blog: addressing drug discovery bottlenecks

drug discovery bottlenecks – could these be a thing of the past?

Low-volume pipetting has become standard practice for many high-throughput screening (HTS) techniques but there are often issues with the accuracy, reliability and repeatability of bulk dispensing of reagents and samples into high density plate formats used in HTS.

In fact, a bulk reagent dispenser survey calculated that about 10% of all bulk dispensing time/work was disrupted due to instrument failure or dispensing problems [1]. Of these, tip clogging, high dead volume and soaring maintenance costs were rated the most problematic aspects of such dispensers.

Another common bottleneck is in the transition of assays from development in to HTS, with a common complaint being that different plate density and liquid handling techniques have to be used for the two processes.  This is due to the complex combination of variables that need to be assessed as part of the assay development process, and the limitation of automated liquid handling to carry out such tasks; combined with the need for high density (typically 1,536) well plate formats and a reliance on automation for the HTS process.  This miss-match results in a lot of time and effort being invested in ‘converting’ assays from one process to the other/ to ensure they run reliably in HTS. What if the same technology that provides highly accurate and precise low-volume liquid handling in assay development were to be used in high speed bulk dispensing in HTS?

Well, your dreams have come true! TTP Labtech have recently announced their new dragonfly® discovery liquid handler.  The new platform enables rapid and reliable low volume (200 nL upwards), non-contact dispensing from a positive displacement disposable pipette with 96, 384 & 1,536 well compatibility, to allow assays to be developed directly in high density plate formats. The same platform can also perform assay validation and subsequent HTS, which simplifies and aids in a smooth transition in to a high throughput environment.

dragonfly discovery has 10 channels which can be used independently with any liquid type, irrespective of viscosity. The unique combination of positive displacement, disposable tips and non-contact dispensing ensure dead volumes are minimised, and that issues of  tip clogging and cross-contamination are removed, all of which improve the efficiency and robustness of the screening process.

In addition, new software capabilities and DoE interface support the design, development and ability to run complex assays on a standalone instrumnet; thus enabling a simple, swift, user friendly set-up prior to a run.

In summary, it is now possible to use the same technology at all stages of the drug discovery process, easing assay transition, improving assay robustness, whilst remaining cost effective.

The smooth running of drug discovery processes will be featured at the following events:

At SLAS 2017, Washington, DC, USA (Feb 4-8th) TTP Labtech will be presenting a poster describing a high-throughput phenotypic screening workflow for cytoxicity determination using its comPOUND store to rapidly cherry pick individual compounds, dragonfly® discovery for rapid reagent dispensing into 1,536 well plates, and acumen Cellista for reporting medium content data from multiplexed phenotypic screening assays. In this process, dragonfly discovery rapidly dispenses many liquid types (including cells and beads) into a 1,536 well plate with no cross contamination, and minimal intervention.

[1]Comley, J. Bulk Reagent Dispensers: ubiquitous liquid handling tool for microplate filling. DDW Fall 2010

TTP Labtech will be presenting live demos of dragonfly® discovery at booth #1105 at SLAS 2017 along with presenting at ‘Late Night with LRIG – Rapid-Fire Innovation Session’, 6-8pm, Monday 6th February, and will be hosting a workshop on Tuesday 7th February, room: 143b at 2pm. Space is limited, so reserve your place at the workshop here.

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