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25 Mar

Getting Practical with Real-Time PCR

Current A-level Biology syllabuses now cover processes such as PCR, genotyping, DNA sequencing and genetic manipulation. However, the study is usually theoretical only since schools are not able to carry out practical work involving such expensive precision equipment. It was therefore a great pleasure to able to visit our local comprehensive, Stokesley School, to show the Biology Sixth Form some real Biology.

Helen and Greg from IT-IS took a MyGo Pro instrument, reagents, micropipettes and centrifuges and spent an afternoon with 30 lively young scientists. All are taking A-level biology this summer, and some will be going on to study biology, genetics, medicine or veterinary science at university. With their practical assistance we carried out an experiment to ascertain the genotype of 8 samples of reference human DNA and looked at data from other types of assay which the MyGo can perform.

The students were enthusiastic and inquisitive about this relevant, real-life, real-time PCR and asked some very pertinent and searching questions. Our hope is that this collaboration might inspire some of these students to enter the fascinating world of molecular biology in the future.

Biology visit.jpg

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02 Jan

3D printing

3D Printing has received a lot of press in recent months, and rightly so. The concept of being able to imagine an object, draw it, and have a machine produce it for you while you watch is an exciting one for any creative, let alone engineers. We’ve been excitedly watching the technology develop for many years now, but it has only now reached the point where we feel the ‘bang’ for our ‘buck’ is worthwhile.

Our new machine is an Objet Connex 350 as used by companies like Aston Martin and LEGO. It allows us to print items as large as a pile of laptops, in materials with a range of properties from clear, black, white, strong, rubber-like and temperature resistant to name but a few. What’s more, it can combine two of them into any part. A part can be printed in a hard black material, with optically clear sections, or soft parts to absorb shock. Interlocking and moving parts can be printed, allowing for fully assembled parts as varied as gearboxes, adjustable spanners and bicycle chains.

The real advantage to an R&D company like us is the turnaround time. A part can be conceptualised, drawn and printed within a matter of hours, rather than days to weeks. The cost is tens to hundreds of pounds per part, not thousands to tens of thousands. That means that we can now take most ideas from concept to working prototype in about 25% of the time and 10% of the cost it previously did using external machine shops etc.

There are some obvious drawbacks to the process – some of the materials have limits for some applications, in terms of strength, heat tolerance etc. which can’t match that of metals. The dimensional accuracy of parts produced with the technology is now really high and our machine can print at a resolution similar to the width of a human hair. The really exciting developments are in the materials which can be printed. Every few months new materials are released, which are stronger, have better finishes, different colours, and all sorts of new properties. Metal 3D printers now exist, and people around the world are working on new materials and applications.

Many great discoveries over the years have been made when an advanced technology became accessible to the masses. We’re already making developments in leaps and bounds thanks to our new toy engineering equipment, but we’re also really excited to see what else the rest of the world comes up with as the technology reaches more and more people around the world.

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10 Nov

TATAA Biocenter

I was very lucky to have been asked to visit Sweden to further develop my qPCR skills. One of the perks of being a scientist is visiting new labs, that are undertaking exciting research with state of the art instrumentation. It’s interesting to see scientists use the machines we make in a research lab environment. I learnt a great deal about what the end user wants in a machine and how this can make a high throughput research lab more effective.

Returning back to a routine of lectures for a week was very refreshing and was long enough to cover most of the techniques that I practice on a daily basis in the lab. The course was flexible giving us freedom to choose the modules we wished to attend, which was useful given the various capabilities within the group. With different experiences came varying ages and nationalities, which gave me the opportunity to meet scientists from Russian microbiologists to Swedish Honey Bee pathologists, not including the specialists at TATAA Biocenter.

The first few days covered focussed on the basic principles of PCR, reagents used, and a selection of different detection chemistries. We looked at different assays and the best way to validate them using known qPCR techniques. Then the importance of conducting them the correct way with reference to the MIQE guidelines. An absolute quantification reaction was a nice way to start off the lab sessions. We generated standard curves from a dilution series of a known sample to help us determine the concentration of our unknown sample. To follow we performed a relative quantification reaction. Here samples are only quantified relative to one another and standard curves only assess efficiency of the assay. Then we applied qPCR to determine the effect of an anti-cancer drug on mice that were showing signs of angiogenesis. Specifically, we looked at genes from mice samples that were crucial in the development of cancers and reference genes that were not.

One of the more relevant topics to our current lab work was genotyping with qPCR. We looked into the different methods covering high resolution melting, endpoint genotyping, allele specific PCR, asymmetric PCR and digital PCR. A number of these methods demand excellent performance from PCR instrumentation which clearly separates the good machines from the bad. Creating working assays for various genotyping methods is a useful way of showing what your PCR machine is capable of, so this added knowledge will be very useful back home.

