Application Note

Disrupting the liquid dispensing landscape: dragonfly® discovery from SPT Labtech


s early drug discovery shifts away from traditional HTS in favour of more disease-relevant screens that

are inherently complex, varied and highly miniaturised, the shortcomings of com- monly-used liquid dispensers have become more apparent In response to this ‘data integrity over

speed’ shift, SPT Labtech began developing a new innovative positive displacement solu- tion to circumvent the reliability and accura- cy limitations of legacy technologies. Its vision was to deliver a flexible, agile dis- penser that addresses the challenges of novel assay development without being mind- blowingly difficult to operate. It should deliver robust data from miniaturised assays and facilitate the seamless transition of assays between disciplines (from assay development into HTS or Hit to Lead Optimisation), in order to eliminate work- flow bottlenecks and reduce drug discovery timescales. Their vision is now a reality. dragonfly® discovery is a low-volume,

positive-displacement, non-contact dis- penser. Positive displacement enables highly reliable and accurate dispensing across a broad dynamic range (200nL-4mL), irre- spective of liquid viscosity or surface tension,

using the same software settings. As such, it delivers the flexibility to address and minia- turise a wide range of phenotypic, biochemi- cal and functional genomics applications. It ensures accessibility for all (not just robotic programming experts) and there is nothing to wash, maintain, check or calibrate prior to a run for walk-up convenience. During its development, the reagent han-

dling requirements of more physiological- ly-relevant screening approaches were care- fully considered. Their reagents can be lim- ited in supply, temperature or sheer force sensitive. Dispense reagents for low throughput experiments (<5 plate), are therefore, supplied from single use liquid reservoirs with dead volumes as low as 30µL. Temperature sensitive reagents may be kept cold prior to dispensing using a new Reservoir Cooling Block. For higher throughput screens, new

Auto-feed Reservoir Modules (AFR) pro- vide bulk reagent additions. Here, reagent source containers can be kept dark, warm, cold, shaken or stirred. The most enabling AFR application is undeniably cell dispens-

ing. The dragonfly discovery alleviates the cell health, uneven cell distribution and large dead volume concerns that surround the use of peristaltic dispensers, making it possible to dispense specialised, or fragile cells using an automated approach. The instrument is available in three con-

figurations that differ by the number of dis- pense heads (3, 6, 10) or channels. Channels can be combined for fast bulk reagent dispensing, or used independently to dispense any volume of any liquid class into any well at any time. The 10-head dragonfly discovery has

been readily adopted by assay development groups optimising assay, media or reaction conditions

in multifactorial assays.

Recently, a collaboration between SPT Labtech and Synthace saw the integration of dragonfly with Antha software. This powerful integrated solution for automated Design of Experiments execution and data aggregation provides significant time, tip and reagent savings. SPT Labtech and Biosero (workflow

automation software) also collaborated, cou- pling dragonfly discovery with a fast plate stacker to deliver a standalone screening or plating system for small batches of plates. Sitting between manually-fed workflows and the complexities of a fully-integrated robotic workstation, this solution overcomes a gen- eral dispensing bottleneck within assay vali- dation and Hit to Lead Optimisation. With 6- and 3-head configurations now

available, the cross discipline spread of dragonfly discovery from assay develop- ment

into HTS and Hit to Lead

Optimisation has begun in earnest. This step also marks the completion of SPT Labtech’s vision to develop an industry- enabling dispense technology that delivers high integrity data, the ability to readily switch from one complex assay type to another and seamless transfer assays between one discipline and another. Visit for more information.

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