CEO suggests HCS usage will gain momentum

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pharmacology Drug discovery

According to a senior figure in the outsourcing industry, high
content screening (HCS) is set to overtake current methods as the
preferred technique of generating hits with the greatest interest
coming from the oncology sector.

That was the view of Dr Stephen Hammond, CEO of Scottish Biomedical, who believes that HCS' accuracy and speed of data capture are deciding factors when studying cell models.

Speaking at the recent Pabord conference in London, Hammond spoke of the rise in popularity of HCS within the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, with the method currently being applied in drug discovery; instrumentation, live-cell imaging and informatics.

Hammond said that while current methods such as High Content Screening (HTS) showed some advantages, it fell short in crucial areas that would compromise research in both time and cost measures.

"Hits from HTS tend to under perform in that they will often exhibit binding to weak non-specific interactions."

"In addition, there is a noticeably flat Structure Activity Relationship (SAR) in hit to lead activities,"​ he added.

HCS is the process in which the use of different types of assays enables a number of different considerations of a system to be assessed, in the presence of given lead compounds.

Specifically, HCS refers measurements taken on cells and tissues, which taken together, enable a clearer insight into the lead compound, and therefore enables a more calculated approach to drug development.

According to Hammond, at least 50 per cent of all drug discovery assays performed now are cell-based, with a major marketing push by outsourcing companies suggesting that cell-based HCS as the way to overcome present hurdles.

"HCS has many advantages over biochemical assays in that there is no need to purify the target which can affect assay sensitivity,"​ said Hammond.

Additionally, HCS also allows walk away automation of certain targets - a factor not addressable by HTS.

However, Hammond was quick to point out the challenges of this method, which he said would need to be overcome in order for HCS to reach its full potential.

"The disadvantages of HCS are primarily assay development, costs and relative complexity."

While quality of results is higher, researchers have to contend with the fact that HCS requires a different skill set and an altogether different approach, which need to be implemented in order to gain the full benefit from this technique."

According to Drug Discovery World, the mean number of high content screens run in large pharma was estimated to be 6.8 screens per year in 2005.

This is expected to grow to 10.4 screens in 2006. In contrast, small-medium pharma and biotech were estimated to be 5.3 screens in 2005, this is expect to grow to 7.8 screens in 2006.

While the survey pointed out that while these were different high content assays, they may not necessarily be high throughput screens.

However, it was clear that large ranges of different research groups were applying HCS today and had expertise in the technology and tools.

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