An Operating System for the Biology Lab. Laboratory-automation start-ups are borrowing a page from the software industry.
The Reality of Virtual Biology
An Operating System for the Biology Lab
Laboratory-automation start-ups are borrowing a page from the software industry.
By: Michael Segal
“Their approach is beautifully simple,” says Dhash Shrivathsa, founder and chief executive of Radix Labs. “They put into a room all the equipment needed to process and sequence the genetic material in a vial of human blood.” He’s describing a leading liquid-biopsy company that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars on the promise of early disease detection on the basis of drawing blood. Its machines are highly automated and engineered to run seamlessly — and can be painstaking to reprogram when the design of an experiment changes. The company was spending months at a time doing so. “It was like switching from one program to another on your computer without an operating system,” explains Shrivathsa.
To speed up that process, the company turned to Radix for help. The two-year-old start-up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed a computer language that can be used to encode a customer’s biology experiments, a compiler that translates that code into a machine-readable language, and a set of drivers that enables instructions to be understood and executed by the customer’s equipment. Radix’s technology aims to free biologists from worrying about the details of the machines in their laboratories and how they execute an experiment. This enables — among other things — the rapid redesign of experiments without needing to manually reprogram (or even physically reposition) the equipment involved. “If two different robots in the biology lab are told to do the same thing, we’d like to be able to have our customers use the exact same program on either or both, without any code change or effort on their part,” says Shrivathsa.
Read the whole original article on Nature