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By Harvey Yau
I recently attended several conferences where
there was a distinct increase in the push for lab science automation
technology. Understandably, many lab scientists fear that bots will cost
them their jobs. But the reality is that since employers can benefit
significantly from automation, they’re actively looking to attract and
retain scientists who know how to effectively utilize these new
technologies in their work.
which is widely used in synthetic biology, biotechnology applications,
and drug discovery, offers several distinct advantages. It achieves
between seven and 10 times more productivity than current techniques,
eliminates human error, and prevents the loss of samples or batches of
real production. As a result, the role of the lab assistant will evolve
to include less sample preparation and instead, involve different,
higher-level tasks. In addition, lab robotics enables scientists to
maintain their workflow diligently and therefore be more productive.
Moreover, those who learn how to program workflow wizards and/or smart
jigs to control their robots will be in high demand.
high-density workflow instrumentation in benchtop automation creates a
360-degree workspace that increases sample and product capabilities. The
technology is highly flexible and offers reliable performance. This
makes it particularly beneficial for sample prep in protein and nucleic
extraction, next gen sequencing, and the quantification of genomic DNA
samples. Because benchtop automation enables continuous, accurate
repetitive processes, it’s an attractive option for many drug discovery
labs that didn’t previously adopt laboratory automation.
how to implement benchtop automation is challenging compared to most
conventional technologies. However, bioscience companies that utilize
benchtop automation agree that their scientists are 200 to 300 percent
more productive—effectively doing the work of two or three people.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean scientists will be out of a job. They’ll
simply have the opportunity to focus their efforts on other areas.
robotics and benchtop automation are unquestionably eliminating some
roles—predominantly those with repetitive tasks. However, this is
balanced by the modification of existing roles and creation of new ones.
Scientists need to learn how to work effectively with these new
technologies. For the foreseeable future, the hottest scientific skills
for lab automation will be bioassays, ELISA, MSD, IC50, EC50 and qPCR.
Keep in mind that employers want to retain talent who possess these
skillsets, so learning how to apply lab robotics and benchtop automation
is nothing short of job security.
Finally, an entire new
category of machine and system maintenance roles is being created. While
some firms will purchase service contracts, many larger labs will want
in-house technicians who can provide immediate troubleshooting and
embrace these new technologies and learn how to use them, you’re not
just supporting a faster, more efficient, and more accurate process.
You’re also helping yourself advance professionally—and by doing
so, you can continue to develop better products that help people improve
the quality of their lives.
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