This paid-for advertorial by SPT Labtech appeared in DDW Volume 24 – Issue 2, Spring 2023
Paul Lomax, Head of Genomics at SPT Labtech, explains how exciting new technological developments have opened up opportunities for widespread innovation.
mosquito® and dragonfly®: Minaturising next-generation sequencing (NGS)
SPT Labtech is known across the industry for its highly successful miniaturisation of genomics methods and as the pioneer of the innovative positive-displacement pipetting technology (at the heart of the widely used mosquito and dragonfly combination for NGS). Anything you can do to reduce costs is good – and savings on reagents are clearly a key driver for labs to miniaturise.
Miniaturising NGS is challenging because standard technologies such as Nanopore or illumina are generally developed to work with manual pipettes. When you try to scale down the volumes used in these methods, you soon run into a host of challenges around certain reagent types, different liquid viscosities, and tricky tasks such as bead clean-ups.
Positive-displacement technology really comes to the rescue here because it does such a good job of handling all the various liquid classes. For that reason, Lomax is keen to stress that SPT Labtech’s technology is genuinely liquid-class agnostic. The company’s positive-displacement pipetting allows mosquito and dragonfly users to pipette and dispense highly accurately at very low volumes. Ultimately, the objective is to drive down the cost to make it possible for users to generate more insightful data.
firefly®: The all-in-one liquid handling platform
Visiting customers’ labs, Lomax and the team had noticed that SPT Labtech was increasingly selling pairs of instruments, so it seemed a logical next step to combine core pipetting and dispensing technologies into a single compact system. These observations, coupled with feedback and input from leading laboratories, are what gave birth to the idea of firefly – an instrument that combines multiple functionalities and adds the necessary accessories to enable the automation of end-to-end genomics workflows.
Since the launch of firefly in February 2022 at SLAS in Boston, the new liquid handling platform has generated a large amount of positive feedback at roadshows at key scientific hubs across the US and Europe.
Users are thrilled with the end-to-end automation of applications and are often quite amazed at how such a compact instrument can offer so many functionalities on such a small footprint. The firefly software is also a gamechanger, setting a new industry standard for its level of user-friendliness. These were the benefits most popular with many customers who were treated to tailored firefly demos at the various locations on the international tour.
And the work continues. Lomax and SPT Labtech’s team of scientists are extremely busy with application development, working on a whole range of standard library protocols for future release.
What’s next for genomics automation?
Asked where technology can help accelerate more innovation in genomics, Lomax sees the focus remaining in and around sequencing. We’ve seen the cost of sequencing continually go down with new sequencing platforms coming onto the market. There are areas like long-read sequencing that are receiving renewed focus. There’s also much still to be done in the single-cell area. Summing up, Lomax sees no slowdown in new developments, with lots of people coming to sequencing afresh or expanding what they already do.
All of these advances require sample preparation and SPT Labtech remains committed to helping users take the pain out of sample prep and getting them the data they need. Fundamentally, it’s all about giving back time to highly skilled researchers, so they can do what they do best – analysing data and putting their scientific training to use, rather than spending their time moving liquids around.
This means there’s still much to do for Lomax and the team, and yet more exciting times ahead.