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Liquid Handling Get rid of repetitive tasks with automated pipetting solutions

Editor: Alexander Stark

Labs are always looking for possibilities to increase their productivity and accuracy of their processes. This applies in particular to minimum inhibitory concentrations testing applied in the development of antibiotics. Automated pipetting solutions can help minimize serial dilution errors and increase confidence in the results.

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The automated adjustable tip spacing function of the Voyager allows rapid transfer of compounds or inoculum from tube formats directly to microplates.
The automated adjustable tip spacing function of the Voyager allows rapid transfer of compounds or inoculum from tube formats directly to microplates.
(Source: Integra Biosciences)

Antibiotic resistance is on the rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for our wellbeing and increased economic strain on our healthcare systems, creating an urgent need for novel antimicrobial compounds. Drug discovery research to identify new antibiotics requires large-scale screening of new or modified candidate drugs to evaluate their activity and potency. In this early phase of discovery, the main researchers are generally trying to identify one or more of the following criteria:

  • MIC — minimum inhibitory concentration, the lowest concentration of antimicrobial that inhibits the growth of a microorganism.
  • IC50 — half maximal inhibitory concentration, a measure of the potency of a compound in an inhibitory biological or biochemical functional assay.
  • EC50 — half maximal effective concentration, the concentration of a compound that induces a response halfway between baseline and maximum response.
  • LD50 — median lethal dose, the dose required to kill half the population in a test sample.

Determining these parameters requires multiple dilutions and several replicates of each candidate compound, necessitating precise pipetting and mixing to ensure robust and reproducible results. Determining the MIC is often the first step in this process. Automated pipetting can increase the reproducibility and productivity of workflows.

How is the MIC determined?

A common approach for MIC determination is to use a standard microtiter method — creating a two-fold serial dilution of the candidate compound in liquid growth medium in a microplate, then inoculating every well with a predefined amount of bacteria. The microplates can then be incubated and assessed for bacterial growth using a microplate reader to identify the lowest effective concentration of compound. This approach can be used to screen thousands of compounds, which is likely to be tedious, time consuming, and error and contamination prone if performed manually.

The Assist Plus pipetting robot with a Voyager adjustable tip spacing pipette provides an elegant walk-away solution for performing serial dilutions of multiple samples in parallel.
The Assist Plus pipetting robot with a Voyager adjustable tip spacing pipette provides an elegant walk-away solution for performing serial dilutions of multiple samples in parallel.
(Source: Integra Biosciences)

Simplifying Serial Dilutions

Integra set out to find easier solutions to routine and repetitive pipetting tasks like serial dilutions. The company's electronic multichannel pipettes and pipetting robots can solve many of the issues that come with manual pipetting, offering improved performance, precision and reproducibility to maximize productivity. For example, combining the Assist Plus pipetting robot with a Voyager adjustable tip spacing pipette provides an elegant walk-away solution for performing serial dilutions of multiple samples in parallel.

This set-up can automate the transfer and mixing steps, performing them faster and more reliably than a technician working at the bench. Pipetting heights, speeds and mixing parameters are also consistent across all dilutions — ensuring reproducibility — while avoiding the ergonomic hazards of manual pipetting.

Crucially, the automated adjustable tip spacing function of the Voyager allows rapid transfer of compounds or inoculum from tube formats directly to microplates, eliminating the need for time-consuming single channel pipetting. This walk-away approach helps labs reach their full testing capacity and accelerate drug development workflows.

Integra offers a number of benchtop pipetting solutions such as Viaflo 96 allowing users to simultaneously fill every well of a well plate.
Integra offers a number of benchtop pipetting solutions such as Viaflo 96 allowing users to simultaneously fill every well of a well plate.
(Source: Integra Biosciences)

Get more samples processed faster

The company also offers a number of benchtop pipetting solutions allowing you to simultaneously fill every well of a 96 or 384 well plate. These options increase throughput for plate filling, and even allow serial dilutions to be performed by only loading a single row or column of tips. Whole plate pipetting also helps to eliminate time-associated variability for cell-based assays by allowing parallel inoculation of every well to accelerate assay set-up.

The compact footprints of these automated pipetting systems make them ideal for use under a laminar flow hood. Combined with the company's Grip Tips this set-up helps to reduce the risk of contamination, potentially helping to avoid hours of lost work.

The electronic pipetting systems are controlled via a common touch wheel interface, making it easy to switch between devices. This intuitive set-up enables rapid navigation and operation, and offers predefined and customizable programs to set up and run MIC assays. Operators can simply input their desired volumes, labware formats, mixing parameters and controls to create a complete assay workflow that boosts overall lab productivity.

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