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Automata partners with The Royal Marsden to increase cancer genomic testing capacity through robotic automation

publication date: Jul 19, 2023
author/source: Automata



Automata’s integrated automation will support The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust’s Clinical Genomics service to personalise more cancer treatments and speed up diagnosis of the disease

Automata, a leading automation company powering life sciences labs, announces its partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to unlock the power of open, integrated automation for cancer sample testing. With Automata’s support, the hospital’s Clinical Genomics Service, which is the cancer testing laboratory for the North Thames Genomics Laboratory Hub (NTGLH), will double its genomic testing capacity through a new robotic sample processing platform.

Together, Automata and The Royal Marsden will establish the UK’s first fully automated system for clinical cancer genomic testing. The new installation will increase the hospital’s next-generation sequencing (NGS) capacity by around 2000 tests each month and expand the range of tests the specialist cancer centre can perform. NGS technology allows scientists to analyse DNA and RNA gene sequences to deliver more personalised treatments on a large scale.

The newly automated service will also enable The Royal Marsden to launch a new genetic screening service to identify people at risk of cancer based on their inherited genetic mutations. The service will primarily test for mutations in the BRCA genes, which can impact risk of breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer, along with other inherited mutations such as CHEK2, which is also associated with a range of cancers. People identified as at risk of developing cancer through this testing will be carefully monitored to help pick up signs of the disease at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful. Preventative treatments may also be offered to help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Automata’s LINQ platform features a unique laboratory smart bench, with integrated automation capabilities and accompanying powerful, proprietary lab orchestration software. As a result, labs can easily reduce human touchpoints and increase efficiency and accuracy without needing to dedicate additional laboratory space to bulky equipment. The system is also flexible in design, providing the option to grow capacity based on future demand.

The new installation, which is due to be completed in 2024, will be housed at the NIHR Centre for Molecular Pathology, which brings together researchers from The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research. It was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. 

Professor Michael Hubank, Scientific Director of Clinical Genomics at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Translational Genomics at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Thanks to Automata’s innovative robotic technology, this UK-first clinical diagnostics installation will transform genomic testing at The Royal Marsden by streamlining our processes, substantially increasing our capacity without compromising accuracy.  

“Once opened, the facility will enable us to analyse the genetic make-up of more cancers than ever before, helping us to target cancer treatments and identity those at higher risk of the disease.

“Genomic testing is currently labour intensive and involves repetitive tasks, so fully automating the process will give our scientists and technicians more time to focus on quality and on the scientific aspects of their important work.” 

Working in close collaboration, Automata and The Royal Marsden’s Clinical Genomics Laboratory will automate five workflows, made up of 20 LINQ benches, six robots and 37 laboratory instruments to double sample throughput for DNA extraction, quality control and sequencing library preparation.

Neal Parker, ​Strategic Account Director, Automata comments: “The insights and information that genomics testing provides, empower doctors and patients to make the right decisions for therapy. As well as the increased capacity, scientists in the laboratory now have more walk-away time to spend on analysis and research. We look forward to continuing to work closely with The Royal Marsden to shape the future of integrated automation for genomics.”


About Automata

Automata is the leading robotics and automation company powering the laboratories of the future. Our automated technology enables new and improved processes, empowers scientists with transformed ways of working and delivers faster translation of results from ‘bench to bedside’. Our Lab Automation Platform meets labs where they are on their automation journey, and we are the trusted partner to improving efficiencies and freeing scientists to work on new and innovative discoveries.    

We are trusted by customers including trusts within the NHS, and are supporting advancements across Core Testing Labs, Academic Institutes, CDMOs, Pharmas and Biotechs.


About The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust 

The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education. 

Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe seeing and treating over 59,000 NHS and private patients every year.  It is a centre of excellence with an international reputation for groundbreaking research and pioneering the very latest in cancer treatments and technologies.  

The Royal Marsden, with the ICR, is the only National Institute for Health and Care Research Biomedical Research Centre for Cancer. This supports pioneering research work carried out over a number of different cancer themes. 

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity raises money solely to support The Royal Marsden, a world-leading cancer centre.  It ensures Royal Marsden nurses, doctors and research teams can provide the very best care and develop life-saving treatments, which are used across the UK and around the world. 

From funding state-of-the-art equipment and ground-breaking research, to creating the very best patient environments, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity will never stop looking for ways to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. 




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