These Modular Lab Systems Could Further Automate Drug Development

Modular automation from HighRes Biosolutions lets lab technicians quickly disconnect, move, and reconnect mobile carts containing robotic arms and other devices, expanding the range of experiments that can be performed at a single site.

The Benefit

One HighRes system can do the work of 20 to 30 lab techs with fewer errors, enabling faster development of drugs at lower cost, says Chief Executive Officer Peter Harris.

Innovator

Louis Guarracina, 44, co-founder and chief technology officer of HighRes Biosolutions Inc. in Beverly, Mass.

Background

Guarracina, a chemical engineer, founded HighRes in 2004 after leading lab automation at MIT, Harvard, and drugmakers including Novartis International AG.

Tasks

HighRes systems include incubators, freezers, carousels, centrifuges, robotic arms, scales, fluid handlers, and optical sensors, all linked by PC software that coordinates tests on hundreds of thousands of compounds a day.

The Verdict

Will automation replace lab techs? Steven Hamilton, director of education at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, says the already relentless pace of laboratory automation will continue, but he doesn’t see fewer lab jobs on the horizon. Instead, to keep pace with automation, “laboratory technicians need more education and more specialized education than they did in past decades.”

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