Shifting from manual to automatic

Roche, PSS unite to develop fully automated emulsion PCR instrument

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MATSUDO, Japan—In pursuit of streamlining sample prepworkflows, Roche and Precision System Science Co. Ltd. (PSS) have signed anexclusive agreement for the development and manufacture of a fully automatedemulsion PCR instrument for Roche's portfolio of next-generation sequencingplatforms. The instrument will support Roche's GS Junior and GS FLX+ systems inaddition to its next-generation sequencing platform currently in development.No details were disclosed as to the financial terms of the deal.
"This partnership aims to address one of the key needs ofsequencing customers. The automated solution will not only improve theefficiency of laboratory workflows, but also increase the reproducibility ofresults by eliminating manual workload," said Dan Zabrowski, head of RocheApplied Science, in a press release. "This development program has made greatprogress over the last year, and we are looking forward to working with PSSbecause they offer outstanding expertise and have a strong track record indeveloping fully automated solutions."
According to Thomas Schinecker, head of Roche SequencingSolutions, this agreement builds on a "long-term reciprocal relationship"between the two companies, who began collaborating on automated DNA extraction15 years ago. Roche and PSS successfully developed and marketed nucleic acidpurification products as a result of that agreement. In addition, Schineckernotes, "PSS has developed Roche's MagNA Pure LC 2.0 System and MagNA PureCompact System, which are flexible nucleic acid isolation and purificationplatforms that utilize the PSS proven 'Magtration technology.'"
"PSS has been very instrumental in establishing themselvesas experts in a niche market of new automation system concepts," saysSchinecker. "PSS manufactures systems that automate sample preparation processbefore gene, protein or immunological analysis—such as fully automated DNAextractor, mainly based on the PSS' patented 'Magtration technology'—and itsupplies those systems/instruments to worldwide markets. In addition, PSS alsoproduces the reagents and the plastic consumables used in these automatedsystems."
At present, manual upfront preparation of genomic samples istime-consuming and complicated, but the new instrument will serve to automatethe entire emulsion PCR process. By streamlining the workflow, the hands-ontime required will drop from several hours to only a few minutes.
Hideki Tanaka, general manager of Investor Relations and the President's Office at PSS, notes that it is important that PCR and next-generation sequencing continue to improve, as the technologies contribute "very much for early drug discovery or tailor-made diagnostic in the gene-related field by improving the quality and quantity for sequencing." Tanaka says the system improvement is expected to have particular impact in areas such as pharmacogenomics study or companion diagnostics for cancer.
In addition to the instrument itself, PSS will also bedeveloping and manufacturing the accompanying consumables, vessels and tips.The product will enable communication with a laboratory network or LIMS "todownload sample input data directly into the Automation Instrument and uploadsubsequent run information," says Schinecker, and will have features such as atouch screen, integrated PC, solid/liquid waste management system and RFIDreaders for identification of reagents and consumables. Roche will oversee thedevelopment process and provide PSS with feedback.
The instrument, says Schinecker, will fully automate theentirety of the emulsion PCR process, including emulsion generation,amplification, emulsion breaking, bead enrichment and "the annealing of thesequencing primers on a PSS-developed liquid-handling robot." By eliminatingthe manual workload, reproducibility of results will increase as the chance forhuman error or variation decreases.
"To obtain ready-to-sequence DNA beads with copies ofclonally amplified DNA, users will only have to place reagents such as capturebeads and primers along with the prepared DNA library and select the desiredplatform," he explains.
"We are delighted that PSS and Roche are expanding theirlong-standing relationship in automated DNA extraction to the challenging fieldof DNA sequencing," Hideji Tajima, president of PSS, said in a statement."Preparing samples for sequencing is a complex, high-skill process thatcontinues to hamper broader use of the technology. We believe that together,PSS and Roche will be able to develop an automated instrument that helpsovercome this obstacle and promote greater use of advanced sequencing systems."

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