Published September 21, 2010
Volume 18, Number 9

Arrival of Precision System Science USA Adds to Hacienda Biotech Population         
Automated DNA, RNA Analysis Devices Improve Accuracy by Eliminating Handling, Manual Processing

Kim Obata is the president of Precision System Science USA.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Hacienda’s biotech cluster just got larger with the arrival of Precision System Science (PSS) USA, which moved into a 2,400-square foot suite at 5673 W. Las Positas Blvd. in early June.

As the American arm of Japan’s Precision System Science Co. Ltd., the local office is responsible for western hemisphere distribution of the automated DNA/RNA/Micro Array analysis systems, based on proprietary technology the parent company began developing in 1995. 

PSS products are used in the front end, or sample preparation, phase of the molecular testing process. “We make robots used in DNA testing for anything from genetic markers for cystic fibrosis to infectious diseases like HIV or chlamydia,” explains Jeanne O’Grady, the CEO of PSS USA. Once the robot prepares the sample, it is then transferred to other automated equipment that performs the actual molecular detection. These analytical devices are made by a variety of manufacturers, whose ranks include some of the most preeminent names in the biotech arena. For example, PSS currently has partnering relationships with Roche, Qiagen, Life Technologies, Beckman, Mitsubishi, and NorDiag, among others.

The company’s core technology is based on a combination of magnets and microfilters, “two very routine things in society that have been put together to make a very elegant device that minimizes the need for human interaction,” O’Grady comments.

PSS’s time-saving automated sample preparation eliminates several manual steps while significantly reducing the chances for human error and contamination. “In the past, a lab technician would place the sample on a streak plate, grow a colony, then spin it down in a centrifuge, after which someone would have to examine it under a microscope. Today, the sample is simply put it into solution, our robotic instruments do the preparation, and the detection equipment produces the results automatically,” O’Grady continues, adding, “Our instruments are generally regarded as the gold standard in our industry.”

One of the reasons behind this success is the company’s ability to make very compact devices. “The Japanese are well known for taking technology and miniaturizing it, making it more efficient,” she notes. That capability is important for market expansion. “Large laboratories have such high volumes of samples to test that they are like factories, and the robots can be as large as a refrigerator-freezer.” The challenge is that analytical device manufacturers like Roche or Quiagen make money by putting their detection instruments into as many places as possible, beyond the high-production environments.

Because PSS robotic systems can be as small as a desktop PC with a monitor and a hard drive, they are a perfect fit for lower-volume labs and small hospitals in more remote areas that don’t need the high throughput but could still benefit from automated sample preparation.

“There can be a lot of contamination in molecular analysis, and technicians need specialized training. Having an automated compact system that is also small in price is a very cost-effective option for these smaller operations,” O’Grady points out.

For more information, visit pssbio.com.


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