February 03, 2016

Authors: Paul Held and Jason Greene, BioTek Instruments, Inc. Winooski, VT USA


Affordable live cell automation is an enigma in the realm of drug discovery biomedical research. Modular robotic systems, historically designed with high throughput screening as their focus, often consist of a crane or articulating arm that picks and places microplates from a number of process specific instruments to carry out the workflow of assays. By their nature these systems are generally quite large and expensive, requiring specialized rooms or custom chambers with HEPA filters to maintain sterility when running live cell assays. Compact automated low throughput systems have also been developed primarily with ELISA reactions in mind. These systems generally are limited in regards to assay flexibility, with minimal capacity for reagent addition and fixed incubation temperatures and no environmental gas or humidity control. While suitable for ELISA they make a poor choice for automated live cell assays.

To address the need of an assay workstation that is both flexible and affordable, yet provides the means to run live cell assays BioTek has developed the BioSpa™ 8 Automated Incubator. The BioSpa 8 links BioTek readers or imagers together with washers and dispensers for full workflow automation of up to 8 microplates. Real time control and continuous temperature, CO2/O2 and humidity level monitoring; along with lid handling ensure an ideal environment for cell cultures during all experiment stages, with minimal manual intervention. BioSpa’s software, which features customizable text or email notifications and alerts, also relieves the need for onsite monitoring. The software’s session timelines and environmental reports allow quick scrutiny of the process and system status. BioSpa 8 automates assay workflows by repeated manipulation and storage of microplates containing live cells or temperature sensitive reagents. Its size is such that it, along with a liquid handler and reader/imager, can be placed inside a conventional 6-foot biosafety cabinet.