In the new system, tubes are picked en masse, rather than singly, making the picking process many times faster than its competitors. RTS has worked closely with various third party suppliers, in particular ABgene, in the development of this system that works equally well with 96 tube racks as with 384. The new system has also been proved to work well in a -20C environment.
The method is suitable for the majority of compound library sizes, particularly where there are concerns about compound library growth or where there is a demand for increasing miniaturization of processes.
The technology has been designed to be compatible with RTS' latest small storage system, the SmaRTStore, providing a viable solution for both large pharma and biotech companies.
James Craven, head of product development for the 384 tube picking technology, told DrugResearcher.com: "We feel that while this combined solution is not cheap costwise, it provides a system in which we feel is the most accessible."
"This pneumatic technology is new, with nothing like this commercially available. In fact, an order has been placed by one of the large pharma companies of which there has been considerable industry interest."
The process of taking out a compound stored under precise temperatures allowing it to thaw only to replace the compound under freezing conditions in a continuous cycle has been shown to affect the stability of compounds. However, the technology recognises system can be used in parallel with the more traditional 96-tube technology, given the flexibility this method of storage offers.
Most tube picking operations require the withdrawal of compounds from the store tray, picking an individual component (micro tube) from the store tray of which new and unwanted samples are then returned to the store tray.
In this technology RTS aim to allow pre aliquot samples to be cherry picked without the need to thaw whole plates. While there is a benefit of higher sample integrity, this methodology can cause undesirable throughput bottlenecks that can occur in HTS and uHTS.
Parallel tube picking is able to benefit from the increased hit rate percentage, as samples from multiple orders are already present in the storage tray. Other storage systems can either pick or place just one sample at a time, while some are able to transfer more than one, but the pick and place step is still limited to a single tube transfer. RTS' system allows up to 384 tubes to be picked and placed at once, giving significant benefits the greater the hit rate percentage.
With sample requirements becoming ever smaller and with pharmaceutical companies growing wary of putting compounds through the freeze-thaw cycle, the 384, single shot, tubes in the stores is an attempt by RTS to tap into the compound storage trend.
He said: "What we are seeing concerns from scientists regarding the purity, QC and validity of tested compounds. In addition there have been questions about the reliability of the automated process."
"With this technology we have attempted to meet the need of the ever changing market where the trend is to make this kind of technology more accessible to a broader range of customers."
Craven pointed out that the system was not purely a hardware solution as RTS has also developed software control algorithms for a single controlling order to determine which trays should be withdrawn from the store. The d-SPRINT software ensures samples are withdrawn from the fullest set of compounds using two compression methods, compressing for both speed of picking and storage capacity, to ensure both the best possible hit rate and the most efficient use of storage space.