Scaling Liquid Handling Up Rapidly in Diagnostic Labs: Pandemic Readiness

From the beginning of any COVID-19 workflow, products are required for protected collection, transfer and conservation of viral specimens. In Düsseldorf, Germany, Xebios Diagnostics produces ready-to-use, high quality, viral transport medium (VTM) for microbiological diagnostic applications. The DOSE IT peristaltic pump allows the company to swiftly and effectively aliquot VTM into individual sterile screw-capped tubes to meet market requirements for viral specimen media.

From tubes to plates

In serological and PCR testing workflows, patient samples must be transported from individual collection tubes – either blood collection or swab tubes – to microplates.  Because they can adjust tip spacing with one touch of a button, VOYAGER adjustable tip spacing pipettes are ideal for this. They provide quick, simultaneous reformatting of up to 12 samples between various forms of labware.

In order to create automation of the full workflow, the ASSIST PLUS pipetting robot can streamline many routine pipetting tasks, including tube to plate reformatting. The large requirement across the globe for consumables during the COVID-19 crisis meant that some labs had to employ swab tubes in a variety of sizes and diameters. The adaptability of the ASSIST PLUS meant many tube types could be used just by altering minor parameters in the program, impacting just one step in the workflow.

Nucleic acid extraction

Following reformatting, nucleic acid extraction is needed before PCR – the go-to method to identify the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The VIAFLO 96/384 handheld electronic pipette is a great choice for improving throughput when adding buffers or samples to 96 or 384 wells in parallel. It is also ideal to employ with a broad range of extraction methods, comprising of several magnetic bead purification protocols, and numerous silica-based kits employing vacuum manifolds.

Neoteryx LLC, a medical device company, situated in California, relies on this flexible instrument to accurately and reproducibly process thousands of samples per day as a vital element of its new high throughput biological sample collection and processing system calculating undetected cases of coronavirus infections in the United States.

PCR set-up

PCR set-up – involving the combination of the Master Mix and viral nucleic acids – is prone to errors and is time consuming. Electronic pipettes can boost efficiency and reproducibility in these stages for enhanced PCR. For this reason INTEGRA has partnered with the Microbiology and Molecular Pathology Department at Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology (SNP) in Brisbane, Australia to enhance COVID-19 testing of patient samples.

There was an obvious necessity for more automated liquid handling instruments to enhance sample processing capacity.  An automated pipetting protocol was developed using a VOYAGER adjustable tip spacing pipette and reagent reservoirs with SureFlo™ anti-sealing array on an ASSIST PLUS pipetting robot. This meant samples could be prepared more effectively in low volume, 384 well plates for the following processing on a fast, high throughput, plate-based, real-time PCR amplification and detection instrument. So, it is more flexible and the protocol can also be readily adapted to 96 well format.


Due to the progression of the pandemic, a need for serology tests has grown in order to analyze the immune reactions of individual patients, as well as to evaluate immunity in the population. These immunoassays – which are crucial to understanding the likelihood of a second peak and make the appropriate adjustments to adjust lockdown restrictions – frequently include many aspiration steps to eradicate buffers after incubation and washing.

The VACUSIP portable aspiration system is highly suited to this. It is a safe and suitable method of liquid waste elimination, fitting effortlessly into these workflows.

Futureproof systems for life before, during and after COVID-19

INTEGRA’s range of products is ideal for laboratories that have needed to alter their workflows to meet urgent COVID-19 requirements, needing swift execution and scale-up of processes that exist currently as well as new ones.

INTEGRA’s portfolio of products includes something to aid every workflow and this crisis has displayed how truly versatile this range is.

About INTEGRA Biosciences

INTEGRA provides innovative solutions for Liquid Handling and Media Preparation applications which serve the needs of their customers in research, diagnostics and quality control laboratories.

Their instruments and plastic consumables are developed and manufactured in Zizers, Switzerland and Hudson, NH USA. In order to remain close to their customers, they maintain a direct sales and support organization in North America, the UK, France and Germany, as well as a network of over 100 highly trained distribution partners worldwide.

In recent years they have focused on developing a new and technologically advanced range of handheld electronic pipettes which are simple to use and meet the ergonomic needs of their customers. Today they are proud to offer the widest range of electronic pipettes in the market spanning a range from single channel pipettes up to 384 channel bench-top instruments.


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