Data Analysis and Informatics
Progress in 3D printing technology and the evolution of open source hardware/software tools over the past decade have made the development of custom automation much more accessible for laboratory staff. These efforts have democratized access to many tools and technologies which were previously the exclusive domain of engineering and fabrication firms. In addition to cost reductions due to open source efforts, many domain experts have produced voluminous amounts of free quality training and documentation which further improves the accessibility of these tools and technologies to end users with little to no formal education in related fields. The result of these efforts can be seen with the fabrication of adaptive/customized technologies that have leveraged 3D printers, microcontrollers, electronics fabrication design tools and the explosion of open source software.
The Lead Identification team at Scripps Florida has leveraged many of these open source tools to deploy a variety of custom in-house platforms which increase productivity, further automate quality control tasks and enable novel HTS workflows. These platforms include a pipetting light guide which makes use of custom 96 and 384 well LED matrices which match the SBS footprint of microtiter plates and were designed using the KiCad suite of open source electronic design automation tools, then fabricated using the OSH Park printed circuit board production service. These custom LED matrices, when coupled with an Arduino microcontroller, provide users with guided step-by-step, well-by-well pipetting indicators to eliminate errors, assist with new employee training and increase productivity when laboratory automation cannot be used.
Other platforms developed by the Lead Identification team include an Arduino and Raspberry Pi based real-time liquid dispenser QC system which has been fully integrated into the Scripps uHTS platform, custom 3D printed magnetic incubator shelving for HTS spheroid projects and an automated platform for the QC of compound plates. These custom designed in-house platforms have positively impacted screening and compound management operations by reducing staff workload for QC processes, replaced manual spheroid screening processes with automated routines and improve quality assurance in compound management operations via tens of millions of compound wells which have been imaged and verified against the Scripps corporate LIMS. The advantages of developing in-house automation using open-source tools and lessons learned over a decade of doing so are presented.