Integration of BMG PHERAstar

picture of Pherastar The BMG PHERAstar is a fluorescence well-based plate reader that can operate in many detection modes, including absorbance, FP, FRET, time-resolved FRET, and luminescence.

This was a good example of the benefit of working with a small organization like BioAutomatix.  We quickly integrated this reader into a larger CyBio high-throughput screening (HTS) system.  

When the customer built up the integrated HTS system, they left an open space for future expansion.  This location was accessible by the central Stäubli robotic arm.  The physical integration was a simple matter of mounting the reader on a roll-away table in that location.

Of course the logical integration of the reader into the system control software was more difficult.  First, we had to create a software interface to the device.  This was accomplished using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) within Microsoft Excel.  That code communicated directly to the instrument using an ActiveX layer provided by the manufacturer to accomplish tasks such as opening/closing the drawer, and starting a reading.  Calling of the VBA code was packaged into macro-like elements within the CyBio Composer software.

location of reader in HT system

Secondly, we had to program the Stäubli robotic arm to access this reader location.  This was a relatively simple task, made only slightly more difficult by the fact that we had to avoid some framework that was in the way.

This entire integration could have been accomplished by the vendor of the HTS system , CyBio AG.  However, the decision was made to allow BioAutomatix to do the integration for several reasons.  First, we were able to complete the integration very quickly -- within the course of about one week -- which was important to the customer.  Secondly,  by creating an open integration framework, we enabled future integration of other instruments in this location using very similar code.  In most circumstances, the customer could probably put almost any plate-based instrument into this location, and write some relatively simple code to enable that instrument within a day or two.