Automation of DNA extraction and PCR

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Ivan Delgado
Ivan Delgado's picture
Automation of DNA extraction and PCR

Over the years I have communicated with companies that build automation solutions for DNA extraction and PCR. While new instruments have been introduced (Qiagen, Corbett -now Qiagen-, Eppendorf), to this day the cost of this automation is still out of the reach of the average laboratory. 
My assumption here is that if you need automation it means you are dealing with at least hundreds of samples (you want to run a few 96 wells plates on a regular basis). For that, these are your typical costs: 
1. DNA extraction robot: ~$40,000
2. Pipetting robot (setup PCR reactions): ~$30,000
While $70,000 may not be such a large amount to pay for this throughput, one of the big hurdles is that these instruments require plastic disposables that tend to be about twice as expensive, if not more, than regular disposable. Plus they are not 100% robust, so the downtime is a reality. 
So my take to this date is that instrumentation has clearly come down in price (for DNA extraction and PCR), it is affordable, but this is more than compensated by the increased cost of disposables (likely by the same companies that are trying to make money out of them), making them attractive only when required by very large numbers of samples. 

Fraser Moss
Fraser Moss's picture
I think you hit the nail

I think you hit the nail right on the head there.  I know of at least 1 machine that lies dormant on our campus because the disposables costs have become prohibitive.  And although the lab does lots of preps (although not on an industrial scale) reliability issues have meant that the job still gets done faster by a couple of technicians the old fashioned way.