Up till now, automation solutions for protein crystallisation have only been worthwhile for laboratories operating with a high throughput. Hamilton and other manufacturers provide overall solutions that automate the processes involved. But for the user who wants to process just a few plates per day, there has been a lack of simple and inexpensive automation.
The new ScreenDeveloper Workstation allows the user to define gradients for up to 20 reagents per plate. Only the number of wells thus limits the number of possible screens. The software offers a choice of 120 predefined reagents with the option of adding more. Typical plate formats (e.g, 96 Greiner, Limbro, DWP) are already pre-configured and further formats can easily be added.
On the basis of the inputs, the software creates a worklist, which the pipetting robot implements. Users do not need to have any experience programming the robot. All relevant parameters are transmitted to the robot depending on the set-up for the experiment.
The crystallization of proteins is a multi-factorial process that depends on the interplay of several independent parameters, such as temperature, protein concentration, crystallization agent concentration, and the presence and nature of impurities or additives.
To determine the optimal crystallization conditions, special screens for testing various conditions can be developed, and ready-mixed precipitate solutions can be applied.
Hamilton also makes available its solution to automating manual colony picking - a process that laboratories have ruled out due to the cost of systems currently available on the market.
In comparison with manual colony picking, automated picking is faster, more consistent and more reliable. Several manufacturers have colony pickers on the market that can process well over a thousand colonies an hour.
For many laboratories this throughput is too high, however, because it bears no relation to the throughput of the upstream or downstream robot. This means that the expensive colony picker sits idle for long periods.
Hamilton's EasyPick is a package consisting of a CCD camera, a light table and image-processing software integrated with a STAR pipetting robot. With EasyPick, laboratory users can do their colony picking and sample preparation on the same instrument.
EasyPick works like a traditional colony picker. Colonies of bacteria, yeast strains, phages are identified according to size, shape, colour, and proximity to neighbouring colonies. The throughput of 300 colonies per hour is quite sufficient for most users.
Since the EasyPick colony picker is based on a proven liquid handling platform, it is also able to automate processes such as plasmid isolation, gel loading or sample preparation for PCR, sequencing and others. The deck capacity of up to 160 plates means that the user can leave EasyPick operating for several hours without supervision.
EasyPick is an overall solution for applications that require colony picking and traditional sample preparation, such as Gateway or other methods of cloning. EasyPick comes in three different platform sizes, and with 1 to 12 pipetting channels.