LEADseeker Multimodality Imaging System
Amersham Biosciences had a pressing need to convert a laboratory proof-of-principle prototype into a commercial imaging instrument, capable of fulfilling a number of functional roles. Their primary requirement was to increase the flexibility of the instrument to perform a wider range of modalities without compromising its performance. But equally important was a need to bring it to the market as rapidly as possible in order to meet many of the existing imaging challenges faced by the company.
Working in a multi-disciplinary team the key objective was to increase the flexibility of the instrument to perform a wider range of modalities without compromising performance. In addition, time to market was an important factor.
The imager can function in three modes: as a manual system for assay development, in semi-automatic mode with a stacker workstation where microplates are delivered from a carousel to the imager, or as a fully automated system integrated with major robotics platforms for High-Throughput Screening (HTS) environments.
The team included microbiologists, physicists, software, mechanical and electronic engineers and a small product ion group that built and tested systems including three prototypes.
Early in the process a number of labs were visited, mainly in the USA, to gain an appreciation of what we call ‘care-abouts’ to understand the real needs of users. This bought a different perspective to the design team and enabled us to focus on creating real benefits which translated into much quicker setup times, greater efficiencies and thus improved overall performance.
The first multi-modality instrument on the market capable of imaging plates in seconds with automation allowing the processing of several hundred plates, or approximately 500 000 tests per day, using miniaturised screening formats. In addition, the build philosophy and construction had a significant influence on inventory, cash flow and QA as a result of innovative design thinking.
The role of industrial design played a significant role in working across the siloes of expertise by being the glue to bond these function together and to be the champion the user, laboratory technicians.