Re-Imagining the Humble Pipette Tip
They are the forgotten workhorse of laboratories across the world. A deceptively simple piece of technology that we use once, and then discard. As a bench scientist, or perhaps a laboratory clinician, be honest now: how often have you thought about how critical your pipette tips really are? Where many people see a simple piece of plastic Arta Motadel, Chief Technology Officer and Founder of Biotix, spotted an opportunity to make the fundamental process of science better.
Every biologist will have used a pipette tip, disposed of it, and possibly not given it all that much thought. But this small piece of plastic is an integral part of the work of bench scientists. What inspired you to reinvent the pipette tip, and what needed to change?
As an engineer, I am always striving for greater efficiency. Our team develops technologies around 5 core principles. They are written on our breakroom wall: Save time, waste less, precision & accuracy, safety, and passion. Every time we need to solve for something and create or alter a product, we ask, “Will it improve one of these without doing harm to the other four principles?” If the answer is yes, we work with our customers to develop and test the innovative solution they are seeking. Sometimes people don’t realize there is a problem until they see the solution – once the researcher sees the technology first hand and uses one of our tips, they want to switch to Biotix.
Having pretty advanced technology built into lab plastics may be an alien concept to many people. How do improvements in pipette technology benefit researchers?
Accurate and precise liquid handling is crucial to reproducible data. Issues with pipetting errors are often cited as the cause of inconsistent data. I’d love to see that eradicated. Biotix tips have features that eliminate the formation of hanging droplets, superior aerosol and liquid barriers, features that actually improve the ergonomics of pipetting and are always low retention. I want to empower the researcher with the best tools possible to accomplish their goals.
How did Biotix get started, and who is involved, and what are you looking to achieve in the life science sector?
I was working at a larger company, but I was struggling with their philosophy. I knew we could do it differently, we could do it better. So I left and poured my life savings into my start-up, Biotix. My first customer was an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) deal with an automated liquid handling company. Together we started making tips more efficiently and more sustainably, with about 33% less plastic in the tips and packaging than the industry standard at that time. It was a crazy time; I even spent a year or so living at the manufacturing plant so I could hear if the molding machines were functioning properly at night!
I got to a point where I could hire a small team—that to this day is like family and is still part of the core at Biotix. We started growing, and gaining more OEM customers, customers who were willing to let us push innovation and try new things. Once we were up and running we did a launch of our own brand of tips, Biotix tips. I wanted to innovate where everyone else just saw another plastic consumable; to create a premium product, at a fair price. I joined forces with Pelican Life Sciences in 2008. It took a few years, but we were able to scale up processes and build a manufacturing culture around lean six sigma and sustainability. We are still committed to those same principles today.
How do you go about engaging researchers and getting them to think twice about these small but crucial elements of their research process?
This is a product you really need to experience to see the impact. We can share all the data in the world and talk about the features and benefits, but until you actually feel how easy it is to insert and eject the tip, until you don’t have a hanging droplet to wait on, that’s when people understand the value. I truly believe the more people who experience pipetting with these tips, both in the manual and automation space, the more they will actually start to expect this level of attention from all their laboratory consumables and the entire industry can grow.
Looking at genomics in particular, what is it about a Biotix pipette tip that makes it the best product for this sector?
While most tip companies offer low retention, many researchers don’t know the benefit or don’t know if their tips are natural or low retention. All Biotix tips are low retention – our proprietary resin, X-Resin® is ultra-hydrophobic ensuring even viscous and sticky samples don’t get left behind in the tip. We also have a patented feature called Blade® technology found in all Biotix tips that uses a mathematical ratio to create the perfect surface area at the distal end of the tip. This feature drastically inhibits the formation of hanging droplets, increasing precision, improving ergonomics, and saving time. And of course there is FlextFit which helps ensure the crucial secure seal required for any pipetting application. We created a flexible proximal tip end that requires less insertion forces to achieve a secure seal and less ejection forces to remove the tip ensuring improved ergonomics. The Biotix tip features work together to ensure your high value genomic samples don’t get compromised by a pipetting error.