By Geoff Dance Senior Applications Scientist, Automata

Cell culture research offers scientists the chance to work in cutting-edge areas like lab-grown meat, and even making leather cultivated from mushroom cells. However, such feats of innovation require extensive experimentation. The pursuit of discovery can mean researchers end up working long hours with demanding workloads.

Currently, the majority of experiments in a cell culture lab require manual oversight over an extended period, which can lead researchers to work over weekends and into the evening. Having to carry out a large number of manual tasks also leaves highly qualified professionals with little time to use their expertise.

However, the integration of lab automation in cell cultivation labs has the potential to revolutionise well-being in the industry. By streamlining time-consuming tasks and enabling true walkaway time, researchers can focus on stimulating work and fostering collaboration while still having a good work/life balance. Lab automation’s transformative impact extends beyond efficiency, shaping a thriving and fulfilling workplace culture in cell cultivation labs.

Relieving the pressures of a high-pressure cell culture lab

Cell cultivation is a rigorous process. This means that extended hours in the lab and meticulous attention to detail are vital, working with large sets of samples, which demand significant time and effort to be fed and analysed.

When doing cell cultivation work manually, managing media exchange can also take a lot of time for scientists, especially if working to meet a tight deadline. However, in a lab that applies automation systems, this process can be more efficient and free up time for the workforce. Scientists can clock off as needed, while automated benches can stay at work during even the most unsociable hours. By automating multiple assays this way, samples can be fed at any scheduled time – during evenings and weekends – eliminating the need for technicians to work overtime to complete tasks.

With a better work/life balance aided by lab automation, researchers will feel more valued by their organisations – and ultimately be able to get more work done at the same time. Automating assays provides true walkaway time for researchers, which can make lab work more fulfilling and less stressful.

Unlocking innovation and collaboration

Not only does true walkaway time improve work/life balance for researchers, but it also provides the headspace to collaborate with other researchers and focus on driving innovation.

Labs that implement automation can significantly reduce the time and effort spent on routine tasks such as media preparation, cell passaging, and monitoring. With automated systems handling these processes, researchers have more opportunities to delve into experimental design, data analysis, and creative problem-solving. This can help to foster a culture of curiosity and continuous learning, which is essential for keeping morale high.

When researchers have the freedom to engage in stimulating work, they are more likely to feel valued – knowing that their skills are being used for tasks that put their advanced skills and expertise to good use. This positive environment creates a ripple effect across the whole lab, as researchers feel motivated to share new ideas and innovate.

Improving precision while reducing stress

Cell culture is a developing science. As a result, cultivating cells requires a significant amount of experimentation, performed with ultimate precision. Even a small error can render an experiment’s results unreliable, so researchers using manual processes are under a large amount of pressure to avoid any mistakes. With the potential for human error, this is an impossible task. No matter how experienced, no two researchers will execute an action in exactly the same way, every time, which risks the experimentation process not being repeatable or standardised to the levels required for reliable results.

Lab automation can combat this, as every action programmed into a system will be carried out in exactly the same way every time, with no variation. This means researchers can generate a high volume of accurate results that improve overall data quality and repeatability, while also saving them from the stress and time burden of redoing steps in the workflow.

Closing thoughts

Groundbreaking discoveries in cell cultivation are happening by the day, and skilled lab scientists are to thank for this. To continue to make more advancements, these highly qualified experts need time and space to focus on innovation. By offering true walkaway time and ultimate precision, lab automation can give this time back to scientists while also building a workplace culture that helps them feel engaged and valued. If we are to continue to make discoveries in cell culture, empowering scientists in this way is a must.