As researchers around the world begin to return to their laboratories, many after an extended time away from the lab, we are starting to understand how the practical aspects of laboratory research are changing in response to the realities of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Across many institutions and organizations new guidelines have been issued to enable lab workers to get their research done while minimizing the risks to their safety and the safety of others in the laboratory. While each lab will have their own specific regulations to follow, we have identified a number of common themes that span many laboratories across the globe.
While everyone who spends any time in the laboratory will be accustomed to wearing some level of protective equipment, the guidelines for safely working together in laboratories typically recommend an increased level of protection. This may include face coverings and shields, gloves, and disposable lab coats. As the MANTIS is easy to set up, even while wearing PPE, it is an ideal choice to incorporate into your laboratory’s workflows, and by automating these steps you can minimize the time spent at the bench. As the instrument has a very small footprint (just the size of an A4 sheet of paper), it can easily be placed into a PCR-hood or biological safety cabinet for an additional layer of protection.
Space in the laboratory is a premium, researchers will very often be working elbow-to-elbow in cramped conditions, for example in cell-culture suites. Even bench space is often restricted to just a small bay on a larger bench which needs to accommodate all of a researcher's items. In these conditions, the thought of implementing automation can be intimidating because of the space requirements. With the very small footprint of the MANTIS, it can be deployed on a bench or even on a moveable cart to ensure that it is readily available when needed and not taking up valuable space when not required. At FORMULATRIX we love visiting laboratories, learning about your work and giving hands-on demonstrations of the MANTIS. At this time though, it may not be practical to host a demonstration in your lab, even though you need to see the equipment in action. We are ready to offer online virtual demonstrations of the MANTIS where you can see the equipment and software in action from anywhere in the world.
MINIMIZING LAB TIME
Many of the guidelines recommend reducing the amount of time spent in the laboratory to a minimum, as the lab environment is identified as a higher risk situation due to the difficulties identified above. As the MANTIS enables automation of many pipetting tasks a researcher can set up an experiment and leave the lab until the work is completed. Freeing up space for others to carry out their work. Even the cleaning steps of the MANTIS are automated to further reduce the time spent at the bench. The MANTIS software can also be run in simulation mode away from the instrument itself. A researcher is able to set up an experiment anywhere that they choose, even from home. Then save the dispense list file to a networked drive or on removable media and transfer it to the instrument. This cuts down on the time spent in the lab to the absolute minimum, when the experiment can be designed remotely.
Unlike offices, R&D facilities may need workers to share workstations and equipment. If they need to be shared, they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people. The MANTIS is the ideal personal pipetting station, with a tiny footprint and intuitive software every researcher can have their own automated lab-assistant. Ready to run in just a few minutes and no need to share.
DECONTAMINATION OF EQUIPMENT
If the MANTIS is used in a multi-user environment, the cleaning steps required between users are simple and straightforward. A wipe down with 70% ethanol or a spell under the UV of a PCR hood is sufficient to ensure a sanitised system ready for the next user.
MAINTENANCE AND CALIBRATION
Returning to the laboratory after an extended time away will require equipment that has been out-of-action to be brought back into service. This can often require a lengthy calibration and maintenance procedure. The MANTIS is calibration free, the instrument can be moved between locations and shut down for extended periods without suffering any negative effects on performance, reliability or reproducibility. If you are a current MANTIS user and are returning to the lab, we can arrange a remote inspection of your equipment to ensure it is in tip-top condition.