By Ben Butkus
Agilent this week announced the commercial launch of the SureCycler 8800, the company's newest endpoint PCR instrument.
The new instrument, which features temperature gradient technology, is designed to be a laboratory "workhorse," according to a company official; and eliminates the need for researchers to choose between popular features often only addressed singularly by other PCR instruments on the market.
"With most competitive instruments you have to choose: if you want to go fast, you can only do small volumes," Carolyn Reifsnyder, marketing director for qPCR, PCR, and bioreagents in Agilent's Life Sciences group, told PCR Insider this week.
The SureCycler 8800 accommodates 96-well microtiter plates but features a separate interchangeable module that allows for 384-well microplates. The 96-well version allows users to run between 10 and 100 µl of reaction volume – relatively large amounts – but features ramp rates of at least 6° C/second, allowing for rapid cycling protocols.
Meantime, the 384-well block accepts between 5 and 25 µl of reaction volume and retains ramp rates of about 4° C/second, according to the company.
Another distinguishing feature of the SureCycler 8800 is its thermal gradient technology, which has a range of 30° C to 99° C with a maximum gradient spread of 30° C, "which is a little bit broader than most of our competitors," Reifsnyder said. "In doing that, we've also managed to not sacrifice uniformity for gradient functionality, and in a lot of systems, unfortunately, you do compromise on that."
Both the 96- and 384-well versions of the instrument feature temperature uniformity of plus or minus 0.4° at a temperature of 99° C, according to the company.
"If you're trying to optimize a PCR cycle … you want to do the annealing step at different temperatures," Reifsnyder explained. "Rather than run the experiment 15 or 20 times, each time with the annealing step at a different temperature, you actually set the block to do a gradient. During that [annealing] step, one side of the block heats to a certain temperature, and the other side can get up to 30 degrees hotter. You actually get a range, and in each well, it's specifically that temperature."
The new cycler also features a touch-screen interface and PCR Wizard software, which makes the instrument "intuitive and easy," Reifsnyder said.
"It's accessible from any mobile device," she added. "You can actually log in to your cycler remotely, or string six instruments together and control them from one. And the PCR wizard … will help you choose your enzyme, upload your primers from the USB drive, and do all your temperature conversions for you. It really is just plug and play."
The SureCycler 8800 replaces the company's Stratagene Gradient Cycler, née Robocycler, acquired along with Stratagene in 2007.
And while the two instruments share the core thermal gradient technology, the SureCycler 8800 was designed "100 percent by Agilent from the ground up," Reifsnyder said.
"We had [the previous instrument] for a couple of years, from Stratagene, and it was OK. It was a decent instrument," she said. "But we didn't want to keep reiterating what's already been done, so that's why we wanted to start from the ground up with our engineers.
"I compare it to a KitchenAid mixer," she added. "It can do everything. It can even serve as an incubator. It really is a workhorse."
Reifsnyder said the company is currently offering the SureSelect 8800 for a list price of just under $8,000 for the base instrument with a 96-well module. The company is also offering a 15 percent discount for a limited launch promotional period.
In addition, customers can obtain a second 384-well module for an additional $2,595, she said, with a 20 percent discount if purchased along with the base instrument.
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