Imagine a sample management facility that was fast, reliable and convenient to use and that could grow with your requirements. A system where you could have biospecimens delivered to your lab, when you wanted them and returned to storage from your own lab, i.e. no need to trek over to a central repository. Well, that system is the arktic XC and you can get it now.

Background

SPT Labtech have been moving samples around with pneumatics for almost 20 years in their comPOUND and lab2lab products. Customers are attracted to the scalability and flexibility of these solutions which can be adapted over time to meet their evolving needs. In biobanking time is a critical factor and the transport of samples is often a weak link. When the arktic was originally conceived, the ability to provide interconnectivity and remote access to biobanks via pneumatics was identified as a potential future requirement. As SPT Labtech’s install base grew, in depth interaction with customers to understand their ongoing pain points and, as a result, their portfolio development has focussed on maintaining sample quality with greater levels of access for more efficient workflow.

Why the arktic Platform is so Suitable for Sample Management

The arktic and arktic XC were designed for sample management professionals to:

  1. Free scientists from the burden of sample management by providing easy access to samples, enabling them to focus on their work and avoid spending large quantities of time looking for samples in freezers.
  2. Protect the integrity of samples – Ensures researchers are producing the highest quality data using the best quality specimens, that ultimately results in clinical outcomes in the fastest possible timeframes. This is achieved by picking only the samples you want when you want them
  3. Robust design – All robotic components are external to the freezer for improved reliability
Key features of the arktic XC sample management solution for biobanking

Decentralised Storage and Remote Access

arktic XC is the collective name for integrated arktic units with remote access options. What is different is that from one location, users can remotely access samples that are spread across several integrated arktic units that may reside in different locations. Remote access points can be used for both storage (i.e. sending samples direct from the sample processing lab) and retrieval (within a biobank suite, or even an analytical laboratory). This approach not only protects sample quality by providing a rapid route to storage, it also enables much greater convenience.

Sample management automation from remotely located biostorage modules

Sample Management Scalability – Growing with Your Needs

Additionally, customers only need to scale up when they are ready, adding additional arktic modules as and when required. The new options available in the arktic XC range are fully compatible with all predecessors, so a customer that has a single arktic can easily expand their storage capacity by adding additional arktic units and/ or remote access.

automated specimen picking using the arktic biostorage / sample management module

arktic XC System Introduction

Since its launch in Summer 2019 there has been much interest from customers looking for scalable solutions or from those interested in fully automating their workflows by providing samples directly to downstream automation. The first of these projects is now in the process of being installed and SPT Labtech expects to see growth in this area as more and more customers discover the benefits of end-to-end automation.

A Unique Solution

aktic and arktic XC is the only modular solution, where all modules can be integrated and samples accessed remotely through pneumatic transport. Most biobank solutions systems require the customer to look through a crystal ball, estimating their storage capacity needs years into the future. This can result in additional up-front purchase costs plus high operational and maintenance costs in order to support a large system that will take several years to reach capacity. In contrast, the arktic XC’s modular approach means that customers can scale up as they need to and since these compact units fit neatly into existing laboratory space. They can simply be wheeled into through standard doorways into existing laboratories, eliminating the need for costly infrastructure projects.

Implementation – Semi-Automatic to Fully Automated

Typically, the implementation of sample storage automation is just one of several changes being made within an organisation which can become overwhelming. Many customers appreciate the opportunity to stagger change over time which enables new processes and workflows to naturally evolve based on experience. For example, by implementing a single arktic unit a semi-automated workflow is introduced that enables customers to gain valuable experience before committing to enhanced levels of automation or increased capacity, all of which can be added later as, when and if required.

Workflow Benefits

The most significant benefit to users is time saving. With an arktic unit in place, manual sample picking becomes a bad memory. Users become free to get on with more important work while arktic takes care of the picking. In the longer-term, the anticipated outcome is that customers should expect to benefit from better data. More secure storage and stable temperature control should lead to improved sample quality. By using remote access to connect sample processing labs to the biobank directly and/or deliver samples from the biobank to an analytical lab, logistics workflows can become better controlled, easily documented and more efficient.

Fully Integrated sample Management Systems

The next phase for this product range will be to grow the ‘library’ of integrations with other systems, such as LIMS and automated workcells, in order to offer fully automated systems that provide seamless processing from sample selection to downstream processing and analysis. Many of these projects are under way through collaboration with customers and other automation vendors.

Summary

The flexibility, scalability and integration capabilities of arktic XC have been part of SPT Labtech’s long-term road map since arktic was first launched. To be able to offer greater levels of automation or expand the capacity of customer’s biobanks and see their excitement is great. It is also exciting to play a part in cutting edge research, such as in the fields of translational medicine and synthetic biology. SPT Labtech is genuinely proud that their technologies are helping researchers to advance human knowledge and drive innovation to improve life.