A hot microplate

Scripps Research, Brooks Life Science Systems partner on microplate imaging system

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POWAY, Calif.—Brooks Life Science Systems (BLSS) is enteringinto a partnership with the Scripps Research Institute to jointly complete thedevelopment of a microplate imaging system to evaluate the quality of compoundsduring drug discovery.Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Peter Policastro, senior director of business developmentfor the Scripps Research Institute, explains that BLSS proved to be anattractive partner for the collaboration because "it is a leader in the fieldof laboratory automation equipment and instrumentation."
In addition to teaming up to finish development of themicroplate imaging system created by Scripps Research, Policastro said thepartnership also will enable BLSS to manufacture and commercialize the imagingsystem.
John Lillig, senior vice president and managing director ofBLSS, says the company is looking forward to its collaboration with the ScrippsResearch's Compound Management Group on the development and thecommercialization of this compound quality assurance technology. 
"With more than 350 million samples stored in Brooks' SampleManagement Systems around the world, the new Plate Auditor will complement ourBrooks Tube Auditor and be a valuable new quality enhancement tool for ourcompound management customers," he says.
Lillig says that initially, the goal of the partnership isto work closely with Dr. Peter Hodder's group at Scripps to complete thedevelopment and then pick up the commercialization of the high-performancePlate Auditor system that was developed by Hodder and his group at Scripps.
"We will then work with the team to explore other areaswhere progress could be made in the automation and efficiency improvement ofthe overall drug discovery process," Lillig says.
Hodder, who is senior director and head of leadidentification at the Florida campus of Scripps Research, explains that thetechnology "was developed to address an unmet need in our compound managementoperation—the automated assessment of compound quality in plate-based HTSlibraries. Both HTS and compound management staff now consider it indispensablefor routine quality control of cherry-picked samples as well as periodicmonitoring of sample quality across all our screening libraries."
"This is the first instrument of its kind and first in itsclass," Hodder adds. "As a detection platform, it provides a wealth ofinformation about a compound sample that you simply couldn't get from oneinstrument."
Hodder says he hopes the new technology gets people thinkingabout Scripps Florida in a new way.
"We want people to know that in addition to discoveringtherapeutic molecules, we can also design and build novel instrumentation forscreening operations," says Hodder, who founded and has directed thehigh-throughput screening laboratory at Scripps Florida since 2005. "With theautomation of these previously laborious, error-prone measurements, compoundmanagers and screening scientists will waste less time cherry-picking andscreening 'expired' compound samples, thus improving the quality of dataemerging from HTS efforts. Application of this technology will immediatelyimpact compound management and HTS lab productivity, as well as downstream drugdiscovery efforts."
The new instrument made its debut at the first Society forLaboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) in February in San Diego. Hodderwill be presenting the new HIAPI-CM at a European Lab Automation Conference inMay.
According to Hodder, the timing couldn't have been betterfor the collaboration between Scripps and BLSS.
"Through mergers and acquisitions, pharmaceutical companieshave inherited legacy screening collections that need to be assessed forquality before they are screened," he notes. "The concurrent expansion of HTSoperations in the academic, biotech and CRO domains has resulted in the distributionof compound collections around the world."
Lillig agrees, adding that the Plate Auditor technologyrepresents the very first development of a system that can automatically,without human interpretation, assess the quality and integrity of the thousandsof samples to be routinely tested by each drug discovery lab in theirhigh-throughput/high-content screening operations.
Ultimately, the benchmark for success will be financialresults, and Policastro says that will be marked "by achievement of significantmarket penetration in an expeditious manner."
Lillig adds that the partners have "already received asignificant level of genuine interest in this important product from a numberof major pharmaceutical drug discovery groups around the world, and as such, weare very pleased to see this partnership already getting off to a verysuccessful start."  

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