Synbiosis, a UK manufacturer of automated microbiological systems, has installed a ProtoCOL 3 automated colony counter at vaccines company ImmunoBiology (ImmBio) in Cambridge to speed up testing throughput of the firm’s bacterial meningitis vaccines.
Scientists at ImmBio are using a ProtoCOL 3 to count thousands of small colonies of Neisseria meningitidis plated out post Serum Bactericidal Assay (SBA). The purchase is supported by a research and development grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board as part of the government-backed Biomedical Catalyst.
‘Regulatory requirements mean we have to use an SBA test to establish vaccine efficacy and since we are testing a number of different prototype vaccines we count around 100–150 colonies in each of 8 streaks on a square SBA plate,’ said Claire Entwisle, Head of Laboratory at ImmBio.
For us, the benefits of using the system are saving time, as well as accuracy and consistency of count
‘We have around 70 of these plates to count every week so this would be time-consuming and difficult to maintain consistency of results if we did it manually. We visited the NIBSC [National Institute for Biological Standards and Control] to see what their scientists used to quality assure bacterial vaccines. That’s when we saw the ProtoCOL software and knew this would help us speed up our testing efforts.’
She added: ‘For us, the benefits of using the system are saving time, as well as accuracy and consistency of count. Many of our colonies are very close together or touching and the software copes well with interpreting these. We are so pleased with the way the ProtoCOL 3 performs that we even intend to use it in future for the more difficult application of counting Streptococcus pneumoniae colonies on blood agar plates as we know that the lighting options on the ProtoCOL 3 will allow us to distinguish and count the almost opaque red colonies on a red background.’
The ProtoCOL 3 system’s unique lighting and software combination has been developed over a decade and is now acknowledged internationally as the leading technology for post SBA colony count analysis, added Martin Smith at Synbiosis.
‘The studies at ImmBio further demonstrate how adding a ProtoCOL 3 automated colony counter to an SBA workflow can significantly speed up the development of novel bacterial vaccines,’ he said.