dispatches from Analytica 2018

Gilson and Synthace set sights on reproducible research

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Tristan Berto of Gilson at Analytica 2018
Tristan Berto of Gilson at Analytica 2018
Gilson and Synthace have partnered to try and make biological research more efficient and reproducible.

Synthace’s Antha software will be integrated with Gilson’s automated liquid handling platform.

The software connects Pipetmax to the cloud to make it easier to design and reproduce experiments.

Antha will help Pipetmax users create, edit and run automated liquid handling methods using a drag-and-drop visual interface.

By designing protocols with the software, researchers can share optimized methods and practices, cutting out the time-intensive process of deducing protocols from research papers.

Method development

Tristan Berto, market development manager at Gilson, said the biggest hurdle to method development tends to be in adapting a method to automation.

“Sometimes people find they need to use different plates than they were using manually or they need to arrange the samples differently so pipetting happens faster. Those things tend to take more time then the step of programming it into the software,” ​he told us at Analytica 2018 in Munich.

“With Antha, you drag different elements into the workflow and you can link them together into a pipetting protocol. It still gives control over things like different types of liquid handling policies so users still have access that scientists might want to tweak when they see something not running quite optimally in their method.”

Better quality of life in the lab

In many cases experiments are not reproduced because it is difficult to get methods and equipment, said Berto.

“The thing about Antha is that it makes it easy for people to download a workflow file, called a bundle file, and share it with other people. Any Antha user could share the bundle file for a workflow on Pipetmax with any other Antha user,” ​he said. 

“The other side of it is if you have different people performing all of these assays or different equipment being used in each assay then that could be a source of poor reproducibility. By automating it on Pipetmax we remove any user-to-user variation you might have with the fully manual method and the execution of that automated method is generated by the same software in both cases.

“People are embracing automation more, there is a big movement towards a better quality of life in the lab and a lot of people are realising that they don’t want to spend all day pipetting, there are more important intellectual contributions that they can make to their research and discovery.”

Synthace and Gilson make biology more reproducible

Berto said the firms have been working together for a few years.

“Three or four years ago Synthace built some drivers to control Pipetmax in Antha and we started getting a lot of interest from customers,” ​he said.

“Synthace actually sold a few Pipetmax’s for us and the more the companies talked the more we realised we were aligned. We are both trying to make biology more reproducible and more transferrable and we thought there was a synergy between the Antha software and Pipetmax.”

An update to Antha will add new elements to the software created specifically for Pipetmax.

“These are elements that make it easier to do flexible biological assays in Antha. So things like PCR preps, cell based assays or liquid handling tests like dilutions. We expect in the next three to four months it will be commercially available,” ​said Berto.

“Typically we will work with customers to develop their first method and that does two things. It makes sure they are up and running without too much disruption to their lab and secondly it functions to introduce users to automation if they are not already familiar with it.”

The software will offer a variety of pre-built basic liquid handling tasks such as transfers, dilutions, and master mix preparation as well as more sophisticated sample and method data management.

Antha can interpret sample lists that need to be imported for normalization, qPCR prep, reformatting and other operations.

Berto said if labs have existing sampling data they are managing electronically that can be uploaded into Antha protocols that run on Pipetmax.

“So you can upload your starting plate layouts and that type of information. We can also import certain types of absorbance or quality data and we can use that to create the pipetting protocol in Antha,” ​he said.

“For example, if someone is doing a normalisation and they have some data on the current sample concentrations we can upload that into Antha along with sample identities and use that to generate transfer volumes that result in the normalised samples.”

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