Cutting down time, errors
In a recent project, a research team led by Gaffney used both robots to identify a genetic variant associated with lupus and, potentially, heart disease and certain cancers. The project, which analyzed 30,000 different genetic variants, took eight months to gather data.
“Without the robots, it would probably have taken three or four years,” said Gaffney.
Another researcher, Weidong Wang, uses robots to screen libraries of chemical compounds for potential development as therapeutics for diabetes and other diseases. In one day, his machines can process 50,000 compounds.
“When a human being does something hundreds of times, sometime errors will occur. But the machine is basically error-free,” he said. “The machine does things so every time the conditions are the same.”
While robots can outperform humans at some tasks, there's no need to worry about job security.
“A robot cannot generate a hypothesis, write a grant, design an experiment or interpret the results of an experiment,” said Gaffney. “At least not yet.”