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BMS to Open Sixth In-House Automated HTS System Next Month

BOSTON, Oct. 22 - Bristol-Myers Squibb next month will launch the sixth installment of an automated high throughput-screening system originally co-developed with CRS Robotics, a BMS scientist said today.


The small Canadian robotics shop has already helped BMS install five of these systems, which can run at least 400 array plates every 20 hours, said Benjamin Carvalho, a laboratory automation specialist at BMS.


"Automation has long been a resource for high-throughput screening at BMS," Carvalho said here today during his talk at the 20th annual International Symposium on Laboratory Automation and Robots. "However, with growing deck sizes and decreasing time lines, a new generation of more robust, supportable systems was necessary for accomplishing our high throughput-screening goals."


Before it went shopping, BMS wanted first to know how much of the automation it could do in-house. A lot, it turned out. "We had to build ourselves a new generation of screening robotics, and we figured out that we can do most of this on our own," said Carvalho.


After "debating" the cost and practicality of hiring vendors versus assembling the platform in-house, BMS found it could save as much as 20 percent off the total cost of building the system if it designed and set up most of it in-house. "Not only do we create a structure for our own need, we also create our own support staff," Carvalho said. However, Carvalho said most of money it saved building the system went to staffers who can operate and support it.


BMS knew it should not attempt home-brew robotics or software development, the latter, Carvalho said, would have meant "reinventing a very big wheel." So in early 2001, after "strongly looking" at two or three robotics companies, BMS settled on CRS and its Polara platform.


Today, about a dozen BMS researchers run five of these high-throughput systems, which are built around a four-meter robotics track and includes a pair open-air carousels, carbon-dioxide incubators, stacked multi-plate readers, a sealer, a shaker, a fridge, bar-code readers, a stacked bulk-reagent dispenser, and a 384-tip sample-transfer device, Carvalho said.


"We couldn't be happier with it," he said following his talk. "I think it worked out the way it did because we did most of it in-house, but that we got a vendor to help us outfit the robotics."

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