v2We created firefly, our innovative liquid handling platform for genomics, taking the above considerations into account. firefly boosts efficiency and flexibility in automating the NGS library prep workflow with a compact all-in-one solution that incorporates pipetting, dispensing, incubating, and shaking technologies. 

firefly's novel dispensing technology minimizes tip use, reduces reagent dead volumes, and gives labs the option to miniaturize protocols while  maximizing research output.

Learn more about simplifying your genomics workflows here:

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What are the trends shaping NGS liquid handling?

Our latest industry report Shaping a new era of genomics liquid handling sets out a vision for the future of genomics liquid handling. It highlights opportunities and considerations and shares snapshots from our qualitative research with NGS customers about their library preparation experiences.