Enabling Technologies
Automating cell based assays, Cybio Felix
Automated Cell-based Assays: Novel tools overcome the barriers to drug discovery success

Automated Cell-based Assays: Novel tools overcome the barriers to drug discovery success

By Helen Stewart-Miller and Kate Tointon

In this article, we look at how commercial products and services are facilitating the automation of cell-based assays to advance drug discovery and accelerate the delivery of new medicines to patients.

Cell-based assays are vital tools in modern drug discovery. Live cell cultures that replicate in vivo physiological conditions enable more reliable predictions about the safety and efficacy of drugs. Cellular assays have traditionally been complex and labour-intensive, however, automated technologies are now streamlining workflows as well as improving assay precision.

The last decade in drug discovery has seen a strong drive towards using in vitro cellular models that better mimic the in vivo environment, such as three-dimensional (3D) and patient-derived models. This is vital for enabling the reliable analysis of drug targets and drug mechanisms of action during early screening, as well as in later drug absorption, metabolism and toxicity studies.

“The drive for greater physiological relevance in drug discovery assays has resulted in a number of key methodological changes over the last decade,” remarks Peter Banks, Scientific Director at BioTek Instruments. “This includes the greater use of human primary cells relative to immortalised cell lines, measuring endogenous expression of drug targets (as opposed to their overexpression) and the use of 3D cellular models involving hydrogels and spheroid aggregation.”

However, complex protocols, extended run times and large numbers of samples make cellbased assays labour-intensive. They also need to be highly sensitive, reproducible and reliable to ensure they produce high quality data. As cellular assays are increasingly used during primary screening, a high-throughput capability is also highly desirable. The automation of cell-based assays has been critical in tackling these challenges....

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