Douglas Instruments News Archive

May 2014

Douglas Instruments has released the Lipidic Cubic Phase (LCP) dispensing option for Oryx8 and Oryx4.  The arm mounted positive displacement syringe drive can dispense LCP volumes as small as 10 nl and up to 1 µl or larger. The LCP dispensing arm is designed to be simple to use - yet make use of the powerful range of experiment scripts available on Oryx systems.



October 2013

Vapor diffusion optimization is now available with Oryx8. The robot can quickly fill the reservoirs of sitting drop or source plates with essentially unlimited volumes using the air-driven 1 ml tip in combination with the 7-bore microtip. The reservoirs are filled first, and then the drops can be dispensed independently.



April 2013

Douglas Instruments has released a new experiment script for 24 well cover slide dispensing. It is now possible to dispense screening, optimization or seeding experiments to 22mm or 18mm cover slides.



October 2011

The company has released a new script for Combinatorial Optimization.  This uses a very simple idea - combining up to 8 reservoir solutions with up to 12 additives - but it has many powerful applications.  For example, it can be used to "reshuffle" the ingredients of several hits; good crystals may result when the precipitant from one hit is combined with the buffer or salt from another hit.  Such "targeted screens" often produce well-formed diffracting crystals, starting with several less-promising conditions.



May 2011

Douglas Instruments has published a major study of the use of microseeding in protein crystallization.  (To give an idea of the scale of the study, crystallization data was collected from over 30,000 drops.)  The theory of microseeding is explored with phase diagrams, and a method of predicting which solutions can be used to suspend seed crystals is described.  We also explain how the number of salt crystals can be reduced, how to use seeding with protein complexes, and how to encourage crystallization before you have found your first crystals.  The paper is available at  If you do not have a subscription to Crystal Growth and Design, click here to obtain a free copy.



March 2011

Douglas Instruments and the Laboratorio de Estudios Cristalograficos, Granada, Spain, have published an article about using microseeding with capillary counterdiffusion.  It is available at



March 2011

Douglas Instruments and the other members of the OptriCryst Consortium have published an article in Crystal Growth and Design.  It describes the application of microseeding, capillary counterdiffusion, dual polarization interferometry, in situ dynamic light scattering, and crystal growth in gels to protein crystal optimization.  It is available at



September 2010

Congratulations Angeles of LEC, Granada and Richard of Douglas Instruments for winning a poster prize at ICCBM, Dublin. The poster, entitled 'Coupling counterdiffusion and microseeding techniques to increase protein crystallization success', can be found at Poster-Dublin-ICCBM



December 2009

Douglas Instruments was invited to contribute an Article about microseeding to the December issue of the SER-CAT Spectrum newsletter.  For more information about SER-CAT visit



January 2009

Douglas Instruments is very pleased to announce that Hoffmann – La Roche (Basel) has selected the Oryx range of robots for its new set of drop-setters for protein crystallization.  We successfully installed two Oryx4 systems and one OryxNano  at the Roche laboratories in January 2009.  This included one Oryx4 that is being used in a cold-room.

Dr. Joerg Benz said, “The Douglas Instruments Oryx range gives us the versatility that we need, and the systems have the advantage of working with very small protein samples.  They also allow us to set up microseeding experiments by the “MMS” method, which we find to be particularly effective.  And having several systems avoids any possible bottle-neck in the lab’s workflow.”



September 2008

Douglas Instruments has introduced  SwissCi 2-drop and 3-drop plates (both polystyrene and UVP) to its range of products. The 2-drop polystyrene plates are the most popular, however the 3-drop plates have been redesigned and the improved version is highly recommended. Contact us for free samples. Special discounts are available for existing Oryx customers and members of the bulletin board of the Automatic Protein Crystallization Group.



April 2007

D’Arcy et al. designed a Microseed Matrix Screening experiment in collaboration with Douglas Instruments, and reported that the average number of hits obtained for 5 target proteins increased by a factor of 7.    



December 2006

Douglas Instruments has been awarded a Framework grant from the European Commission to do research into protein crystal optimization.  The OptiCryst consortium consists of seven small-to-medium enterprises and four academic institutions.  The grant will run for three years.



September 2006

Douglas Instruments has announced the winner of the second round of its competition for the best new crystallization technique.  Congratulations to Bret Dillard from the University of Georgia, for his winning entry, "Automatic Protein Crystallization in an Anaerobic Environment."

Bret placed an Oryx1-6 robot in a Bactron X anaerobic chamber, and used mainly microbatch-under-oil crystallization to crystallize four proteins that are not stable in an environment with oxygen.  He found that microbatch avoided the need for frequent degassing of solutions which reduced the work-load enormously.  The oil also provided extra protection from oxidation.

One of the proteins crystallized is rubrerythrin from the hyperthermophilic archaeon, Pyrococcus furiosus.  The native protein contains iron, but is unstable in oxygen.  A previously-reported structure was determined in the presence of oxygen, but the iron had been replaced by zinc.  Using the anaerobic system, Bret has now obtained the native form containing iron.



August 2006

Douglas Instruments has published a table showing the frequency of use of precipitants in protein crystallization experiments.  The data were extracted from REMARK 280 of the PDB.Ammonium sulfate was the most popular precipitant with 900 entries, followed by PEG 4K (710 entries) and PEG 8K (488 entries).  However, if you combine the medium and high molecular-weight PEGs (1968 entries) they easily outnumber ammonium sulfate.

The table also gives the average concentrations used.



December 2005

Oryx took part in nano-dispensing tests at a workshop at the NKI, Netherlands.  The tests used fluorescein, and included protein mixed with 50% glycerol and 1% detergent!  The results for Oryx were comparable with the four other nano-dispensing robots tested (and in some cases significantly better). 

