Automation solution enables protein purification

PhyNexus, Tecan collaborating on development of standard processes

SAN JOSE, Calif.—U.S.-based PhyNexus is working with Tecan, a Swiss supplier of laboratory instruments, to develop standard processes for automating protein purification using PhyTip columns integrated with a Freedom EVO liquid handling robot.
Freedom EVO is equipped with a liquid handling arm and a MultiChannel Arm, and controlled using specially adapted scripts of standard Freedom EVOware operating software.

According to Dr. Douglas T. Gjerde, CEO of PhyNexus, the company's customers who were using Tecan robotics asked for help on installing and using PhyTip column products on their instruments.

"When we contacted Tecan, we learned that Tecan customer support was getting the same requests from its customers," he says. "In our correspondence with Tecan, we found that the company's objectives are aligned with those of our own: To achieve the absolute highest customer satisfaction and to build long-term customer relationships based on respect and trust."

Under the agreement, Gjerde says PhyNexus will provide solutions and support to Tecan robotic customers.

"We provide the chemical solutions when sample preparation problems are presented to the Tecan customer," he says. "Likewise, Tecan provides robotic solutions and support to PhyNexus customers."

Moreover, Tecan will also provide hardware and programming expertise to use PhyNexus' products on its robotic instrumentation.

"In some cases, Tecan will support us or support the customer directly when we install and support our products on Tecan's instrumentation at the customer site," Gjerde adds.

While primarily used for protein purification, the disposable PhyTip columns can be supplied packed with various types of resin, making their application range extremely broad. The majority of PhyTip columns do not require additional hardware, the only exception being gel filtration columns, which use a specific PhyNexus rack and are transported on the Freedom EVO platform by a robotic manipulator arm.

Kevin Moore, Tecan's director of market and application management for biopharma, says the company is pleased to be working with PhyNexus to bring an automation solution to customers in the fast-growing area of protein purification.

"This will increase Tecan's offering to the bioprocessing community," he says.

In its current business model, PhyNexus provides sample preparation solutions to biological problems, primarily in the drug development market.

"In order to do this, we have to understand the drug development customer needs. The drug industry has many stages of development starting with target discovery and validation, drug screening and lead optimization, drug development, clinical trials and manufacturing," says Gjerde. "We have customers in all of these areas, so we understand both the upstream source of the samples and the downstream applications."

PhyNexus will tailor the chemistry as needed to fit customer requirements, while at the same time providing the fixtures and programming to be compatible with Tecan's robotics.

Gjerde points out that his company's customers realize "up to 100-fold improvement in productivity compared to conventional methods in which spin columns, gravity columns or affinity flash chromatography has been used, thus dramatically reducing their labor costs."

Other automation benefits, Gjerde notes, include increased screening throughput to improve project timelines or move more projects through a pipeline; better data such as consistent results, high reproducibility, reduction of human error or element from data collection; reduction of setbacks due to downstream failure; expedition of the drug discovery process; less reagent loss from manual manipulation; combined purification steps on the same platform; and easily achieved design of experiment concepts.
Success, according to Gjerde, can be easily quantified in the way the company is perceived by new and existing customers.

"As a relatively newer company, prospective customers had approached us only after they had tried other technologies, but were not able to achieve the required final concentration, purity or mass amount of the purified protein," he explains. "Or perhaps the automation of their plate technology proved be too unreliable and did not provide pure products. So in the past, we were the company of last resort. But now, we are finding that by providing excellent service and solving difficult problems, we are becoming the company that our existing customers come to first when they are presented with a new technical challenge. It is very gratifying, and we believe it's a measure of success when we go from a company of last resort to a company of first resort."

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