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By Simon Fogarty

If you’ve decided you need to incorporate phenotypic screening into your discovery program and you know that one of the new generation of automation platforms is the way forward, what factors should influence your choice?

A Q&A session with Kevin Moore, Manager Liquid Handling Product and Applications Management at Tecan, offers a view of what you should consider.

Phenotypic screening, target based screening, precision medicine, 3D cell culture

3D cell culture and miniaturization for automated phenotypic screening is trending.


Where should a discovery lab start, Kevin?

Phenotypic screening is an enormously broad subject, almost as wide as drug discovery itself, but in essence, the trend is towards capturing information that is more relevant to human disease, and of course the screening phase is an important data contributor. Cell-based assays are at the forefront, of course, and you should think carefully about the scale of screening data that you need. A good parameter is your level of throughput – are we talking simple automation of detection (1 to 5 plates per day or week) or high throughput (>20 plates per day)? Do you need a workstation or a fully blown self-contained system?

The people you’ll be talking to from Tecan will have expertise in many aspects from liquid handling, detection, cell culture and automation. They’ll also be familiar with the implications of 3D cell culture for your experiments. Once we’ve established your situation and requirements, our experts can help you decide on what you need.

How do you help me make the shift to running both phenotypic and biochemical screening?

It’s really about how many plates you’re doing a day. Do you really need full-scale automation? If you do, we would design a solution around a platform like Freedom EVO for supporting 3D cell culture. The modular Fluent® platform designed with cell based assays in mind supports Spark, an endpoint assay reader with functions to support high-throughput cell-based screening. We’ll also help you exploit the benefits of miniaturization to save costs and increase throughput.

Above all, we’re here to help you keep it simple. You can trust us not to make things unnecessarily complex.

Where does 3D cell culture come in?

Discovery programs strive towards measuring in realistic cellular systems and that’s a matter of some focus today. 3D cell culture enables you to integrate cell-cell interaction into screens, reliably generate complex tissue-like 3D structures and produce more biologically relevant results. The UK Government has recently set up National Phenotypic Screening Centres in Oxford, Dundee and Edinburgh. This is a good indication of how the trend is establishing itself.

We’re automating 3D cell culture technologies on our Freedom EVO® platform to provide robust and reliable solutions. We are also working closely with some of the key players that are leading the way in 3D – our partners include InSpheroLonza, and Reinnervate.

How I can make sure I invest in the most cost-effective, future-proofed way?

First of all, we offer you our expertise to help empower you to make the right decisions for your lab. Our systems are flexible and can be reconfigured rather than replaced, especially the Fluent®. The Fluent platform was designed to optimize the performance and throughput of cell-based assays. It streamlines cell-based workflows, and delivers more precise results. It simplifies the handling of precious cellular samples and integrates seamlessly with existing cell biology devices.

Once you become a Tecan customer, we keep you informed. As new technologies are introduced, we will provide you with relevant applications. And we’re always happy to have a chat.

So, remind me why I should choose Tecan, Kevin?

We are the leaders in automation and have expertise in integrating 3D cell culture into a discovery workflow, setting up a screening program with confluence measurements and cell counting. That means we fully understand the drug delivery workflow for phenotypic screening. All our application specialists have worked in discovery environments so we know what your challenges are from first-hand experience.

Great. What next?

Talk to us. We’d love to hear from you and your specific challenge.

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About the author

Simon Fogarty

Simon has a broad background in drug discovery automation covering all areas from assay development to design of automation systems. He is enthusiastic about the life sciences and constantly strives to provide practical working solutions to researchers. After working in both pharma/biotech and life science instrumentation sectors for a number of years he joined Tecan in 2008. At Tecan Simon is Director of the Application Sciences Group the USA.