By Simon Fogarty

In the rapidly evolving, data-driven life sciences sector, it is increasingly common to see labs developing their own in-house solutions to enable scale-up of novel methods, and to bridge technology gaps not yet filled by automation providers. The track "Automation and High-Throughput Technologies" at SLAS 2018 includes the session "In-House Automation: Devices and Software Developed Internally," which will explore this growing trend. We interviewed the session chair, Louis Scampavia, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute to learn more.

Keeping pace with innovative trends in drug discovery

The session will focus on in-house solutions to automation needs, particularly with respect to technology gaps that develop in drug discovery. Whether in industry or in academia, these gaps typically occur when the demands for high-throughput screening are evolving more quickly than the technology that supports it.

"This often creates a gap," says Dr. Scampavia, "where new instruments or data management/software support is needed that simply is not in place because most companies or academic laboratories have put a lot of money into a technology infrastructure that was built for what the previous needs looked like." As a result, there is a necessity for in-house support "to bridge the technology gap between yesterday's vision and today's needs."

bridging gaps in drug discovery slas2018

Bridging gaps in drug discovery: what can we learn from in-house solutions?

Much of that gap can be filled with informatics and data management solutions, and there has been a migration toward web-based and cloud informatics. "How you readily transfer that information using in-house servers, and how you provide security and user access is never a trivial issue," says Dr. Scampavia.

Meeting the demands of high content screening

High content screening in particular has created new demands, including the need for more advanced algorithms for image analysis and novel approaches for how images and data management infrastructures are supported. When working with remote teams, additional considerations may include access to information, coordination of data transfer, and data transparency for the end user.

"While many third-party vendors have arisen with forward-looking solutions, no one can predict what adaptations to hardware or software will be needed," says Dr. Scampavia. Integration may require updated mechanical or software tools or unique adaptations.

In-house automation case studies: what can we learn?

The presentations in this session will introduce a number of solutions that have been applied by academia and industry and will also show how third-party vendors have enabled these interactions.

The session is relevant and appealing to a very broad audience, including anyone dealing with automation and seeking solutions to bridge the gap between the systems they have and how those systems need to adapt to meet the users' current needs, whether in industry or academia.

Presentations within the session will include in-house solutions from:

  • NIH NCATS entitled: DIY Integration of a Hamamatsu FDSS to a High-Throughput Screening System; a problem solving and design-for-manufacture exercise, and supporting case for the value of in-house prototyping ability
  • Ziath entitled: Open Development from User to Vendor and Back Again; How Everybody Wins
  • Scripps (Florida) entitled: In-house Software and Processes to Support High Content Screening of Primary Neurons
  • Dresden University of Technology entitled: Routine Lab Automation with Culture Dishes Made Easy - How the PetriJet Platform Technology Helps to Make Drinking Water Analysis Faster and Better


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Dr. Louis Scampavia

About the author

Simon Fogarty

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.