University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health, in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, selects HighRes Biosolutions to implement automated system for high-throughput biosurveillance

February 9, 2011

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Public Health and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), as part of their development of the High Throughput Laboratory Network (HTLN) for infectious disease surveillance, have selected HighRes Biosolutions to automate a high-throughput extraction and screening system for their prototype laboratory, the Global Bio Lab at UCLA. This breakthrough project will culminate in a novel, fully automated system to prepare and screen thousands of specimens for the presence of infectious agents. This high-throughput robotic screening system has been designed to facilitate near real-time detection of harmful bacterial and viral pathogens that are of public health interest and have the potential for rapid and widespread dissemination. The system also arrays the nucleic acid extracts for whole-genome sequencing.

The HighRes and HTLN teams will design the system, which will first be delivered to LANL where the initial analytical methods will be optimized and the system beta tested. After the system has been certified, it will be delivered and installed at UCLA. The Global Bio Lab at UCLA will use the new HighRes system both to conduct critical infectious disease screening and biosurveillance research, as well as to respond to emergent situations requiring testing of thousands of specimens per day to inform public health responses.

While influenza is but one of the infectious agents that will be studied in this unique facility, global influenza surveillance is a critical approach to combating the pandemic spread of disease. According to the World Health Organization, annual epidemics cause approximately five million cases of severe illness, with 250,000 to 500,000 cases leading to death. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year the flu causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths, with medical costs estimated at $10 billion. Scientists, programmers, and engineers from LANL and UCLA are designing high-speed and high-volume laboratory capabilities for extensive surveillance and rapid, accurate detection and analysis; potential services will include collection and storage of field and epidemiological data, sample transportation, laboratory testing, data management, and analysis. The first node of the HTLN is housed in the high-containment Global Bio Lab at UCLA.

“A project like the HTLN requires innovative approaches to laboratory automation that provide for growth and the flexibility to leverage technological advances and changing throughput requirements,” said Lee Borenstein, director of the Global Bio Lab. “The team at HighRes Biosolutions has demonstrated the creativity in design and attention to detail that meets our needs for compactness, modularity and attention to the biosafety and biosecurity concerns necessary for the long term success of our infectious disease work.”

“The HTLN project provides an opportunity to deploy high-throughput technology in a way that can impact the health of so many people,” said Tracy Erkkila, LANL project manager. “We are looking forward to working with the talented team at HighRes Biosolutions in developing this important component for the HTLN project.”

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with both LANL and UCLA on this very high-profile project” says Dr. Chris Pacheco, Director of Life Science Technologies at HighRes Biosolutions. “Our modular and flexible system designs will enable UCLA to continue to grow their biosurveillence platform as their needs change. Our robust automated systems allow any researcher to generate reproducible results and are ideal for applications such as biosurveillance. We are pleased at our continued growth on the West Coast and look forward to further developing the Global Bio Lab at UCLA.”

About HighRes Biosolutions

HighRes Biosolutions, Inc. is the leader in the design and construction of innovative robotic systems and laboratory devices used by pharmaceutical, biotech, and academic research laboratories. HighRes accelerates drug discovery, high throughput genotyping, siRNA screening, next-generation sequencing sample prep, biorepository science and molecular diagnostics with highly flexible, expandable and modular integrated systems, bench-top devices and consumables that are easily configured (and reconfigured) to create research environments conducive to achieving breakthrough results.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

About the UCLA School of Public Health

The UCLA School of Public Health is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals, translating research into policy and practice, and serving local, national and international communities. For more information, see www.ph.ucla.edu