The system is designed to automate all steps of the cloning process including PCR, DNA isolation, incubation, transformation, colony-picking, gel loading and gel imaging steps which are repetitive and time consuming.
The system's technology is based on Microlab's Star liquid handling workstation equipped with monitored air displacement pipetting technology. This eliminates use of tubing, pumps or system liquids, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
Plating of the transformed bacteria is done on the workstation and the 8-well SBS format plates containing the bacterial colonies are later picked using EasyPick (Hamilton's integrated colony picker). Every operation is monitored and tracked by Hamilton's Platetrack software, enabling complex process handling and comprehensive audit trails.
It is estimated that the human cells contains up to 25,000 proteins, which can be part of a complex genetic interaction. Drugs interact with these proteins and their related genes, within the living organisms to bring the desired effect (or side effects).
An understanding of these genetic interactions is important to design new drugs or to identify the side effects of drugs early in the drug development process, thus saving time and money.
In order to understand these complex interactions, scientists routinely clone the genes with the aim of getting functional proteins, which can be studied in order to design a new drug, which would specifically interact with that protein, eliminating the side effects of drugs.
Dr Ram Krishnamurthy, project manager for Hamilton Life Science Robotics told DrugResearcher.com: "In order to achieve the goal of understanding these complex genetic interactions, we saw a need for an automated cloning system. Our market analyses showed that there were no suitable systems and thus leading to development of such an automated cloning system."
"The Automated Cloning System is suitable for applications that require large amounts of gene cloning. These include large-scale protein expression, which is later fed into an automated protein crystallization system, large scale cell-based assays in combination with an automated cell culture system and gene expression studies in in-vitro model systems."
Suitable for large research labs, in pharmaceuticals/biotech as well as academic sector using gene cloning, the system is designed for researchers who perform large scale gene expression studies or require large amounts of proteins which can later be used for other experiments downstream for protein crystallisation or cell-based assays.
Krishnamurthy said: "We believe that any automated system made for handling large amount of plates, with each plate undergoing complex operations requires an underlying data tracking capability."
"The data can be structured in compliance with the CFR 21 Part 11 regulations and be integrated into existing in-house LIMS software by file transfer, if required."
Currently, there are no comparable systems on the market, which can automate the whole cloning process and still be affordable. Nextgen Sciences has automated protein expression systems aimed for much higher throughputs.
Krishnamurthy commented on the current state of the sector saying the market to automate the cloning process has been small. The commercial provider of cloning kits managed to make it easier for scientists to perform cloning in a couple of days with simple cloning systems. However, with the advent of automated cell culture and crystallization systems, it has become crucial to have an automated front-end cloning system, which can readily provide samples for such systems.
"The market for large scale cloning is still in its infancy, and definitely in a phase of upward growth. We are estimating a total market of about CHF 15-20 million (€9.7 million - €13 million) in the next few years with growing Asian market still not accounted for," Krishnamurthy commented.
Hamilton's Automated Cloning System is available now with pricing dependent on customer's requirement.