Job Title: Senior Researcher for the High Throughput Antibody Discovery team
Philip is the senior researcher for the High Throughput Antibody Discovery team at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. He obtained his BS in Physiology and Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut and an MS degree in Biology from Southern Connecticut State University. He has held many roles within the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industries with focus on application development and support for research in genetics, immunotoxicology and immunology. Within the last 17 years, Philip has gained knowledge and experience in assay development, automation and automation integration. Since 2011, he has been expanding the use of automation for antibody discovery within BI, focusing on ELISA, AlphaLISA and MSD assay formats.
Bringing automation on any scale into your lab can be an intimidating prospect, especially for new users. There can be significant benefits to automating a method or process, but there are also many factors to consider and even more potential pitfalls. It is a common misconception that automation or integrated platforms have to be big, expensive and complex. There is also a common misconception that less complex assay formats don’t benefit from automation. Implementing automation can be as complex as large, walk-away high-throughput screening platforms or as simple as a plate reader and stacker, or any combination in between. Thoughtful planning and careful implementation are the two factors that determine the overall success of the process. Significant care should be taken in properly defining the scope and scale of any automation project. What do you hope to accomplish? Is it increased throughput? More consistency across assay runs? Allow scientists to focus on non-routine tasks? Automation can help provide all of these. Automating relatively simple assays that need to be done on a regular basis is a great way to free up time for scientists to focus on non-routine work while maintaining consistency across assays.
ELISA can be one of the easiest assay formats to develop and run. There are several general formats that can be suitable for a wide variety of analytical needs. The ubiquity of the method has given rise to additional assay methods that, while based on ELISA, provide significant benefits over standard ELISA. Technologies such as MSD, Simoa, Gyros and ELIspot have developmental roots in the ELISA assay, but have leveraged leading edge technology. As a result these methods allow for lower sample volumes, significantly increased sensitivity, multiplexing, larger dynamic range and reduced background, just to name a few. Automation of these assays can provide all of the benefits previously discussed.
0 0 0 Total: 0 The acronym ELISA stands for Enzyme Linked Immunosorbant Assay. Two descriptive facets in that name are Enzyme Linked and Immunosorbant. In a standard ELISA a protein, either antibody or antigen, is coated, or absorbed, onto specially coated plates. The last step in the assay is detection. This is done by the converting of a … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 Well, the answer to that question would depend greatly on the size and complexity of the automated system. If you are referring to something simple like a plate stacker attached to a plate reader, it would say hours. As you get into larger and more complex systems then the time … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 As much or as little of the assay process as you desire can be automated. Automated systems designed specifically for ELISA are quite common. The only thing the user would need to do is add the all of the labware needed to the starting positions and fill any reagent reservoirs … Continued
What did you find was the biggest benefit in automating your assay process? What was the biggest challenge?
0 0 0 Total: 0 In my opinion, there are 2 big benefits, consistency in your assay process and time management of the scientists. Running assays on a properly designed and validated system provides a level of consistency that is very difficult to duplicate with manual pipetting. In an automated environment you know that every … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 I don’t generally see differences in assay data in a manual vs. automated comparison. What shows up positive in an automated assay should show up positive in a manual assay, so to speak. The differences that we see are usually in the quality of the data. Replicates on a plate … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 When optimizing an automated method there are 3 questions you should be asking, in my opinion: Are all of the components functioning properly? – This is usually reserved for the liquid handling part of a system. Accurate QC and preventative maintenance are key. You should run liquid handling QC on … Continued
I am wondering how the assay transfer works. How difficult is it to transfer and how do you validate after automation?
0 0 0 Total: 0 The term “assay transfer”, in this context, simply means moving an assay from the bench (manually completed) to being run on some form of automation. This assumes that the assay has already been properly developed and validated, if appropriate. Ideally, when performing an assay transfer to an automated platform you … Continued
Have you run different sets of ELISAs? How do you run different configurations so you can do mulitple different assays
0 0 0 Total: 0 Yes, I have run several different “ELISA-like” assay formats on our current system. Making sure that you can run different formats on an automated system is part of the “scale and scope” portion of the platform design phase. If you are designing a system to handle ELISA work it would … Continued
No one in our lab has automation experience, how much of a problem would this be for automating our ELISAs. What is the hardest part of training?
0 0 0 Total: 0 I have encountered situations just like this quite a few times over the years. It can be intimidating, but it is very much an achievable goal. The first thing you need to consider is the scale and scope of what you want to automate. How many plates? How often? What … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 As a general rule, automation will not improve your assay in that fashion. It can reduce variability and tighten %CV, but it is not going to make a mediocre reference molecule better. I would focus my efforts into the assay design/development in this situation. Sensitivity, dynamic range, LOD and LLOQ … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 No, we do not have any imaging instruments as part of our automated platforms. We had one a few years ago, but have since discontinued its use due to changes in our overall process. It is completely possible to integrate imagers into an automation platform as long as the instrument … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 Generally, yes. If protocols are correctly written and validated you should see a decrease in variation within replicates of an assay. If a liquid handling is poorly written or not properly validated, the opposite could just as easily be true. Nothing can generate poor data as well as a poorly … Continued
0 0 0 Total: 0 In my experience, any kind of temperature dependent incubation (incubate for X minutes at Y degrees) done on an automated platform is done in racks. There are a wide variety of incubators/refrigerators/freezers that are designed specifically to be used with automation platforms. They will have an internal plate mover that … Continued