High Content Screening (HCS) is emerging as a technology with a major role to play in assessing the suitability of compounds for further testing.
One of the advantages sees HCS offering whole-cell analysis at various stages of the drug discovery process while retaining the ability to screen large numbers of compounds.
Potentially, HCS provides greatly improved data quality as it monitors multiple cellular events in response to the effects of a drug at much earlier stages of drug discovery than were previously possible.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) has been using the technology as part of the NCGC's quantitative HTS (qHTS) programme and involves screening of the genome.
The research community, via a public database, can access the data produced so reliability of results is paramount.
The NCGC currently runs at 50-70 per cent of assays in a cellular format, assaying multiple concentrations of each compound, generating hundreds of thousands of concentration-effect relationships from primary screening.
Consequently, there is a significant increase in wells screened over traditional single point testing, to a magnitude of 7- to 15-fold making the need for a truly high throughput automated system for screening 1536 well plates essential.
The NCGC has integrated TTP LabTech's Acumen Explorer laser-scanning cytometer into its screening system from Kalypsys.
Here it will be used for population distribution analysis of cells in microplates, initially providing reporter gene analysis.
The Acumen Explorer is a laser scanning rather than image acquisition system. Subsequent analysis means that data files are tiny - essential in such a high throughput system.
Laser scanning and a wide field of view makes the Acumen Explorer capable of generating 300,000 data points in 24 hours working in a 1536 well format.
The Acumen Explorer is a tool in the development and execution of cell-based, high-content screening assays. It can scan and analyse, in 4 colours simultaneously, all SBS-format microplates at equivalent plate read times.
The key advantages for scientists include rapid results from outsourced development, no capital cost of equipment, custom-designed assays for targets in molecular biology, biochemical screening, ADMET screening and DMPK-enabled analysis.