Customer Spotlight

IBT Laboratories

Flexible & Custom Automation of ELISA Process


IBT Laboratories has been the premier provider of immunology, allergy and molecular biology testing services for hospitals, clinical labs, physicians and universities since 1983. Additionally, IBT Laboratories serves some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, in vitro diagnostic firms and contract research organizations (CROs).

As Technical Supervisor and Manager of the Technology Transfer Team, Paul Hembree monitors and troubleshoots clinical and research assays, transfers new technologies from Research and Development to the company’s Clinical Laboratory group, and performs instrument qualification and troubleshooting. Several different ELISA assays are performed each week, each with its own set of procedures and required number of microplates. The total number of samples, per run, typically ranges from 15-250 each. Time is of the essence to get results reported to the appropriate client, and the manual assay process was a realized obstacle to the company’s overall efficiency. Hembree provides an example, “A test like the Histamine ELISA is very laborintensive, including mixing individual wells up to 30 times with a pipette. Obviously a tedious and straining exercise when doing 250 samples a day.”

Hoping to improve assay precision, reduce assay failures and sample repeats, and eliminate pipetting-related injuries, Hembree decided to invest in an automated microplate system. Criteria for the automated microplate system included flexibility for multiple assay requirements and conditions, interface options, throughput capacity, precision of results, ease of maintenance, customer support and more.

In the course of his research, Hembree visited sites with installed automation systems. One system that he favored would have required amendments and revalidation to the lab’s methods; a time-consuming and costly undertaking. At that time, BioTek’s local Sales Representative, Jason Fries, stopped by the lab. Having experience with several BioTek products, Hembree was well aware of their durability as well as BioTek’s reputation for excellent service, but he was not familiar with their custom automation systems. A visit to BioTek’s headquarters in Vermont was arranged, where Hembree was able to meet with technical experts and application scientists and analyze the capabilities of the instruments compared to his lab’s criteria.


Dr. Jack Halsey and L. Rene Pfaltzgraff, Clinical Laboratory Director and VP of Clinical Laboratory Operations respectively, joined Mr. Hembree in the decision-making process, and ultimately selected BioTek’s automated system. The BioTek automated system built for IBT Laboratories includes a Precision™ XS Automated Microplate Pipetting System, ELx405™ Microplate Washer, PowerWave™ XS Microplate Spectrophotometer, two MicroFlo™ Select Dispensers, BioStack™ Twister® II Microplate Handler, and LiCONic LPX44 Ambient Plate Hotel and STX44 2-50°C Plate Hotel.

The team was impressed with the ability of the BioTek system to handle current assay requirements along with the versatility to tackle new assays for the clinical and pharmaceutical research departments. “The flexibility of the BioTek system allows us to alter plate maps and other assay parameters that other systems did not,” notes Mr. Hembree. “In addition to being familiar with BioTek’s instruments, the history of service provided compared to other microplate instrument vendors was an added bonus.”

After several months of installation, troubleshooting, testing and training, Paul Hembree is very pleased with the overall result. Of the automated process, he notes, “The conversion to the automation platform has increased the quality of our ELISA testing while reducing the amount of personnel resources needed in the ELISA department. We’ve gained the equivalent of 1 or 2 employees by migrating to the BioTek platform, and we can now allocate lab staff towards new test launches in the molecular and cellular areas.” Additionally, he awards high marks for BioTek’s service, commenting, “I can’t say enough about the BioTek support experience. My initial experiences with BioTek Instruments and my visit to their facility when researching this platform caused me to push hard in favor of choosing the BioTek system, and they have exceeded my expectations.”

To learn more about IBT Laboratories, visit their web site.


Thanks to Paul Hembree at IBT Laboratories for relating his BioTek experience with us.

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