The Importance of Automated Solutions for Laboratory Experiments
The Bio-Techne family of brands provides a range of solutions to life science and clinical diagnostics researchers that aim to help them to achieve reproducible and consistent results.
Technology Networks recently spoke with Jean-François Bellec, ProteinSimple applications scientist, to learn about Bio-Techne’s history and how its solutions enable researchers to work efficiently and ensure accuracy in their experiments. In this interview, Jean-François also highlights how the company’s offerings have supported researchers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Molly Campbell (MC): For our readers that may be unfamiliar with Bio-Techne, can you touch on the company's 30-year history in offering solutions for quality and innovation?
Jean-François Bellec (JB): Bio-Techne was born out of innovation. It is part of our DNA and one of our four core values (alongside collaboration, empowerment, and passion). R&D Systems, our longest-standing flagship brand, was created more than 40 years ago and was the first company in the world to commercially produce TGF-beta 1 back in the 80s. Such longevity is remarkable in our lightning-fast-paced industry and can only be achieved by constantly inventing new technologies, manufacturing new products, and developing new services. All the companies that have joined the Bio-Techne family over the years and become brands of their own have this in common. They all offer unique, ground-breaking solutions that benefit the world of science and help researchers to push the boundaries of knowledge. It is not a coincidence that most of these brands were founded close to some of the most prestigious universities (Stanford, Oxford, University of Minnesota, to name a few), places where new ideas can emerge from the exchange of knowledge and skills. We needed it 40 years ago and we still need it today to fuel our desire to innovate, because humans’ thirst for discovery will never be quenched.
MC: Now more than ever, it is important that scientists can work efficiently and ensure accuracy in their experiments, avoiding unnecessary repeats. How are Bio-Techne supporting researchers here?
JB: This is the challenge of the coming decade. Reliability, consistency, robustness: these words are on everybody’s lips nowadays. Beyond the obvious time and money-saving aspects, it is also the credibility of the data produced that is at stake. The science is moving faster than ever, and it is critical that the foundations on which we base new research are solid. One of the ways Bio-Techne answers this need is by developing fully-automated systems through our ProteinSimple brand. By providing cutting-edge tools that require minimal hands-on work, we remove many of the biases that might hinder researchers’ efforts to produce accurate and replicable data. We believe this is the direction science should go in and that’s why we are putting all our efforts into these new technologies.
MC: Can you discuss some of Bio-Techne's offerings that have proven particularly valuable to customers in 2020?
JB: Our next-generation ELISA platform ‘Ella’ – one of the automated systems I mentioned – has proved pivotal in the fight against COVID-19. By providing data in less than 90 minutes, researchers are able to generate real-time results to better understand immunologic responses to COVID-19 and determine biomarkers that may indicate the response is turning deadly. Many clinical researchers at the forefront of COVID-19 research in the early days of the pandemic quickly adopted this technology and made invaluable contributions to the scientific community and ultimately to patients around the world. Another example of how innovative technologies can become game changers in critical times is our RNAscope™ developed by our ACD brand. The unparalleled sensitivity and specificity of this in situ hybridization technology allows direct visualization of the virus and estimates the viral load in any tissue and cells with morphological context.
MC: At this current time, how important are automated solutions for laboratory experiments? How are Bio-Techne enabling access to such solutions?
JB: As the race towards a COVID-19 vaccine has reminded us, science is also about timing. Researchers strive for solutions that can provide quicker results without compromising on the quality of the data. This year, the restrictions brought by the pandemic also made it more difficult for them to access the lab and teams were reduced to the bare minimum, increasing the need for technologies that require minimal hands-on work. Automation is the obvious answer, and at Bio-Techne we have the technologies to satisfy these needs: automated western blotting with Simple Western, automated ELISA with Simple Plex (Ella), automated protein profiling with Maurice. These platforms not only greatly reduce the time spent at the bench, they also greatly improve the quality of the data generated. People who try it don’t go back.
MC: Can you expand on how Bio-Techne are helping scientists in their ability to analyze data from home in the current situation?
JB: Unlike traditional methods, all these systems produce data that can be automatically stored and analyzed using our proprietary software, making it very easy for our customers to carry on their research or development work from home. Likewise, the transition was very smooth for us from a support perspective. Using all the communication tools available to us, we can provide real-time assistance, tips, and training.
MC: How will Bio-Techne continue to support researchers as they navigate the unknowns of the COVID-19 situation?
JB: We will keep innovating. It is what we do, it is what we’ve always done. We have released 50 SARS-CoV-2-related proteins and as many antibodies since the start of the outbreak. We have a new SARS-CoV-2 Multi-Antigen Serology kit for our Simple Western platform. In collaboration with Kantaro Biosciences, we have also developed one of the most accurate quantitative SARS-CoV-2 IgG Antibody kits on the market in record-breaking time. These are amazing achievements considering the conditions under which our personnel have had to work over the past 12 months. These efforts were recently recognised with a COVID-19 innovation award as part of the 2021 CiteAb Awards. This is certainly pushing us to do more, regardless of the obstacles the virus is throwing at us.
Jean-François Bellec was speaking to Molly Campbell, Science Writer for Technology Networks.