Supercharging sample preparation
One of the most crucial steps in a molecular workflow is the sample preparation. Take DNA sequencing, for example. Without a high quality purified sample, the sequencing reaction simply won’t work properly. Consequently there is a lot of work being done to boost the reproducibility of sample preparation, while simultaneously making the process as accessible as possible for anyone in the scientific communities.
To find out more about producing high quality samples, we spoke to Product Manager Merja Mehto from Thermo Fisher Scientific™. Thermo Fisher products are used by many laboratories around the world, supplying everything from consumables and reagents through to more complex equipment and instruments. Merja talked us through the process for sample purification, and gave us a look into the world of the Thermo Scientific™ KingFisher™ sample purification system
Many of our audience will be very familiar with Thermo Fisher Scientific, but may not be so familiar with KingFisher. Could you give us an overview of KingFisher and where you guys fit into the Thermo Fisher universe?
MM: KingFisher instruments help customers to minimise hands-on time in the sample purification process. This includes nucleic acid purification – both DNA and RNA – and also proteins. The technology behind the instruments is very unique. It uses magnetic rods to move magnetic particles through the purification phase, so it moves beads instead of liquids. Purification steps are automated in the workflow and hands on time is minimised. The process yields very high quality end product, whether it’s nucleic acid or protein.
There are different models of the KingFisher instruments available, depending on the throughput need. So if a customer has a high number of samples, they can select KingFisher Flex, which can run up to 96 samples at a time. There are alternative instrument models for lower quantities of sample.
The KingFisher system also provides flexibility for users, so they are able to use the instrument for different starting materials. For example, they may originally use it for tissue samples, but they could also utilise blood, bacteria, and basically all the materials they need for their work. They are able to scale the purification process up and down depending on the sample amount they need. The flexibility of the platform allows them to work with a range of materials, and provides a lot of alternatives for the user.
KingFisher systems sit within the molecular biology workflow products of Thermo Fisher; the system uses Applied Biosystems and Invitrogen reagents for DNA and protein work.
Effective sample preparation is a critical component of many scientific processes, including DNA sequencing. How are your end users applying KingFisher products to their research?
MM: KingFisher is always used in the beginning of a workflow, and it produces very high quality DNA, RNA and proteins. This level of quality is required for all downstream applications like sequencing and qPCR, and helps ensure that the customers’ downstream application will be successful. Customers know that when the sample purification process produces high quality, they can have confidence to go on with their work with minimal time spent on retrials.
What are the key benefits of the KingFisher technology, and in particular the KingFisher Flex system?
MM: The key benefit is the high quality end product. And it is also a benefit that customers can minimise the hands on time needed in their sample preparation. The system is designed to be very easy to get started with, so users can easily figure out how it operates. Everyone is able to use it, with no need for a dedicated operator.
There are also ready-made solutions available for users, which includes instrument protocols and recommended reagents for different starting materials, if they just want to get started with their sample quickly.. The platform also allows flexibility for the users, allowing them to customise their work and use their own protocols and applications if they wish.
Automation of course brings time savings, enabling users to have an end-product ready in 30-40 minutes depending on the application. This allows users to purify hundreds or even thousands of samples a day, depending on the model they’re using. The KingFisher Flex provides the highest throughput for the user, and allows them to purify 96 samples per run. There is also an alternative for customers requiring higher volume, allowing them to increase their working volume up to 5ml. This may be important with some applications, for example those where blood is the starting material. The system allows users to scale their processes up and down according to need.
What are likely to be some of the key challenges for KingFisher going forward, and what can be done to address them?
MM: In the future an area where we would really like to provide solutions for our customers is in high level automation. We want to provide more tailored solutions for their needs, and take into account things like the space savings that they require in the laboratory.
Additionally we are seeing increased interest in protein applications, so definitely this is an area where we want to support our customers more, offer more solutions and give ready-made suggestions for reagents and protocols. This includes key applications like immunoprecipitation and antibody purification.
Thank you for your time! Is there anything else that you would like to share with our audience?
MM: I’d like to mention that ThermoFisher Scientific want to continue to develop sample preparation solutions further, so that we are able to continue to provide efficient solutions for our customers in the future.