For example, 100 nl volumes of 6 different concentrations each of PEG 10K, PEG 3K, isopropanol and MPD were dispensed. Excluding concentrations above 45% (where some material was carried on the outside of the tip) an average of 93 nl was dispensed with a CV of 14.8%.

For the 'sticky' protein with glycerol and detergent, Oryx's CV was 13% for 20 nl drops - although such small volumes are not normally recommended!



August 2005

Three members of the VIZIER program (Integrated Structural Genomics of Viral Enzymes Involved in Replication) at the Universities of Pavia, Milano and Uppsala selected Douglas Instruments' Oryx 8 robot to set up their crystallization experiments.  An important advantage of Oryx in this decision was the very low wastage of protein.



May 2005

Patrick Shaw Stewart of Douglas Instruments ran a workshop at the Erice Crystallography School, Sicily, this year.  A copy of Patrick's PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here.



May 2005

Douglas Instruments announces the launch of its new Oryx range, the Oryx8 and Oryx4, at ACA2005



March 2005

Douglas Instruments is very happy to announce the winner of the first round of its competition for the best use of its Vapor Batch and Crystal Clear crystallization plates.

The prize was won by the only entrant, Dr. Lesley Haire, from the National Institute of Medical Research, London, UK.

Lesley showed that the Vapor Batch plates are ideal for growing and harvesting crystals that require volatile organic materials such as isopropanol.  Crystals of a hexameric form of the NTD of the capsid protein of N-MLV were grown by dispensing protein and PEG into wells on the Vapor Batch plate.  The drops were covered with "Al's Oils" (a 50:50 mixture of silicone and paraffin oils).  Isopropanol solution was placed in the trough around the outside of the plate, so that the isopropanol could diffuse through the oil into the drops.  This approach allowed crystals to be harvested without damage.



February 2004

Douglas Instruments and Jonathan Hadden have started a discussion group for sharing general tips and techniques for protein crystallization, and also as a forum for users of the Oryx and IMPAX robotic systems.  The group can be found at  Experiment scripts for Oryx and Impax, crystallization images etc. can be shared at the group web-site.  The group is intended for non-commercial messages connected with protein crystallization only and it is coordinated by Jonathan Hadden at Leeds University.



Nov. 2004

Douglas Instruments has introduced new scripts for Oryx which allow it to dispense sitting drop experiments down to 100 nl + 100 nl.  Much greater accuracy and more reliable dispensing is achieved by lifting up the tip a few tenths of a mm while simultaneously dispensing protein and screening solution.  (Oryx only dispenses the drops - it is not recommended for filling the reservoirs of vapor diffusion experiments.)

 Existing users of Oryx should contact Douglas Instruments to obtain software that includes these scripts.



October 2004

Douglas Instruments has released a version of XStep, its optimization software, which can export experimental data in XML format.  For a sample file, please click here

Xstep gives a simple-to-use spreadsheet environment where values can be interpolated between wells in opposite corners of a plate.  It also generates experiments with multivariate designs such as Box-Behnken and Central Composite. 

XML is a standard that can be read by most databases, spreadsheets etc.  It represents data using a hierarchical structure - this makes it easy for the importer to reorganize the data and to ignore branches that contain data that is not of interest.



October 2003

The company has announced a competition for the best research project using the new Douglas Vapor Batch Plate, or the Crystal Clear Strips.  The competition aims to encourage practical advances that are helpful to other users, original ideas, and discoveries that increase the understanding of crystallization.



June 2003

Douglas Instruments has compiled a summary of studies comparing microbatch and vapor diffusion in screening experiments.  Combining the results of all studies, microbatch found a total of 392 hits, compared to vapor diffusion which found 340.  References are given.



February 2001

Douglas Instruments has defined an interface for importing and exporting experimental data from XSTEP, its optimization software.  This interface uses the XML standard.



December 1999

Douglas Instruments has a job opportunity for a junior programmer



Jun. 1999

Research: analysis of open reading frames from Pyrococcus furiosus genome sequence shows three main clusters of proteins



April 1999

Douglas Instruments offers a Windows upgrade to users with DOS-based IMPAX systems



April 1999

Douglas Instruments has started a discussion group.  (2005 - the new discussion group can now be found at The automatic Protein Crystallization and Microbatch Group



March 1999

Douglas Instruments has released information on Year 2000 compliance.



February 1999

Douglas Instruments is seeking a partner to exploit microbatch crystallization for large-scale automatic crystallization projects including structural genomics.  Studies have shown that microbatch is roughly as efficient as vapor diffusion for screening (more efficient in terms of time and material) and it is widely used for optimization.  Moreover it offers great cost savings, reduces the storage requirement for trays, and facilitates viewing.



Feb. 1999

Douglas Instruments releases new software.  The new package gives increased user-friendliness and powerful new experimental designs, and uses a new controller for IMPAX and Oryx.  The package includes Wasp for screening for new crystallization conditions and Xstep for Optimization of crystals.



Jan. 1999

Douglas Instruments has published a paper on practical experimental design techniques for protein crystallization.



Jan. 1999

Douglas Instruments has moved.    Douglas House, our new office, is 25 miles South of Oxford, UK.



Aug. 1998

Douglas Instruments introduces new CrystalClear strips.  The new version has no depression on the sample shelf, which improves viewing.  Instead there is a small circular raised platform.  The original version with depressions must still be used for solutions and screens which include low molecular weight alcohols or detergents.



Jan. 1998

IMPAX User wins Nobel Prize.  John Walker, who works at the MRC laboratory at Cambridge, recently won a Nobel prize for his work on how ATP is produced at the membranes of a mitochondrion.  He regularly uses IMPAX in his current work.


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