Photography of the iCell demonstrator © WZL  


The production of individualized biological cell products opens up new opportunities in medicine. A large number of methods and variants exist. All these laboratory processes have in common that they are complex, hardly standardized, and dependent on the knowledge of the laboratory staff. This leads to fluctuating product quality and, due to the often manual execution, a low yield at high costs. The automated execution of the relevant laboratory protocols is further complicated by high product variability, which is difficult to predict. All these circumstances must be taken into account by an automation solution.



The iCellFactory aims to create a platform for rapid development and evaluation of automated cultivation and differentiation processes of induced pluripotent stem cells. The infrastructure, the clean room, the control software for rapid integration of different laboratory devices, and the process adaptation, will be provided by the iCellFactory. In addition, a domain-specific description language will be developed for the automation-oriented definition of the laboratory protocols used.



First, the current system status – contained laboratory devices, storage locations of the various culture vessels, disposables, and so on – is modeled using Linked Data. In this context, the iCellFactory's instrumentation consists of a robot for transporting different vessels, a liquid handler, an incubator, and a storage area. A methodology for modeling device capabilities and incorporating them into the data model is then created. The capabilities of the included devices will be modeled as examples. The next step is the development of automated sequence planning based on the current system state and device capabilities. The result of this scheduling is a sequence of commands to the individual devices to transition the iCellFactory from the current state to a defined target state. Finally, scheduling several parallel processes, which inevitably arise during the execution of different laboratory processes, takes place.



We would like to thank the German Research Foundation for its support in the establishment of the iCellFactory, within the framework of a grant (Art. 91b GG).