More molecular biology reactions for lower cost

Our blog

22 January, 2014

Make the most of your research budget and time by miniaturizing your assays

What would you say if I told you that you could reduce the volume required for a cloning reaction by over 10-fold? Or reduce next generation sequencing (NGS) sample preparation volumes by close to 50-fold? Imagine the cost savings, not to mention the number of extra experiments you could extract from your most precious samples.

Well, reaction miniaturization can offer these benefits and much more.

Making the most of your budget

For most researchers, the impact of the financial crisis that started in 2008 has really started to hit funding budgets over the last few years. For a pertinent example, the effects of the NIH budget cuts announced in 2011 can be keenly felt today with successful funding applications at an all-time low in 2013. It has never been more important to squeeze every last drop out of your experiments.

Many of the reagents required for routine molecular biology applications such as PCR, cloning and NGS sample preparation are expensive, especially given the rising number of experiments modern biologists perform on a daily basis.

Mention the phrase ‘drug discovery’ and the challenge is multiplied exponentially, with pharma and biotech companies under pressure to screen as many samples and drug candidates as possible, all the while reducing costs and keeping turnaround times as short as possible.

To help maximize the use of molecular biology research budgets, our R&D team here at TTP has been exploring ways to perform more reactions for lower cost.


Our research has shown that reaction volumes can be reduced by up to 50-fold with the use of the mosquito range of products depending on the application, leading to vast savings when it comes to using expensive reagents such as proprietary enzymes and master mixes.

Lower volumes also mean more reactions can be crammed onto a single plate, opening up the possibility of moving to high density 384- or 1536-well plates instead of having to rely upon the more traditional 96-well form.

Not only is it possible to process more samples in a shorter time frame, those scarce and difficult to obtain samples can now be explored in full, without fear of running out.

More efficient without compromising on delivering results

When we mention the power offered by miniaturizing molecular biology applications, we’re always asked the same questions:

“What’s the trade-off?”

“How can we simultaneously reduce volumes without impacting on accuracy and reproducibility?”

The answer – automated low volume liquid handling.

Unlike pipetting by hand, automatic robotic dispensers are not prone to lapses in concentration or muscle fatigue – they just keep on going, drop after drop, plate after plate, all with unerring precision.

In fact, when we’ve compared the accuracy and reliability of liquid handlers such as our mosquito to hand pipetting, both generate similar data sets. However, the automated approach is much faster and significantly more reproducible, especially when using low volumes of samples and reagents.

All of this comes with an added bonus… Automation frees you from laborious and time-consuming liquid handling steps so you can spend more of your time doing what you love – analyzing your data and learning more about the biology of your system.

Show me the data!

Using automated liquid handling it really is possible to generate reliable results using lower reaction volumes, but don’t take our word for it – we’d prefer to let the data speak for itself.

In one recent proof of principle study, we compared reduced volumes of sample preparation reactions prior to NGS using the Illumina MiSeq.

Using mosquito for the liquid handling, we were able to reduce the volume of the Nextera Tagmentation reaction from 50 µL down to 1 µL – all without impacting on the success of the downstream NGS reaction (100% coverage across 96 samples, with 64 reads per nucleotide). As well as using lower amounts of enzyme and buffer, the reduced reaction volume meant only 1 ng of genomic template DNA was required!

We’ve also tested the mosquito to see how effective it is for miniaturizing the Gateway® Cloning Protocols (Life Technologies) – in this case we obtained reliable cloning efficiency even when reducing reaction volumes by over 10-fold.

Now show me how I can do this…

Want to know more? Send us an email or give us a call – we’d be happy to help you achieve these results in your lab.