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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Avoiding Data Overload

Automation is one way of coping with large numbers of repetitive cell screening assays and handling of biological specimens required by the pharmaceutical industry – in the search for new therapeutics, for example. Advances in robotics and computerised equipment, such as microscopes and other technologies, mean that automation is now a more affordable possibility. Full-scale systems incorporate coordinated hardware for practical sample handling protocols linked to software packages for data handling and analysis.

The ability to standardise multiple procedures in automated protocols is particularly advantageous, allowing compliance with enforced statutory regulations of laboratory and manufacturing practice. Such automated workflows have the ability to deliver a high volume of reproducible, high-quality data while saving time and increasing efficiency and accuracy. However, while automation offers many benefits, scientists can often underestimate the significant data load generated by robotic workflows. This can quickly become unmanageable, slowing processes, producing backlogs and ultimately preventing the system from reaching the full capacity for which it was designed.

Careful Planning

The installation of automated systems in a lab is driven by a need to increase output, improve efficiency and, thereby, provide a good return on investment. A build-only solution concentrating on hardware design may appear to be cost-effective, but planning for data handling and analysis during the installation period can save time and expense in the future. The mechanical and computational intricacy of automation systems can be let down by overly complicated operating systems. However, platforms controlled by easy-to-use touch screen interfaces – which require minimal operator training and provide logical step-by-step instructions – are available.

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Rob Harkness is a Business Development Manager at Peak Analysis and Automation. Here, he is responsible for business and technical development, which involves designing and delivering lab software solutions to the life sciences sector. Rob has over 15 years’ experience in the life sciences automation market and is responsible for leading groups through the full product lifecycle of lab automation products, ensuring efficient integration through analysing requirements and recommending appropriate solutions.
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