Beckman Coulter targets midsized diagnostic labs with automated sample prep hardware launch

coronavirus test tubes
Beckman Coulter estimates that over 2020, total lab testing topped 245% over previous baselines—even as many patients deferred routine medical care—with more than half the load dedicated to molecular coronavirus tests. The company's new system promises to reduce up to 80% of the mundane steps needed to prep samples. (Getty/RossHelen)

The past year has put spotlights on two types of diagnostic systems: those that can run as many tests as possible as fast as possible, and the one-offs that can be performed at a kitchen table.

With a new product launch, Beckman Coulter is aiming at the underserved middle.

Top-of-the-line, high-throughput systems can require heavy investments, not to mention the necessary space, support and demand necessary to sustain them. The company's new DxA 5000 Fit system aims to provide the same benefits of completely automated labs but as a more manageable option for the medium-sized labs that run between about 2,000 and 5,000 tests per day.

With the goal of reducing up to 80% of the mundane steps required to prepare and analyze samples, the relatively compact and scalable system—now rolling out to the U.S., Europe and Asia—is also designed to be flexible enough to meet certain space and infrastructure constraints, the company said.

Automated tasks include checking the condition and volume of samples for errors before processing, organizing them by physicians’ priority and performing centrifugation and decapping for a wide range of tube containers. It can also connect and move samples directly to Beckman Coulter’s DxI, DxC and AU 5800 series analyzers.

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"Just because your lab is not processing a higher number of samples, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the benefits of intelligent laboratory automation and settle for a marginally automated workcell-plus solution," said Peter Soltani, general manager of Beckman Coulter’s hematology, urinalysis and workflow IT unit. 

Labs of all sizes are facing shortages of trained technicians, supplies and time in the face of high demand, with these problems made more salient by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beckman Coulter estimates that over 2020, total lab testing topped 245% over previous baselines—even as many patients deferred routine medical care—with more than half the load dedicated to molecular coronavirus tests.

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Even as vaccination rates begin to climb in many countries, Beckman Coulter said it expects COVID-related testing volumes to continue through this year and potentially into 2022. 

Companies such as Agilent and Mammoth Bio have also targeted midsized labs in the pandemic effort, with plans for an automated, CRISPR-based diagnostic system that could process up to 4,000 samples per day with tabletop hardware.