During this time the cells are continually cultured, taken out of the incubator, reformatted, expanded and returned to the incubator for continued growth. There is clearly a constant requirement to replenish consumables and reagents within the enclosure, which in turn increases the risk of con- tamination, resulting in the potential loss of six weeks’ work and perhaps significant clones. Any potential sources of contamination must therefore be avoided. A workcell must be safe, but also flex- ible enough to fit around a particular workflow and easy to use. Workcells maintain safety and sterility via care-

fully-designed and monitored airflows. These air- flows must be monitored with particular attention to the access doors and windows to ensure that contaminated air is prevented from being pulled fromthe systemby the lab air conditioning or being drawn through large, full-height doors. An auto- mated system should be designed with this in mind, reacting to opening of portals with continuous monitoring and adjustment of the airflow to ensure protection is maintained. An example of this would be sensor detection of door opening that automati- cally increases the downflow of air, providing pro- tection of the internal environment. Such a set-up enables an operator to access instruments inside the system without risking contamination. A key feature that delivers not only safety but flexibility is a recirculating laminar flow system

Drug DiscoveryWorld Summer 2019

(Figure 3). This draws in air from outside and recirculates it round the enclosure, passing through triple HEPA filters which provide class II protec- tion in accordance with BS EN12469-2000. The air is then normally cleansed via another HEPA fil- ter and exhausted at height – sometimes up to 2.5m up – providing additional assurance that it is not vented on to operators. The alternative to such a system would be a

ducted cabinet which is plugged into an existing air extraction system within the building. However, this can be very restricting as the automation workcell has to be sited in a particular place to have access to the infrastructure. A recirculation system is an attractive alternative as it can be sited anywhere in the laboratory as long as the ceiling is tall enough. As well as being safe and flexible it is also

worth bearing in mind that the system should be easy to operate. Good system providers will have user-friendly scheduling software with an intu- itive interface and will consider the workflow as part of the system build, ensuring easy access to instrumentation.

Protecting data and preventing bottlenecks Another, often overlooked, consideration is that of data handling. While data handling is challenging for operations of every size, the increased volume


Figure 3 Recirculating laminar flow systems maintain internal environment protection delivering safety while also allowing the workcell to be situated in any space large enough to accommodate it

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