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December 14, 2017

Freedom to work from anywhere during protein purification runs

By Prashanth Rao, Global product manager UNICORN software

Have you ever felt that having to work with the computer connected to the system is not giving you the required flexibility? Consider this scenario, where you have started a run in the lab and you would like to step out of the lab to your office.


You may want to be in the office to plan for the next run, analyze previous runs, prepare a presentation or write on the next publication or report. But while you are focusing on other activities, you would like to monitor the progress of the run in the lab so you can act if any alerts or warnings arise. If you feel that you would benefit from freedom to operate remotely from anywhere, I would recommend listening to our webinar on demand; Work from anywhere with UNICORN™ and add flexibility to protein purification workflows. The webinar is about remote-control capabilities in the UNICORN software when working with ÄKTA systems. The live webinar was held on September 6 and after the event a questions and answer session were held where me and my colleagues Olivier Friker, Lena Nyholm and Lotta Hedkvist answered questions from the audience. In this article, I would like to discuss the different topics that we received questions about.

UNICORN remote capabilities

UNICORN Remote allows you to work from the comfort of your office or any computer outside of the one connected to the system. The remote capabilities in UNICORN provides full capabilities without blocking the UNICORN workstation connected to a system and allows you to monitor runs outside of the lab, receive alarms and warnings, check on settings, view results and work on method editing and evaluation. Some of the questions where about the remote capabilities of UNICORN, there are listed below.

A1: There are many features in UNICORN to ensure safety of operation, such as control priorities, user and computer access control, audit trailing, etc. Working without these features may lead to incidents or incompliance.
A4: No, ÄKTA start is our simplest ÄKTA system, it is an easy-to-use protein purification system that allows to automate manual protein purification procedures in academic and educational labs.
A5: This kind of feature is not yet available for UNICORN. However, we do realize the benefits of operating remotely and this something that GE Healthcare is considering.
A6: UNICORN software natively runs on Microsoft Windows and Mac is not supported. However, we have seen a workaround used by few of our users to access UNICORN from Mac computers. They have accomplished this by using remote desktop application and connecting to the windows computer running UNICORN and controlling it. This is a workaround only and does not provide all the benefits of using UNICORN remotely, e.g. computer running UNICORN is blocked and only one user can operate the software.
A7: Yes, UNICORN 7 has replaced UNICORN 5.x, however not all systems are covered, support for some ÄKTA systems of the previous generation has been implemented. ÄKTAexplorer and ÄKTApurifier can run on UNCORN 7, but unfortunately not ÄKTAprime.
A9: Please connect with your regional service team to get more info / access to data viewer tool.

Network requirements

The UNICORN remote capabilities are realized by leveraging network installation and floating licenses. There were several questions received related to the network needed for the installation.

A10: Network specifications are much more complex than just speed (latency, bandwidth, etc.). This is an area where GE is working with providing meaningful and realistic specifications.
A11: The UNICORN client must be able to access the UNICORN database, regardless of the infrastructure of the network. Both wired and wireless connection should work fine if the UNICORN client has access to the UNICORN database and the network connectivity is stable.
A13: When connection is lost to the central data base, UNICORN will store data locally until reconnection. The control computer hosting UNICORN client will continue the run.
A14: There are many ways to minimize data weight, with different pros and cons depending on the context. Look up the Administration and Technical manual for data sampling and database archiving.

UNICORN licenses

Finally, I would like also like to elaborate on the different questions we received related the licensing set up. A typical representation of the UNICORN network setup includes a common database where the data from all the UNICORN workstations are stored and a license server that is common to the network installation. The common license server, holds the floating licenses that is used by all the remote clients. In addition to this there are also node-locked licenses for the UNICORN workstation computer connected to each ÄKTA system.

A15: Remote licenses are floating so each license is valid for one concurrent user but can be shared with multiple users.
A16: Yes. Please connect with your sales team to order UNICORN remote
A17: The UNICORN client can be installed on any computer. GE Healthcare offers floating remote license for sharing between multiple users.
Get to know more about the different UNICORN licenses in UNICORN™ 7 software data file.

Learn more about UNICORN remote capabilities and learn how to implement in our webinar on demand; Work from anywhere with UNICORN™ and add flexibility to protein purification workflows.

If you have additional question about how to work remotely during your protein purification runs we welcome you to ask a question on our discussion forums.