Gothenburg is definitely a beautiful city and when I wasn’t working, the friends I made were more than willing to show me around. We went to visit the Southern Archipelagos and took a ferry from Stampen which visited all the islands, each with their own quirky personality. Travel seemed much simpler in Gothenburg despite its size, both the trams and ferries gave a very personal and domestic feel about travelling locally within the city. One of our many stops included the Botanical Gardens, an idyllic distraction from any hectic city. It was here that I discovered the Swedish love for salted liquorice! Other delicacies I tried was a bacon dumpling called Haluski Kapusta and a fruit sponge called Bublanina when I was invited to a Czech dinner party.

Apart from rubbing shoulders with leading qPCR practitioners from around the globe, one of the highlights of my trip was visiting Andra långgatan, the bohemian part of town. It was littered with vintage clothes and record shops, crowded pubs, quirky cafes, the muffled sound of alternative music and a slight hint of incense, leaking from doors ajar. With a bottle of Newcastle Brown I felt very much at home and can’t wait to go back!

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27 Jun

LightCycler Nano launches

IT-IS Life Science are proud to announce that the preview of our internally developed instrument created such an impression with its outstanding specification and low price point that Roche Applied Science have entered an exclusive OEM license agreement with us for the instrument.
This is their press release:
With “Size: Reduced. Fun: Amplified.”, Roche Applied Science (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX:
RHHBY) launched its new real-time PCR system on June 27th, 2011. The small, silent, sleek LightCycler Nano Instrument supports state-of-the-art technology for fast PCR protocols featuring leading edge thermal resolution and reproducibility. This powerful newcomer to the LightCycler family offers plenty of options in an incredibly small platform.
As reported earlier, the LightCycler Nano Real-Time PCR System is the product of an exclusive OEM agreement with IT-IS Life Sciences Ltd (UK and Ireland), using proprietary Roche dyes and reagents for precise and reproducible DNA amplification and melting curve analysis. Complete spectral information is provided for a broad range of dyes, supporting all state-of-the art assay formats and real-time PCR applications.
With the LightCycler Nano System, Roche Applied Science has created something special. Intuitive in design and capable of being used with or without a personal computer, researchers will have more fun acquiring cutting-edge results! The LightCycler Nano System can be used in networks, and does not require a dedicated computer. Either a preferred Mac, PC, or Linux Operating System, or simply a USB stick can be used to start a run.
Gerd Haberhausen, Life Cycle Leader qPCR and Nucleic Acid Preparation at Roche Applied Science, reported that “Like all LightCycler Real-Time PCR Instruments, the LightCycler Nano Real-Time PCR Instrument produces high quality qPCR, genotyping and high resolution melting data using easy-fit reagents, reaction vessels and instrumentation.” He adds: “The LightCycler Nano Real-Time PCR System was built to enjoy in every lab, on every bench. Serious PCR and fun!”

Roche announce the worldwide launch of the Roche LightCycler Nano under licence from IT-IS in the following press release:

With “Size: Reduced. Fun: Amplified.”, Roche Applied Science (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) launched its new real-time PCR system on June 27th, 2011. The small, silent, sleek LightCycler Nano Instrument supports state-of-the-art technology for fast PCR protocols featuring leading edge thermal resolution and reproducibility. This powerful newcomer to the LightCycler family offers plenty of options in an incredibly small platform.

As reported earlier, the LightCycler Nano Real-Time PCR System is the product of an exclusive OEM agreement with IT-IS Life Sciences Ltd (UK and Ireland), using proprietary Roche dyes and reagents for precise and reproducible DNA amplification and melting curve analysis. Complete spectral information is provided for a broad range of dyes, supporting all state-of-the art assay formats and real-time PCR applications.

With the LightCycler Nano System, Roche Applied Science has created something special. Intuitive in design and capable of being used with or without a personal computer, researchers will have more fun acquiring cutting-edge results! The LightCycler Nano System can be used in networks, and does not require a dedicated computer. Either a preferred Mac, PC, or Linux Operating System, or simply a USB stick can be used to start a run.

Gerd Haberhausen, Life Cycle Leader qPCR and Nucleic Acid Preparation at Roche Applied Science, reported that “Like all LightCycler Real-Time PCR Instruments, the LightCycler Nano Real-Time PCR Instrument produces high quality qPCR, genotyping and high resolution melting data using easy-fit reagents, reaction vessels and instrumentation.” He adds: “The LightCycler Nano Real-Time PCR System was built to enjoy in every lab, on every bench. Serious PCR and fun!”

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06 Apr

MyGo previews at qPCR Vienna 2010

IT-IS Life Science is previewing their new MyGo instrument at qPCR Vienna 2010. The MyGo was developed using technology licensed from IT-IS International.

The MyGo uses novel technology to offer users several benefits. Full spectrum optics with no moving parts provide reliable, flexible colour multiplexing. A high efficiency heat sink and an acoustically isolated fan make the MyGo the quietest instrument on the market. Supercapacitor technology enables the storage of electrical energy during cycling for rapid cycling and environmentally friendly low power operation. Solid silver mounts and high performance Peltier elements provide high thermal uniformity for demanding HRM applications and industry leading quantitative precision. Combined with great aesthetics and easy to use software the MyGo represents an exciting new choice for real-time PCR.

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