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by Simon Fogarty

Now that phenotypic screening is well and truly back, how do you take advantage of its many benefits, especially if you’ve already made a considerable commitment to target-based screening? The simple answer is: you combine the two.

Phenotypic screening and target based screening for precision medicine

You can screen cellular and molecular targets on one platform.


Twice as powerful together

As well as being cornerstones of drug discovery in their own right, phenotypic and target-based screening methods deliver very different information. But the types of information they provide complement each other. Together, they could heighten the potential to discover powerful new mechanisms of drug action to target complex diseases like specific types of cancers, and help fulfil the promise of precision medicine.

“Screening platforms that master both target-based and phenotypic screening programs are a reality today,” says Kevin Moore, Manager Liquid Handling Product and Applications Management. “It comes down to choosing a screening platform with a modular and adaptable approach.”

The right kind of screening platform does both

The screening platform should be able to handle the full gamut of sample types, compounds and plate configurations easily and efficiently. This will allow you to start up a complementary phenotypic screening program without abandoning what you’ve already developed in biochemical methods. When the two are running alongside each other according to the focus of your discovery program, you may have better opportunities to discover and characterize new drug leads with a fuller, more nuanced set of information. You have a better basis of information for deciding which leads to pursue, and – most importantly – why.

So how do you go about specifying the right screening platform?

The new generation of screening platforms

The best of the new generation of screening platforms offer fast processing, intuitive programming, error checking and high capacity. They make efficient use of your existing lab space, enabling cell-based assays to become integral to your discovery pipeline by complementing your existing screening infrastructure. For example, a multimode reader like Tecan’s Spark 20M® supports the running of both phenotypic and biochemical screenings.

Found in more and more labs engaged in drug discovery or advanced research applications, Tecan’s Spark 20M® reads up to 1,536-well microplates. Its key features for phenotypic screening include active cooling for more accurate and reliable results from cellular assays, unique Fusion Optics and an integrated microscope for fast, precise cell counting, measuring confluence and live cell imaging.

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Kevin Moore says: “In designing screening solutions, we consider all aspects: automation, detection and cell based assays, 3D cell culture, working with stem cells & primary cells. We’ve looked carefully at versatility, modularity, fidelity and control of physiological conditions and making the interface as intuitive as possible. Tecan has worked together for many years with our customers to design custom screening systems and we support you with our expertise at every step."

Talk to an expert

Talk to an expert at Tecan and we’ll be with you throughout the entire process of integration with your existing lab.

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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.