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Estonian Genome Center

Estonian Genome Center

Automated Biobanking

The Estonian Biobank is a population-based biobank collecting biological samples from participants that represent the whole Estonian population. Manual sample delivery to research partners became more and more of a challenge in terms of overall work load, reaction times, sample integrity and process safety. The Estonian Biobank automated the entire process of sample delivery using a Hamilton processing center comprising of an automated storage system, an automated liquid handling system and several small devices, such as a centrifuge and a decapper.  

Download the Biobanking Brochure

The Application:

The biobank has collected plasma, DNA and buffy coat from 52,000 participants, including their health data. The initial workflow was a manual process where the biobank was responsible for preparing, storing and releasing the biological samples, as well as quality control for the stored and outgoing samples.

Manual Workflow:

For sample distribution, DNA is manually derived from CBS™ High Security straws and put into deep-well plates to freeze in a manual freezer at -20°C. From there, samples are delivered for research by thawing the plates containing the requested DNA samples and manually pipetting into plates for delivery. Once the DNA is fully consumed or outdated, new DNA is retrieved from liquid nitrogen storage for further sample release.

Challenges with the Manual Workflow:

  • Great amount of effort and time
  • Questionable sample integrity
  • Potential human-errors such as sample mix up

Hamilton’s Solution:

Hamilton automated the entire DNA distribution process:

  • Samples are transitioned from plates to 2-D barcoded tubes to reduce freeze-thaw cycles and improve sample integrity
  • The automated storage system, ASM, stores up to 99,800 of the 2-D barcoded tubes and performs sample sorting at -20°C to deliver samples requested
  • A picklist is created using the LIMS database and samples are cherry-picked by the ASM and placed into delivery racks
  • Requested samples are thawed in the Server of the ASM system before transferring automatically to the Microlab® STARplus for further processing
  • Samples are transferred to the Inheco Shaker to homogenize the DNA samples for 20 sec at 750 rpm
  • Samples are centrifuged on the Sias Ixion Centrifuge for 20 sec at 1000 rpm to spin the liquid down from the cap and walls of the tube
  • Tubes are decapped by the Hamilton DeCapper and then pipetted into aliquots with volumes between 5 and 50 µl on the STARplus
  • Source rack samples are re-capped with the original caps and transferred back to the ASM for storage
  • The newly generated 96-well plates are sealed using the Thermo ALPS 3000 Heat Sealer and parked on the deck of the STARplus
  • The sealed plates are unloaded manually for further processing
  • The STARplus also prepares sample dilutions and aliquots for PCR plates
  • ASM
  • Microlab STARplus
  • Hamilton DeCapper
  • Inheco Shaker
  • Sias Ixion Centrifuge
  • Thermo ALPS 3000 Heat Sealer
  • Fully automated process of DNA sample delivery
  • Automated cherry-picking at -20°C guarantees that only the requested samples will be thawed instead of thawing all the samples contained in the plate
  • Reduces the number of freeze-thaw cycles the samples go through
  • Minimizes the time spent at room temperature
  • Reduces the amount of hands-on work
  • Risk of cross-contamination and sample mix up is eliminated
  • Easily expand in the future as the ASM system is modular