SBIR Phase I: Plate-scale liquid handling robotics

Period of Performance: 07/01/2016 - 12/31/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Umech Technologies
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project will a new type of liquid-handling robot. Currently, most liquid handling in biology research is carried out manually. Due to the complexity and high cost of automated systems compared with the ease-of-use and low cost of manual instruments, automation primarily benefits a few industrial, high-throughput applications. However, new ideas and discoveries typically take place on a much smaller scale, and, thus, the tremendous impact, by way of repeatable science, promised by automation is diminished. This project provides an easy-to-use tool, priced on par with manual pipettors, which may have an immediate positive impact on biology research labs worldwide. By bringing repeatable protocols and reduced complexity to the market, this project will change the way biologists approach bench-top science, improving repeatability and the rate of innovation in the life sciences. This SBIR Phase I project proposes to develop an automation platform for laboratory liquid handling based on a miniature liquid handling robot controlled by a new language to capture biological protocols. It fits like a lid on the top of a microtiter plate, and it can accompany the plate for the duration of a days-long protocol, even in the incubator, and carry out all or most of the liquid-handling steps of the protocol. In addition, the accompanying software will be designed to improve reproducibility and record-keeping in bench biology work. The goal is to maintain precision volume dispensing while minimizing cross-contamination and providing continuous monitoring and liquid management in a miniature robot. This will require a robot moving precisely in four axes while constrained to the approximate volume of a cup of coffee. The software will be designed to create a general language for capturing biology protocols. This project aims to improve laboratory standards and allow exchange of experiment designs.