Microplate readers have multiple applications in research, drug discovery, bioassay validation, QC and laboratory processes in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry making the competition for business fierce. Current heavyweight players include Molecular Devices, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Sigma Aldrich. Tecan's Infinite M1000 is a high end detection system that offers flexibility, sensitivity and speed for a wide range of detection modes. The reader has been designed for applications that includes biomolecular assays for primary and secondary screening, receptor-ligand binding studies, cell-based assays and UV fluorometry-based applications. The platform can be upgraded with new detection modes, making it suitable for bridging the drug discovery gap between research, assay development and screening in the research laboratories with its ever-changing applications. Tecan is also launching a new reader/mircoplate system that is designed to detect tiny amounts of DNA - as little as 1ng/l - from samples as small as 2µl. The Infinite 200 NanoQuant (pictured alongside) is an extension of the company's established Infinite 200 product and, according to the company, is the first product of its type to allow detection at these volumes. It can handle up to 16 samples simultaneously. Meanwhile PerkinElmer has introduced two new monochromator options for its EnVision Multilabel Plate Reader (pictured below). The new EnVision technology creates a plate reader that integrates the sensitivity of filter-based system with the flexibility of a monochromator. EnVision with Monochromator thus enables shifting between detection technologies and applications. This duality is certain to suit laboratories' ever-changing application needs and expanding throughput demands. The adaptability of both the Infinite M1000 and the EnVision Multilabel Plate Reader are an indication of the level users demand of their equipment. Whilst early microplate readers were filter based, modern day readers are now fully tunable (monochromator based), enabling use of any fluorophore and chromophore allowing for assay flexibility as needed in the laboratory. Current day plate readers now come equipped with software tools for data analysis, automation, GxP tools, and LIMS capabilities. Considering that microplate readers can cost upwards of $6000 (€4104) for a basic model and higher end models costing over $20,000, the options are endless as is the potential for customisation. "This new technology, which is scalable to researchers' needs, demonstrates our commitment to advancing the plate reader market and the established EnVision brand," said Dr Richard Eglen, President, Molecular Medicine, PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences. "The new monochromator options incorporated into the EnVision system deliver flexibility and speed that improves hit-to-lead ratio for lead optimisation." With the pharma industry under increasing pressure to deliver drugs to the market faster and more cheaply the hope is that microplate readers, with its capacity to meet the lab's numerous needs, can enhance sample quality and, ultimately, achieve an accelerated rate of drug development, from hit to lead to candidate. According to The Journal of Automated Methods & Management in Chemistry, (Vol. 22, No. 4 July-August 2000 pp. 123-124) many industries will embrace laboratory automation as an attractive investment. Accordingly, this renewed interest in lab automation has put it on a new growth curve. The pharmaceutical industry will continue to be the largest and fastest growing sector with demand expected to exceed $700m (€479m) by 2003. LabAutomation 2008 takes place between 27-30 January in Palm Springs, USA.