How Artificial helped Beam Therapeutics open up automation to all scientists

Last week at SLAS2021, Bob Gantzer of Beam Therapeutics shared valuable insights into how Beam was able to quickly adopt automation for reliable, reproducible operations, while also ensuring that their fully integrated systems were accessible by all of their scientists.

About Beam Therapeutics

Beam Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing precision genetic medicines through the use of base editing. Beam’s proprietary base editors create precise, predictable, and efficient single base changes at targeted genomic sequences, without making double-stranded breaks in the DNA. This enables a wide range of potential therapeutic editing strategies that Beam is using to advance a diversified portfolio of base editing programs. Beam is a values-driven organization committed to its people, cutting-edge science, and a vision of providing life-long cures to patients suffering from serious diseases.

Beam’s Automation

Since its early days, Beam has made a push to adopt automation as fast as possible to maximize experimental efficiency. Their first integrated platform, named Ursula, is a next-generation sequencing (NGS) platform, which can isolate, quantify, and normalize DNA from both cells and tissues, as well as perform NGS Library Preparation. Essentially, it can handle everything you need to do for base or gene editing experimentation, short of loading samples onto sequencers. To orchestrate this level of automation, Beam’s automation team consists of a traditional automation and robotics team, in addition to lab informatics, cloud and software infrastructure, and NGS Core teams.

Beam’s Goal: Implement fully integrated robotics as fast as possible to run more experiments reliably, while also making their systems accessible to all of their scientists

Ursula before Artificial: an intimidating, but beautiful, complex system that wasn’t accessible by all scientists 

Courtesy of Beam Therapeutics

Courtesy of Beam Therapeutics

Before Artificial, Ursula was difficult for all scientists to use because it required:

  • Multiple, intimidating software systems: Ursula’s multiple interfaces made the system inaccessible and intimidating. To run an experiment, scientists needed to know how to order and set up devices on Cellario, set up the hardware on Ursula, and also make sure that AWS was tracking and delivering all of the metadata back into Benchling. This required a skill set that was even beyond traditional lab automation.
  • Intimate knowledge of every asset in the lab: With equipment from 11 different vendors, scientists needed to know the intricacies of how to set up, operate and maintain every instrument in the lab as well as be familiar with each type of plate and consumable. This level of complexity drove people away, thus requiring specialists to set up and operate Ursula.
  • On-site personnel to operate: In order to run and monitor jobs on Ursula, it required personnel to be in the lab. Once they were off-site, they relied on on-site personnel to know what was happening.

Ursula after Artificial: an easy-to-use, connected system that is accessible by all scientists  


With Artificial, Beam’s scientists and automation team now have:

  • Their entire lab at their fingertips: Artificial provides a single easy-to-use interface to go from request to execution to final data generation.

    With connections to Benchling and Cellario, a request made in Benchling seamlessly syncs to Artificial, where LabOps will optimally batch requests, and then automatically initiate the order in Cellario. Throughout the run, Artificial records all of the run’s metadata and continuously feeds the data back into Benchling. As Bob notes in his talk, “It can all be controlled, run, and tracked within Artificial.”

  • An integrated system accessible by all scientists: With Assistants, scientists now have expert-level instructions in a digital checklist. Assistants provides interactive guidance that includes videos, reminders, and data fields to walk scientists through everything they need to do from which plates or tips to use, which specific stacker to place them in, loading plates with well A1 facing out, how to change out seals, when to record lot numbers, how to prime a device, and more. With these detailed instructions, scientists are able to set-up and operate Ursula without knowing every single detail of each instrument, plate, and consumable.
  • Access and operations from anywhere: Artificial is web-based so Beam has access to their lab at any time, from anywhere, on any device, so anyone can log in on their phone, iPad, Mac, PC, and everyone sees the same screen of pending work, system status, and anything about the lab that they want to know.

With Artificial’s seamless connectivity and easy-to-use interface, Beam has one place for all of their scientists to easily operate their integrated system.

Below is Bob’s SLAS2021 talk so you can hear from Bob how he and his team leveraged Artificial to make automation accessible to all of their scientists.

Note: aLab Suite is now Artificial.

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