Clearing the lysis bottleneck in forensic labs

HAMILTON Robotics reckons that a major bottleneck in today’s forensic laboratories is the manual lysis step, which is time consuming and creates a gap in workflows and traceability which opens the door to potential contamination and errors.

The company also says it has the answer to this problem, in the shape of the Microlab AutoLys Star, due out later this year (2012).

Building on its existing AutoLys Tubes and FlipTubes, Autolys Star will handle tubes through a special channel that takes them through the various steps of the sample lysis process.

Tubes will be automatically capped and decapped, with lids held while the pipetting channels add lysis buffer, and transferred to incubation. Tubes are held in a 24-position rack throughout the cycle, and 96 samples can be processed at a time in four racks of 24 tubes each.

Development of the system is taking place against a background of validation work taking place at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), which selected Hamilton Robotics through a tender process.

A forensics laboratory owned by the Dutch government, NFI performs most forensic DNA casework in the Netherlands and provides second opinions and analyses for cold cases.

“We had been doing the lysis step by hand” explains Bas de Jong, project manager of NFI’s department of human biological traces, “and our initial validation work on the AutoLys Star is producing comparable results. It is reducing error possibilities and contamination risk, and because it is automated it can run overnight, improving lab throughput.”

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