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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 27, 2011

Liquid Handling

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Posted by Derek

While mentioning lab equipment, I thought I'd also note that I've been contacted by a fellow who's trying to interest people in a newly invented high-throughput low-footprint liquid handler device that he's prototyped. Haven't seen it in action, don't know him personally, but he's out in the Bay area for the next few days, and can be reached at carlcrott-at-gmail-dot-com, if you're in the market for that sort of thing. I figure in this business environment, people can use a break. . .

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: General Scientific News


1. Morten G on October 27, 2011 2:43 PM writes...

I love liquid handlers! I'm not in the US though...

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2. Quintus on October 27, 2011 2:47 PM writes...

Unfortunately the Oktoberfest is finished for this year

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3. JB on October 27, 2011 2:57 PM writes...

I'm in the market for a 1536 cell dispenser that can also do bead suspensions.

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4. JC on October 27, 2011 3:01 PM writes...

We used to fire up the ol' Gilsons whenever investors would come through. Worked wonders for impressing people1. Not so much for making compounds of interest tho.

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5. Anonymous on October 28, 2011 4:27 AM writes...

Unfortunately, in my carreer, I am the liquid handler. This guy realizes this, and his vision is to automate my protocol. From his blog:

The evolution of the biology lab:
- entirely automated
- no human interaction with physical equipment
- run from a UI or an API
- remove human error through compiling / error checking before running a protocol

Think of it in terms of a computer: to interact with it, and use it to some ends.. you don’t need to be working INSIDE of it. Humans in a lab only create errors.

The above information I see as being clear, if you have some say on how I might be wrong, please voice it.

However, my primary assertion is this:

The evolution of the most powerful systems in biological research ( and thus the individuals who do the most damage ) will abstract scientific protocols to a programming language.

Yes, scientists today like pretty interfaces ( they don’t want to have to think… and this is a self-detrimental post coming from a designer ). However when you factor in the complex nature of biological research and the need for multiplexing. Why do we have 96 well microplates, which now are being replaced with 384 or even 1536 well plates?


The systems as they are engineered today exist to make small steps towards automation, and slowly automate the research process. The moment we have a system capable of cross-automating all of the biological research done in a lab…

The very best biologists will be programmers.

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6. Anonymous on October 29, 2011 12:18 AM writes...

@2 FLOMAX + Beer ... now that's liquid handling!!!

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7. carl on October 29, 2011 1:17 AM writes...

I'm glad my thoughts on automation are supported here

Morten G ... If you're interested all you need to do it download the files.

JB ... email me and I'd love to talk!

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8. Anonymous on October 30, 2011 8:35 AM writes...

Many automated systems for the biology lab are bad at making decisions. I am not even talking about artificial intelligence: Just the basic logic of doing one thing when a test is positive, and another if the test is negative. No technical difficulty, but because biologists are non-programmers, these things are being designed for non-programmers, and that greatly reduces their flexibility.

I was in a debate with the director of an automated screening at a major pharma once. He told me his systems worked because he had a programmer, and that this guy was absolutely essential to his team. Unfortunately he was also convinced, in this era of "cost-cutting" and "rationalization", that his management would not allow him to retain this programmer.

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9. Jeremy on January 25, 2012 12:20 PM writes...

I've been looking for viable liquid handling solutions for a long time now! This forum discussion certainly helps! Thanks!

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