Flexibility is key for automated flow cytometry workflows

By Samantha Black, PhD, ScienceBoard editor in chief

February 28, 2022 -- A tutorial titled "Handling Large Data Sets Generated by Flow Cytometry in an Automated Environment" presented by Bio-Rad at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) 2022 International Conference and Expo demonstrated the flexibility and power of the company's flow cytometry workflow, from reagents and instrumentation to automation and data analysis.

Richard Cuthbert, PhD, Bio-Rad's global commercialization product manager, flow and antibody business unit, spoke with ScienceBoard Editor in Chief Samantha Black, PhD, virtually. Bio-Rad made the decision not to have a booth at SLAS due to COVID-19 concerns. Therefore, the presenters, including Cuthbert, used SLAS' hybrid model to deliver a virtual presentation.

Beginning with reagents, Bio-Rad launched its Star Bright Dyes for flow cytometry. The dyes are much brighter, with narrower excitation-emission profiles, are easy to premix, and are very stable, according to Cuthbert. In the coming year, the company plans to release more Star Bright Dyes, in order to provide customers with a wide spectrum of dyes to build better panels.

In terms of instrumentation, Bio-Rad's ZE5 Cell Analyzer combines high-throughput and high-parameter capabilities. The equipment features five spatially separated lasers and has a flexible plate reader, Cuthbert noted. The clog-resistant design and no-wash probes make it user-friendly.

"The great thing about flow cytometry is it's such a flexible technique," Cuthbert said. "The number of applications that you can do with flow cytometry is just amazing, from very straightforward binding assays to phenotypic screening approaches. I also know that there's quite a lot of interest in using flow cytometry for cell and gene therapy."

Regarding the latter comment, Cuthbert explained that researchers can use flow cytometry to determine if a cell is activated, which is a necessary indicator used in assessing the potency of cell therapies. Furthermore, flow cytometry can be used to assess multiple outcomes simultaneously with the use of an instrument, such as Bio-Rad's ZE5 Cell Analyzer. The data produced by this instrument is also on the single-cell level, which is highly desirable in the biotech industry today.

When it comes to automation of the ZE5 and data analysis, Bio-Rad is hardware and software agnostic and can integrate with most other robotics workflows. As Cuthbert noted, partners like Applied Cytometry Systems (ACS) use Bio-Rad's ZE5 to analyze data. ACS' VenturiOne software platform, with the Commander module, speeds the entire analysis process to make it much faster and easier to integrate with other technologies. For example, flow cytometry data can be integrated with multiomics data, B-cell cytokine assays, polymerase chain reaction data, and even with single-cell RNA sequencing data.

"We're going to continue to work with different automation partners to deliver custom work cells," Cuthbert concluded. "And the other thing is we're going to continue to collaborate with Applied Cytometry Systems. I'm hoping that we will have a very close collaboration in the future."

Do you have a unique perspective on your research related to flow cytometry? Contact the editor today to learn more.

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