For the first time in the UK, robotic technology is being used to support genomic testing for cancer patients following a partnership between The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Automata Technologies, a leading automation company powering automation in life sciences labs.

The innovative installation will double the laboratory’s genomics testing capacity and expand the range of tests it can perform within its existing laboratory space. As the cancer testing laboratory for the North Thames Genomics Laboratory Hub, the Royal Marsden team provide the majority of the solid tumour testing for the region. This form of genomic testing includes identifying genetic changes in cancer cells that drive tumour growth and provides a target for personalised cancer treatment.

A group of people in a mixture of blue and white lab coats work around a robotic lab equipment.

This significant increase in testing capacity at the Royal Marsden Lab will mean that patients across the North Thames region have more access to genomic testing, which can help identify potential risk of cancer, diagnose the disease, and personalise treatments. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, it will also give laboratory technologists and scientists more time for vital development work.

Through Automata’s LINQ platform, sample pathways for saliva, tissue biopsies, blood and bone marrow are being automated. LINQ is a ‘smart’ laboratory bench that houses and connects equipment using robotic and digital technology. Equipped with six robotic arms, the specialist cancer centre’s installation will substantially increase the throughput of the cancer testing lab without compromising on accuracy.

Professor Michael Hubank, Scientific Director of Clinical Genomics at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Scientific Director of the North Thames Genomic Laboratory Hub, said:

“Over 90% of our genomics samples will pass through the new automated laboratory, which blends new and existing equipment to make the best use of space. Our highly qualified laboratory staff are delighted with the facility which has freed them up from repetitive and time-consuming tasks to focus on quality and service development.

“The robots are flexible, efficient and fun to work with too. Excitingly, this system also has the potential to one day reduce costs and turnaround times which will benefit patients and the wider NHS. We are incredibly excited to be the first laboratory in the country to use this technology for genomic cancer testing and look forward to further developments in the future.”

A close up shot of a piece of robotic lab equipment. The white moving robotic arm carries a tray with four purple topped test-tubes.

The new robotic facility is housed in the Sharjah Clinical Genomics Laboratory in the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Centre for Molecular Pathology (CMP) at The Royal Marsden.  The NIHR CMP is supported by funding from the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

Anthony Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of The North Thames Genomic Laboratory Hub, said:

“The teams across the Royal Marsden Lab and their partners at Automata have worked exceptionally hard to make this automated system a reality and it is incredible to see all the ways it will benefit patients across our region. As genomic testing continues to increase across the NHS it is vital that we invest in our laboratory infrastructure so we can truly provide the best service possible to people across the country.”

Mostafa ElSayed, CEO at Automata, said:

“We are proud that our partnership with The Royal Marsden has delivered the UK’s first fully automated system for clinical cancer genomic testing. This collaboration marks just the beginning of what automation can achieve for the NHS and within healthcare more widely.

“By using end-to-end lab automation to increase genomic testing capacity, we’re not only streamlining processes but also elevating national cancer care. Together, we’re pioneering solutions that will redefine the standard of care and positively impact patient outcomes.”


A zoomed out shot of robotic lab equipment
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