The layout of the robotic platform was planned to allow for preparations of biological samples from the treated cells after the primary readout to convert the large scale experiments into a conserved array format for consecutive screens via other techniques. Accordingly, THOR is composed out of two major elements, i.e. the central platform for cell assays, which in itself comprises various subunits, and a biochip preparation unit. Both are connected to a 60 Tb server for data storage and processing.
After the initial virtual planning and design of several possible solutions, the central robotic platform was built in close cooperation with several international production and installation companies over a period of 2.5 months as a fully custom made installation. It presently represents one of Northern-Europe´s largest and most complex robotic screening stations. The core station is a 35m³ sterile enclosed composition of equipment with custom-made applications for inter-machine communication. It is capable of a throughput of 12.000 single experiments per day with readout and biological sample preparation for shuttling into its arraying robot component. The software enables creation of new virtual lab wares in the primary programs up to full data tracking of every single well event via barcoding systems, while at the same time generating algorithm-based logistics optimization. Furthermore, it is equipped with 4 robotic arms that can be employed independently and can thus work on several assays at one time, only limited by the endpoint readout. A Paradigm reader is integrated and provides, in our current setup, up to 12 different possibilities for primary readouts.
The robot station will be employed for high throughput screens, using, for example, genome-wide siRNA libraries, where a single screen in triplicate will comprise 60,000 individual cell experiments. In various settings, differential screens are employed to, e.g., uncover synthetic lethal relationships, which comprise scales of 120.000 single cell experiments per screen. The robotic station takes care of the seeding of the cell lines to be used into the appropriate plate type (6 well to 1536 wells). It will print and apply a barcode to the plates, perform the siRNA transfections, incubate the plates, read several relevant assays, wash plates, prepare samples from the experiments for arraying, reformat, e.g. from 96-well into 384-well format, seal and freeze the plates.