Ziath reports on how its ultra-fast 2D barcode rack scanners are helping the leading COVID-19 testing lab, SummerBio LLC (Menlo Park, California, USA), to provide fast, low-cost, high-volume testing solutions for educational institutions, employers, and labs.
SummerBio was designed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, to combat expense and slow turnaround times for existing PCR tests. The company was founded by a group of life science automation industry veterans with decades of experience building and operating large-scale laboratory robots. SummerBio’s investment in automating the RT-PCR testing process allowed them to become one of the top COVID-19 testing labs in California in less than a year.
“Through smart use of automation, we’ve reduced the cost per test to less than $10”
Dave Scheinman, President of SummerBio, said: “At the start of the pandemic everyone was scared – do I have it? Do you have it? We felt that if we could provide people with the information they needed to quickly know what their COVID-19 infection status was, they could make informed decisions. COVID-19 test to make it suitable for surveillance testing. To date, SummerBio has processed over 7 million tests during the pandemic, including a peak of 1,000,000 per day in August 2021. Through clever use of automation, we’ve reduced the cost per test to less than $10.”
Their robotic liquid handling cells use a bespoke 2mL cryotube, developed in Korea, housed in boxes of 100 that allow very high levels of automation to process these high-speed racks. Key to this automation are four Ziath Cube 2D barcode rack readers that can image a full rack of 100 tubes and read all barcodes in just over a second.. This means SummerBio can quickly and reliably track every box of COVID-19 patient sample tubes through the testing process. For the RT-PCR step, licensed from Columbia University, samples are decanted by robot into 96-position tube racks compatible with the 96-well PCR plates used in the final analysis. Here, a set of Ziath Mirage readers are used to control the flow of racks through the workstations. Any positive samples identified by PCR can then be removed from the 96-well racks using a pair of Ziath Mohawk tube selectors to make tube selection easier and faster. By pooling positive samples in a daughter rack, confirmatory PCR can be run if needed. Advantageously, the Ziath Mirage can again be used to prepare picklists and confirm which tubes are in the retest racks.