Application Note

Automating high-throughput flow cytometry with the ZE5 Cell Analyzer


istorically, conventional flow cytometers were the bottlenecks in drug screening because they

were limited to few parameters, large sam- ple volumes and slow sampling speed. Today, the ZE5 Cell Analyzer, with its inte- grated sample loader and up to five lasers and 30 detectors, can analyse an entire plate of 384 samples in less than 60 min- utes. By integrating the ZE5 Cell Analyzer into an automated workcell, a drug discov- ery lab can increase throughput, reduce downtime and generate more consistent results with less manual labour. Creating an automated workcell with a

high-throughput flow cytometer may seem daunting. However, it is possible to start with a simple workcell then scale up as needs change. When planning how to auto- mate high-throughput flow cytometry (HTFC), consider the tradeoffs in cost, equipment, space and staffing. Starting with a robust scheduling software like Green Button Go Automation Scheduling Software from Biosero allows for flexibility and ease of design and operation.

Cost When setting a budget for automation and integration, keep the long term return on investment in mind. Consider how time sav- ings or increased revenue over many years

compares to the initial cost of purchasing and integrating the components. It is also vital to consider the ongoing cost of service and maintenance to the overall calculation.

Equipment The typical HTFC workcell might start with the ZE5 Cell Analyzer, a robotic arm, a barcode reader and plate hotels then grow to include incubators and liquid han- dlers as needs change. Ensuring that instru- mentation and components have agnostic APIs (application programming interface) that can be easily integrated with future components and the scheduling software means the workcell is future-proof.

Space The flexibility of modern robotics allows workcells to be built in smaller spaces with greater space efficiency. However, expand- ing the number of components even if it uses more space may mean even higher throughput and longer uninterrupted runs.

Staff/training Even for complex workcells, intuitive scheduling software can make an auto- mated system user- friendly, requiring little

is the key to making integration with exist- ing or new automation system simple and straightforward. An automation team within an organisation can write their own drivers to enable the internal scheduling software to communicate with the ZE5 Cell Analyzer.

A relatively easy way to get up and run-

ning with automated HTFC is to purchase an off-the-shelf system, such as the Ascent Automated Plate Handling System from Propel Labs, in which all of the compo- nents are optimised to work together. For a fully-customised solution that requires liq- uid handling stations, centrifuges, incuba- tors, refrigerators and plate hotels, it is important to bring in an external integra- tion service provider with robust schedul- ing software such as Biosero. Biosero offers close support and expertise during a work- cell design process, delivering optimised systems even for complex assays. The ZE5 Cell Analyzer was built for


However, training is still vital to suc- cess for an auto- mated flow cytome- try lab, so choosing an integration com- pany that provides ample training for its users is key. The ZE5 Cell soft-

Analyzer’s ware-agnostic API Drug Discovery World Winter 2019/20

high-throughput flow cytometry with a focus on speed, flexibility and automation. It can be used in a wide range of applica- tions that can benefit from high-throughput automation including antibody screening, phenotypic drug discovery and functional assays. A pharmaceutical company that integrated the ZE5 Cell Analyzer into its custom automation workcell enabled large- scale screening of up to 16 cell lines in a sin- gle sample and >30,000 assays completed per day. Visit for more information on high-throughput flow cytometry and to talk with a specialist.


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