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The Robots have Landed

28th February 2008

The Monoclonal Antibody Technologies Facility unpacks for business.

They are no bigger or more imposing than a family barbecue. But the six new robots that arrived at MATF on 7 January can together store and produce thousands of monoclonal antibodies for use in scientific research.

When fully established, MATF will house ten large robots manufactured by Swiss-based company Tecan, along with a range of complementary equipment including a Small Sample Store manufactured by Tecan subsidiary REMP, and a state-of-the-art microarray spotter from Arrayjet.

Director Alan Sawyer foresees an official opening date in April, just two-and-a-half years after Monash first hatched the idea of hosting the world’s largest monoclonal antibody facility in the STRIP building.

“The capacity is so large that for the first few years there’ll be no access problems at all for interested scientists from all over the world to access our services. After that, if we reach capacity, we will probably expand,” says Mr Sawyer.

Antibodies are proteins in the immune system that protect the body from disease. For life scientists, they are one of the most important reagents, contributing to research into brain diseases, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, cancer and pharmaceuticals.

Any researcher will be able to access the facility’s custom-made antibodies, although Monash scientists are to be charged the lowest fee. At full capacity, Mr Sawyer estimates that the robots will manufacture more than 3,000 monoclonal antibodies each year.

This will ease the unmet demand in Australia for scientific reagents.

“In an example of our productivity, the diminutive microarray spotter alone can deposit up to 18,000 tiny dots onto one test slide. And we can screen up to 200 slides at a time if necessary,” says Mr Sawyer.

MATF will initially run with five staff, including two technicians and Deputy Director Michael Spiegel. But those numbers may swell if the robots speed away at the velocity that everyone hopes.
Alan Sawyer (below) and Mike Spiegel inspect one of the new robots.

Alan Sawyer (below) and Mike Spiegel inspect one of the new robots.
A view of the MATF laboratory before the robots moved in.

A view of the MATF laboratory before the robots moved in.