The enhancement to the system allows automated liquid handler users to test instrument operation on a continuous basis reducing the tendency for laboratory error. Traditionally, QC methods used to ensure liquid handler performance have been time-consuming and not well standardised, making the process often overlooked, according to Artel. The company claims that with MVS, laboratories have an easy-to-use tool for rapid volume verification allowing liquid handling quality control to begin earlier in the drug discovery process. The new MVS integration feature makes possible in-process liquid handler quality control by measuring dispensed volumes in multiple microtiter plates without repeated manual input. The feature allows users to store each step of their liquid handler quality control protocols in the MVS system software for continual future access. Once the liquid handler quality control method is programmed, users can begin each subsequent performance verification process without repeating preparatory steps, such as scanning barcodes for each microtiter plate and reagent bottle. "The new integration feature of the MVS is beneficial for laboratories that must continually repeat liquid handling quality control procedures to meet regulatory requirements or internal SOPs," said Tanya Knaide, MVS Product Manager for Artel. "The new integration feature is also attractive to manufacturers of automated liquid handlers that offer on-site performance verification of customer instruments. These services often use identical quality control protocols to produce information on instrument performance before and after maintenance procedures, during installation validation and over time," she added. Liquid handling instrumentation has become essential in the pharmaceutical industry for laboratory tasks ranging from assay development to plate replication. However, the consequences of this instrumentation misperforming are often unknown. A liquid handler variability of just 10 per cent in a screening environment can result in any number of missed hits or false negatives. The cost could well be the next blockbuster drug. "Many companies dedicate resources to extensive quality control downstream in the drug discovery process, such as at the clinical trial stage," Knaide added. "However, identifying and correcting liquid handling errors upstream, such as in target discovery and high-throughput screening stages, can save time and money, and increase efficiency. Ensuring proper liquid handler performance early in the drug discovery process can also lead to higher quality data and reduction in costly errors." Artel's MVS was initially introduced to the market in 2004 and claims to be the only commercially available, standardised system able to verify, on a tip-by-tip basis, volumes dispensed by automated liquid handlers and multichannel pipettes. The MVS is based on ratiometric photometry, a technology that uses the absorbance values of two proprietary dye solutions to calculate dispensed volume in each well of a microtiter plate. The MVS provides NIST-traceable accuracy and precision data to ensure standardised volume dispenses across instruments and across laboratories. According to Frost & Sullivan, the European Clinical Diagnostics Automation Market earned revenues of $1.10bn in 2005 and estimates this to reach $2.42bn in 2010. However, a lack of clarity about laboratory automation is hampering market expansion. Although laboratories are convinced that automating their processes is the only way forward, they remain relatively ignorant about the exact means by which to achieve this goal. With the market all set for growth, it is important for manufacturers to strategically position their products in order to promote greater clarity among customers. As stand-alone (modular) automation gains momentum in the clinical lab automation market, focussing on this segment could prove advantageous. Artel identified several new trends on the horizon, including even smaller volume liquid handling, a focus on single-cell analysis and smarter liquid handling instrumentation. Another common theme would be a more intense focus on quality control. The new MVS feature is currently available worldwide with pricing dependent on requirements.