Going places with a new qPCR instrument

With funding generously supplied by AB InBev and SABBI, CenGen was fortunate to acquire a Magnetic Induction Cycler (Mic) real-time PCR instrument in the last quarter of 2021. Real-time PCR (qPCR) has often been in the news in the past two years since it is the most accurate method with which to test for COVID-infections. In similar fashion it is also routinely applied in agricultural research and testing, for instance to examine levels of gene expression, to monitor viral or fungal infections and to determine the presence or absence of target genes.

At CenGen we use molecular markers for specific genes in both plants and fungi that are optimised for analysis on medium-throughput qPCR instruments that can handle 96 samples at a time. The Mic will contribute another 48 samples’ worth of capacity to our lab. However, one should not be fooled by its tiny, nondescript appearance. Its fast-cycling capability halves the time it takes to complete a run, thereby enabling it to keep up with the throughput of the other instruments. The instrument’s very small footprint – about the same size as a 2.5 kg bag of sugar – and clever internal design make it portable, unlike other qPCR instruments. This provides a unique opportunity for off-site testing. It can easily be transported in a backpack and, together with its ability to produce quick answers, it can also for instance be used for training at schools – an avenue that we’d love to explore in building on the successful teachers’ workshops held at our laboratory earlier this year.

Along with the instrument we also received a day of valuable training on how to use the hardware and navigate the accompanying software to set up and analyse experiments. The applications specialist, Karmistha Poovan-Franz, from AGBL, the supplying company, skillfully shared her expertise with us to ensure that we are comfortable with the new instrument.

We are thankful towards AB InBev and SABBI for their contribution to our laboratory capacity, and look forward to exploring new research and training avenues with it.

Alana Crotz carefully pipetting target DNA into the Mic sample tubes.
The Mic held by Benny Leriba is dwarfed by the “traditional” qPCR instrument in the top left of the photo. Photo: K. Poovan-Franz