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When a member of our lab team got COVID and had to stay home, we might have had to put work on hold for a couple of weeks. Luckily, it didn’t pan out that way.
If a lab exists but you can’t get into it, does science happen? It used to be that if you wanted to work in your lab, you had to be in your lab. This isn’t the case anymore, at least not here at Synthace. When Lucia Dunajová, senior scientist in our lab team, came down with COVID, she stayed home… but was still able to continue her work in the lab.
Here’s how she did it.
Designing Experiments From Your Sofa
Two weeks ago, in preparation for two new customer deployments of our miniaturized purification protocol, Dunajová began some routine testing and calibration work with the Tecan Fluent in our lab. It’s not groundbreaking scientific research, but it’s incredibly important for our customers’ peace of mind. After a few hours building workflows and running them on the Fluent, she got the news that nobody wants to hear but is now all too common: she had to stay home and isolate.
“I'd been working on this for like a day, and then I got COVID. It was a huge pain. But then Daniel stepped in from the lab side to actually help run things and all I had to do was send him the workflows I was building, and then all he had to do was set up the plates.”
Daniel Yip, biological scientist in our lab team, has been Dunajová’s “boots on the ground” these past weeks. For Dunajová, she’s been able to build her workflows from the comfort of her own sofa. When she’s done she’d send them to Yip who’d keep one eye on the Fluent while he worked nearby. She would often remote into the PC connected to the Fluent as well, meaning Yip could spend just as much time on his own priorities as Dunajová spent on hers.
From workflow to reality - the Synthace platform working directly with the Tecan Fluent.
“I’ve Never Worked on the Fluent Before”
But is Yip an expert in using the Fluent? “I’ve never worked on the Fluent before and it’s a totally different setup to what I’m familiar with,” said Yip, who is more familiar with the Tecan Evo. “It’s a totally different UI, so I wouldn’t have been confident in it at all. But I don’t have to know it. We just use the Synthace platform; I know how that works and how I can preview the run, so I just trust it implicitly.” If anything, Yip tells me, his knowledge of the Fluent has only improved throughout this process.
Without the connectivity of Synthace to fall back on, the two would have had to try and write their own scripts from scratch. “I guess I could have done this on my virtual machine, but I’m not that good. So I would probably have struggled,” said Dunajová.
And that’s perhaps the beauty of this sort of cloud-based experimentation. No-code automation is the bread and butter of a platform like ours, one that lets scientists work remotely with their equipment, and with equipment that they’re not even that familiar with.
Not always on the sofa - a view of Dunajová's desk setup with Synthace and remote access to the Tecan terminal.
9am: “So What am I Running Today?”
How does this look, day to day? It all starts with a Slack message over a cup of coffee.
“Today Daniel just Slacks me and says, ‘What am I running today? Do you have an experiment ready?’” Dunajová’s work from the day before was already prepared and ready to run: her experiment page in the Synthace platform already contained all the new workflows she wanted to test, and notes for things she wanted Yip to watch out for. The workflows for each new day were iterations on what she’d run the day before, making small improvements and changes each time.
“It’s a lot of communication, with Daniel basically telling me what's going on. He was taking snapshots of the screen, and we do videos as well. And then he would upload all that to Google Docs,” says Dunajová.
For Yip, the hardest part is probably not having a live-streaming camera to point at the deck for Dunajová to look at. Aside from that, she’s “done all the hard work of preparing the workflows and I've really just gone up and clicked ‘run’ on the device.”
A simulated preview of the Fluent’s deck, and the miniaturized purification workflow Dunajová and Yip worked on together.
Biology From Wherever You Like
For Dunajová, her symptoms are at an end and so is her time in isolation. She’ll be back in the lab next week but, in the future, it can only make you wonder what might be possible. Designing experiments from your sofa is one thing, but designing experiments from anywhere in the world and having the confidence they’ll run in any lab, anywhere, at any time, is another thing altogether.
At Synthace, that’s just one thing we’re working towards. But sofas aren’t a bad place to start.
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