A pipetting experiment is often repeated, sometimes more than once, to gauge the accuracy of its results. The reproducibility of an experiment is obviously dominated by its underlying biology. Still, the possibility of liquid handling errors originating at the human-pipette interface are always there. Pipettes, however well engineered, are sensitive to subtle variations in the manner in which a human hand operates them. Time pressure and fatigue sometimes amplify these subtle variations and allow unacceptable step imprecisions to sneak in. Besides, even if each step is free of unacceptable imprecision, the correct timing of an experiment’s steps is often a critical aspect. In practice, it is very difficult for a human operator to repeat precisely a complex series of liquid handling steps at a consistent and reproducible pace. Is the pipette plunger actuated always at the same constant speed? Is the pipette always held precisely at the vertical? Was the transfer from, say, G4 to F7 actually completed? Was the compound pipetted into a particular well fully mixed with the well’s content? Speculating on doubtful data is time-consuming, unproductive, and dangerous even, for all the implications it could have. So, to be safe, you repeat your experiment once more; sometimes you repeat it even twice to get a triplicate. But you are rarely sure that you haven’t simply repeated the same mistake. Andrew removes that uncertainty by reproducible execution of your protocol according to state-of-art pipetting rules.
You can ask Andrew to perform a full protocol, or just some parts of it. If you have critical steps you want to do yourself, just note them down while creating your protocol, and Andrew will wait as needed, then resume after you are done. After all, he was designed to sit on the same bench you use, and to work with you. By having Andrew perform your pipetting, the time you will have wasted on manual work can be devoted to more useful and productive intellectual activities. Depending on your specific needs, you can either let Andrew run unattended, or use Andrew as a pipetting companion while you follow the biology protocol and monitor the steps that need it during its execution.
An active biologist spends an average of two hours per day in liquid handling operations: saving just one hour per day, implies a more efficient use of your time and a better productivity for your laboratory. The math is simple: 1 hour per day x $87 / hour x 220 working days / year = $20,000 savings per year. This simple estimate of how precious your time is highlights how expensive it is to have to repeat experiments, not even counting the cost of additional reagents.
Pipetting is easy? Then, you have never done it. With some commonly used pipettes, you need to apply a 4 kg force with your thumb for each plunger action, and the average laboratory user, whether a scientist or a technician, may repeat this operation about 500 times per day. This physical work corresponds to lifting an aggregate of two tons per day with your thumb, with each of the 500 efforts at constant and controlled speeds, all the while simultaneously keeping your arm in an uncomfortable posture (pipettes should preferably be kept in a vertical position), while under the stress of careful concentration and timing. It is no surprise that manual liquid handling can induce pain in most users, especially in those who exceed two hours per day of pipetting activity. Several studies have confirmed that extensive manual pipetting can have serious consequences. While experiments depending on such activities are critical, so are the health consequences of these experiments, not counting their impact on the accuracy of the experiments’ results (it is difficult to believe that the needed thumb action remains consistent through a day of work). The consequences of pipetting-induced pathologies are proven: they range from simple pain to various musculoskeletal disorders and ailments, affecting mainly the shoulders, the hand, the wrist, and the back. But why should anyone have to suffer any of this, now that there is an affordable tool called Andrew, capable of achieving reproducible experiments?
Andrew Assistant ™ is free software conceived specifically to facilitate the design and execution of pipetting protocols.
Andrew Assistant ™ contains a generic graphical editor that allows you to describe rapidly and very simply any manual pipetting procedure – as you perform them already – by dragging a pipette among consumables on a computer screen, by specifying the pipetting parameters, and by documenting all required operations such as incubations, centrifugations, special user interventions, sample readouts, liquid handling and more.
Additionally , Andrew Assistant ™ verifies actual liquid composition at any step in any well, and also computes the correct dilution factors for achieving a precise reagent concentration; it imports cherry-picking lists from any other programs or files; it creates complete serial dilutions in few clicks; and it determines the required amounts of any stock solutions involved.
Once you have described and validated your protocol, you can save it and use it in different ways: by printing the guidelines for work on the bench yourself; by e-mailing the protocol to a colleague for execution; or maybe by sending it to an Andrew ™ sitting idle on a laboratory bench, for a flawless and reliable execution.
Nothing, at any price, exists today that is simpler to use than the free Andrew Assistant ™. So, do not hesitate to download it from the Andrew Alliance website and install it on whichever computer you have: at home, in the lab, and in the office.
