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How advanced automated liquid handling systems are reshaping drug discovery

How advanced automated liquid handling systems are reshaping drug discovery

By Helen Stewart-Miller and Dr Richard Massey
Winter 2018/19

Once the domain of high-throughput screening (HTS) applications, automated liquid handling systems are now used ubiquitously in drug discovery and have been fundamental in increasing throughput, driving efficiencies and improving standards of accuracy and reproducibility in pharmaceutical and biotechnology workflows.

This roundtable considers some of the latest advances in liquid handling technology and the impact they are having on drug discovery.

Drug discovery has undergone a revolution over the past two decades, thanks in large part to the widespread adoption of automated liquid handling. Driven by a competitive need to maximise throughput and increase productivity while ensuring the highest levels of accuracy and reproducibility, automated liquid handling systems have been adopted across the entire pharmaceutical and biotechnology pipeline.

Improvements in the scale, speed and quality of workflows enabled by automated liquid handling have not only helped to reduce timescales and deliver results faster, they have also made drug discovery more efficient and systematic. Use of automated liquid handling in assay development, for example, is essential for the methodical testing of multiple conditions to ensure robust assays are put forward for screening applications. Automated liquid handling systems have also been vital to simplify the creation of complex multi-parameter experiments in a reproducible, reliable and robust manner, while freeing highly-trained scientists from manual lab-work to focus on more skilled tasks, such as the analysis of data and planning of experiments.

The remarkable scale and speed at which liquid handling tasks can now be performed have accelerated a shift towards biotechnology-derived therapeutics and new approaches to personalised medicine. Advanced high-throughput techniques, such as next-generation sequencing and genomicsbased target discovery, demand operation at a rate and on a scale that can only be achieved using automation.

Automation in liquid handling workflows has long been critical for drug discovery. Today, in the era of genomics, next-generation sequencing and personalised medicine, it is proving more important than ever as a tool for accelerating the search for safe and effective therapeutics...

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