The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

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07 January, 2015

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

Fourteen years later and still standing, our automated -20oC freezers have proved to provide long term reliability! In doing so we have built close relationships with our customers which have helped them grow and achieve their automation goals.

An idea born out of TTP’s novel approach to testing Femidom female contraceptives, TTP Labtech’s comPOUND -20oC freezer boasts the unique use of pneumatic technology which reduces the problem of designing moving parts in a cold environment. Creating a modular system also provides a solution for the storage of < 500,000 compounds but still allows for growth of a company.

As you set out to screen 100,000s of chemical or biological compounds for potential drug candidates the question is how do you store and access them now, and in the future? With a number of companies that provide ‘the best storage solution’ how do you decide what is optimal for you? There are a number of important attributes you may look for in the perfect solution:

  1. Reliability

The financial loss from a broken down freezer can have a significant impact on a company, not to mention the intellectual loss from the unreliability of compounds with an interrupted cold chain. Reliable results also require confidence in sample labeling and tracking which can be overcome by many types of barcoded labware and computer based laboratory information management systems (LIMS). Since the launch of TTP Labtech’s comPOUND® -20oC automated freezer in 2001, every freezer sold is still active. This is mainly due to a careful and well-thought-out design by our passionate engineers and our commitment to valuable support throughout its life.

  1. Limited storage space

Storing hundreds of thousands of compounds requires space. Many small/medium sized companies require storage that is not too large but has the potential to expand along with the flexibility to move the freezer for future relocation. TTP Labtech provides a modular automated storage solution that also boasts high density capacity therefore you can store up to 200,000 samples in the same footprint as a manual -20oC freezer.

  1. Rapid sample processing

Do you need rapid access to a wide range of library subsets from your sample storage system? Manual placement and retrieval of samples from large libraries not only increases the potential for error but can inhibit sample processing speeds necessary to satisfy research flow or customer delivery schedules. Therefore automating sample dispensing and processing whilst ensuring robust sample labeling and tracking is invaluable. comPOUND can identify and deliver a sample in only 6 seconds and a rack of up to 96 samples in 10 minutes. In the case of large library sets linking multiple comPOUND modules with comPANION increases processing speeds by providing simultaneous access to all linked stores.

  1. Innovative solution to your problem

It is easy to follow everyone else as it appears to be working for them but is it providing you with the whole solution to your problem? TTP Labtech’s innovative use of the centuries old pneumatic technology has eliminated many problems that other automated storage systems have. The idea was based on the question of how you can move tubes around in a sealed unit without placing the robotics at low temperatures which is often problematic. The storage unit uses compressed air or nitrogen and a system of flexible tubing to rapidly transport microtubes (identifying and delivering a sample in only 6 seconds). This makes the comPOUND extremely reliable and robust compared to traditional systems that use robots in the chilled zone.

What is your workflow?

If you plan to start small and expect to grow, modularity is the way to go!

Need to find that valuable hit, cherry picking a secondary screen would fit!

Biological samples and more, the comPOUND can be used as an innovative DNA biostore!

TTP Labtech can provide automated solutions to each of your processes from reformatting into microtubes using our liquid handlers to cherry picking specific samples and setting up assay plates using our comPILER system. comPILER thaws, centrifuges and decaps samples before aliquotting and then recapping and re-delivering samples back to the freezer. Parallel processing allows the system to retrieve, process and store over 20-30K microtubes in
8 hours (Figure 1).


Figure 1. A TTP Labtech automated solution to reduce the manual steps in a typical compound storage workflow.

Case study: Novel ways to create a leaner business

An example of how a change of strategy and automating processes has resulted in a leaner business is that of Lundbeck, one of the biggest pharmaceutical company in Denmark specializing in brain diseases. It set out to increase organizational efficiency and promote a high-performance culture. The business model was based on outsourcing primary and temporary liquid stores to CROs which would dispense and manage the delivery of screening plates. Although this appeared to be a good business model, several challenges were experienced that included working with different time zones, communication issues, access to QC data, lack of flexibility, no backup of stocks and high costs. The aim was to simplify the current operations, reduce delivery times and cost, and increase quality with no increase in personnel. A hybrid-operating model was chosen that incorporated the purchase of automated equipment from TTP Labtech to manage Lundbeck’s primary solid and liquid collections from Denmark and enable efficient, fast and quality controlled operations
(Figure 2).


Figure 2: Lundbeck’s compound management workflow incorporating TTP Labtech’s comPOUND -20oC automated freezers for the primary liquid and solid store of compounds, decapper/capper for processing the sample vials and mosquito HTS for dispensing the sample compounds.

Outsourcing remained viable for screening plate management by a Chinese CRO for large compound sets of > 45K. It also provided a liquid back up and collection store outside of Denmark for the liquid collection. This model has reduced picking and pilot screening times by 5-fold and the initial investment will be cost neutral in 3 years and generate savings thereafter.

Automated workflow

TTP Labtech was able to provide Lundbeck the complete solution to managing the large numbers of samples in-house. Not only were the samples stored in comPOUND but robots were also applied to decap and recap microtubes and dispense the sample from mother plates (mosquito HTS) (Figure 2). This complete workflow allows for a semi-walkaway operation of sample handling.

“comPOUND has been an integral part of our successful restructuring aided by the incredible support that the engineers and sales staff of TTP Labtech have provided us. We installed all equipment and were up and running within 48 hours”, remarked Ludovic Otterbein, Head of Compound management and analytical chemistry, Lundbeck, Denmark.