You do not need to stock yet more consumables in your lab, and Andrew won’t require you to do so. Everyone knows the razor/razor-blade business tactic: the instrument or tool seller traps the buyer into using specific consumables that guarantee the seller a continued revenue stream. It is an effective tactic, as it focuses the customer’s initial interest on the instrument or tool purchase only. But it ends up being a hassle for that customer who now has to manage yet another supply chain to her or his lab, not to mention the additional operations required by yet another set of consumables, such as sterilizing and reformatting tips, validating the biological inactivity of yet another plastic material, and worrying about the batch-by-batch variations that unfortunately do occur. You have better things to do with your time. So, both to save you time and money, and to shield from yet more hassles, Andrew Alliance has decided to develop a tool adapted to your pipettes, your microplates, your tubes, your microtubes, and even your pipette tips and your own tip boxes – exactly the same ones that you now use for manual pipetting. And Andrew will even accept, as you now do without Andrew, tip boxes that are only partly filled. Incidentally, the reason why Andrew can do so while other systems can’t is because its liquid handling operations are vision-assisted. Andrew can actually see the bench and the DOMINOS ™ you have clustered in any order around its base, and recognize the reagents and other consumables you have loaded them with.
A flexible system should adapt to the type(s) of experiments you perform. Are these mainly small or large experiments? Do they consist of repetitive tasks or do you continuously change their protocols? Most probably, you do all of this. Andrew is designed to meet the maximum possible flexibility by means of the innovative concept of DOMINO .
Differently from liquid handling workstations, your workspace is a mosaic of DOMINOS, proprietary interlocking modules that self-assemble and that each may bear varying consumables, as required by the experiment. In this way, you can conduct small and simple experiment that require only a few DOMINOS, as well as experiments based on large and complex campaigns involving many. DOMINOS enable experiments that use microplates only, or tubes, or microtubes, or any mixture of such consumables you like – including tips of all types in any tip rack. The size of the DOMINO mosaic can vary, as required by the planned experiment, and you can change its configuration instantaneously, maybe preparing the next DOMINO mosaic to run, while the previous experiment is ongoing. And, alone amongst all other liquid handler systems, Andrew uses your own tips in your own tip racks, partially filled or not, exactly as you do in your manual pipetting operations.
The DOMINOS mosaic occupies therefore only the bench space needed to accommodate your experiment. Since the mosaic can be stretched or compressed in breadth or depth, this also allows you to put Andrew to work, as needed, in space-limited environments such as hoods, laminar flow boxes, and even 4° C refrigerators.
Andrew weights 10 kg only. It is very compact and can be easily transported by a single person. It is also easy to unpack and easier to install, unlike any other liquid handling workstation. Thus, we will ship it to you, and it can be on your bench, ready to work without additional help, within minutes of its arrival. Getting Andrew to work is as easy as connecting a mouse to a PC. Andrew is a normal USB 2.0 peripheral that connects to any personal computer running Windows. Additional help is as close as the installation video on this website. Or you can just call us directly.
Should you encounter a programming or software issue you that are unable to solve, we will support you remotely; should you encounter hardware issues instead, just ship Andrew back to us. Depending upon the service and support program you will have chosen, you may receive a replacement within 48 hours. We believe that this would get you back to work sooner than would a normal, scheduled service visit. We expect that this radical approach to service and support, made possible since Andrew is the first easily transportable liquid handling system in the world, minimizes both your downtime and the cost of service and support to both you and us.
Although Swiss-born, Andrew is not as versatile as a Swiss army knife. It does not have all the flexibility of sophisticated liquid handling workstations capable of multi-head operations. Also, a single Andrew of this first family of Andrews – called Generation One – is no faster, at best, than one and a half the speed of a skilled operator pipetting by hand with a single-head pipette. Designed mainly for the accurate execution of pipetting operations where the same series of steps need to be repeated reproducibly many times per day, Andrew sacrifices throughput for the ease of adapting it to a broad variety of assays, or to assays that are frequently modified or changed. Higher throughput requirements may force a choice between acquiring a fully featured liquid handling workstation or several, much cheaper, Andrews. While these would offer, in addition, the possibility of running different assays in parallel, simultaneously, thus allowing short turnaround times for each individual assay, such a distributed approach may not always be effective, for example when some of the steps need to be repeated for each parallel processing without sharing reagents. Andrew, whether to be used alone or as part of a team, was conceived to facilitate that broad range of operations that fit between simple, quick, manual pipetting, and complex, high-throughput, liquid handling workstations.