How well different cell types and lines express a protein of interest has become a crucial part of many biopharmaceutical programmes as researchers need to find the optimum cell lines and expression conditions. This can involve laborious screening and purification steps before analysis can be conducted and if multiple cell lines are being screened under a wide variety of conditions then even using the 96 well plate MultiTrap offering from GE Healthcare can be optimised with efficient automation. The collaboration between GE Healthcare and Tecan has been set up to overcome this problem by better integrating the purification chemistry expertise developed by GE Healthcare's Life Sciences division with Tecan's automation expertise. While many companies have expertise in developing robotics automation and hardware or in developing chemistries and new applications, few exist that can effectively integrate the two disciplines on their own. This can lead to life science customers having to optimise high throughput process protocols by themselves, expending a lot of time and resource that could have been better invested in the areas they have expertise in. The protocols developed by this collaboration will be free to customers; simplifying the integration of the automation and chemistry platforms provided by both companies leaving scientists to focus on their research and not automation set-up. According to Allan Simpson, GE Healthcare's director of strategic alliances, the number of proteins that researchers need to express and study is growing exponentially making a generic approach to expression and purification an ideal solution. The collaboration has initially focussed on integrating the use of GE's tag-based protein purification chemistry products that are used to fish out tagged proteins from the cells, commonly Escherichia coli (E. coli), used to produce them. This will enable researchers to find the optimum conditions, cell lines and vectors for producing the desired proteins. "Because you can make a number of genetic constructs for a protein you have to screen to find out which is the best for the protein you are trying to express as well as identifying the best cell lines and optimum conditions for the expression," said Simpson. "This leads to the generation of a lot of samples that you must then screen to find the best expression. This is normally a very time consuming process for customers. With the new protocols this can now be done in a completely automated and optimised way." While the use of automation will undoubtedly save researchers time, according to Eric Willimann, market manager for Cell and Protein Sciences at Tecan, one of the major advantages of the automated systems will be the increased reproducibility of the data generated using the expression screens. Simpson told LabTechnologist.com that the protocols took around 2 man-years to optimise, an infeasible amount of time for smaller laboratories and companies to invest in process optimisation. "If we can improve our customer's ability to conduct protein expression screening we can save customers time and get their proteins onto our scale-up production equipment faster," said Simpson. This will mean that researchers spend less time during the bioprocess optimisation stages and will be able to move from the lead discovery stage to trial stages quicker than ever before. While the company's have initially targeted expression screening applications, Simpson said that they were looking into optimising the automation of 10 or 12 other processes such as antibody purification as well as several different techniques used in the preparation and purification of native proteins. "We are trying to accept the fact that we have skills in one area and Tecan in another and are therefore working together for the customers benefit," said Simpson. He continued by saying that GE Healthcare was happy to talk to any robot company and develop the protocols that they have for their chemistry products on their systems as customers are demanding much more in terms of applications and protocols that neither GE nor the automation companies can provide on their own.