🎤 Interview: Audrey Picy and Sébastien Issindou from Evotec are talking about Liquid Handling qualification processes!
Today, for our first interview we welcome Audrey Picy (AP) and Sébastien Issindou (SI) from Evotec.
This interview will focus on the liquid handling qualification processes occurring at Evotec Compound Management department in Toulouse (France).
Audrey, Sébastien, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. First, can you introduce yourself and speak a bit about your daily activities at Evotec?
(AP) I have been working for Evotec for 3 years. Initially, I was hired to work on tasks related to the compound library registration, inventory management and compounds distribution for one of our main compound management customers. Today, I work closely with the HTS team. I provide them with « Assay Ready Plates (ARP)». In the past 2 years, I also worked on the qualification plan of our liquid handlers’ equipment Tecan and Labcyte.
(SI) I was initially hired in the Compound Management department by Sanofi 16 years ago and I now work for Evotec. I have a significant experience in the management of compound libraries. During the past 10 years, I developed a strong expertise in the automatic liquid handling area. I actively participated in setting up the Labcyte Echo platforms in the laboratory for which we are looking for a continuous improvement of liquid transfer quality.
Today, what are the different automated liquid handlers available in your lab?
(AP/SI) Our robotic equipment consists of liquid handlers from different manufacturers. We have five liquid handlers from Tecan, one from Hamilton, two Biomek FX from Beckman Coulter, one Agilent VPrep, one Agilent Bravo integrated to a BioCel replication platform, two Echo from Labcyte and one Mosquito from TTP Labtech. These liquid handlers are qualified on a regular basis and some of them since ten years.
What qualification process have you put in place in your department?
(AP/SI) We designed the qualification plan procedures for the Tecan and the Labcyte Echo platforms in order to improve the quality of our experimental protocols.
For the Tecan liquid handlers, the qualification/validation procedure was implemented several years ago. This procedure is run every quarter. Indeed, we are adapting the plan according to the production plan. In addition, the manufacturer does a preventive maintenance every 6 months to ensure liquid handlers reliability.
We acquired the Labcyte Echo in 2010 to support HTS activity through ARP preparation in nanovolume transfers, in order to enhance the screening throughput and to miniaturize assays in 1536 format. For the past year and a half, we have used the qualification process from Labcyte. However, we have adapted this qualification process to 1536 plate preparation, in order to meet with our expectations. Our goal is also to track qualification results in order to be able to present qualification reports to our customers on demand or during audits.
Setting up qualifications every quarter is constraining but mandatory. Indeed, it requires a production shutdown of several equipment.
What challenges have you met in your activities around liquid handling qualification and how did you overcome them?
(AP/SI) As I said, the qualification of robotic equipment is quite constraining due to the production stop. It also takes time, not just to run the experiments but also to analyze the results. The qualification plan needs also to fit with the production schedule.
However, we are continuously trying to improve the quality and its traceability to meet our customers’ expectations with the main objective to deliver quality and to do right at the first time. Our team manager main goal is to have more insights in the quality evaluation and tracking of our liquid transfer operations.
Obviously, the advantage we are getting out is a higher confidence in the work done for our internal and external customers. We provide them with plates that have been well-prepared by qualified liquid handlers. Therefore, if any inconsistencies are detected following biological tests, the liquid handlers used for the preparation of compounds plates can be excluded as the source of error.
Due to the increase of the activity in the laboratory, we faced issues dealing with low volume transfers with Tecan liquid handlers. Therefore, we had to increase the frequency of preventive maintenance and adapt the qualification plan to fix these issues. In this case, issues mainly came from the DMSO that damages pipes and bias appearing in liquid classes’ settings over time.
Overall, the team’s experience allows us to overcome technical challenges. The main one remains the respect of customers’ deadlines with increasingly qualified liquid handlers.
We need to find a balance between quality and productivity, but we cannot derogate on quality.
What is your wish for next year regarding liquid handling qualification?
(AP) Since end of last year, we are trying to enlarge, improve and optimize our dose-response processes and the related qualifications; we would very much like to achieve rapidly this goal.
In addition, by a continuous improvement approach, we would like to enhance globally our qualification methods to gain in efficiency and quality. Actually, this is already in progress.
Audrey and Sébastien, thank you very much for this very nice interview. We now have a better understanding of how you are conducting liquid handling qualification at Evotec Compound Management department in Toulouse.