The Instrumentation Group at the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre (GSC) is unusual in having an engineering group and extensive prototyping facilities embedded in a biomedical research and clinical cancer treatment facility. The group has completed numerous pipeline-specific automation projects, and in one case, enabled the GSC to participate in a major international consortium based on our in-house technology. In-house solutions range from simple manual devices to components integrated with liquid handlers, to full robots as well as ongoing programming of the GSC’s liquid handlers. This presentation will highlight significant projects and some lessons in efficient prototyping and good software practices that have been learned.
The group’s primary role is programming the GSC’s commercial liquid handling robots, working closely with our methods development, quality assurance and production teams. This joint approach, with expert molecular biologists working in tandem with expert programmers and independent QA, has produced robust methods for a variety of sample types. In fact, we have harmonized chemistry and liquid handling protocols to the extent that nine different NGS library types (PCR-free gDNA, FFPE DNA, RNAseq, CHiP, Bisulfite Seq, (exome or other) capture samples and circulating cell free gDNA) run under one main program. This has substantial advantages but also potential pitfalls, which will be described.