Analyzing data at single-cell level

PerkinElmer and Accelrys announce software collaboration to enable single-cell imaging using high-content screening technology

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WALTHAM, Mass.—Seeking to provide researchers with a comprehensive single-cell based image analysis tool, PerkinElmer Inc. has entered into a cellular imaging and analysis software relationship with Accelrys Inc., a scientific business intelligence software and services provider based in San Diego, Calif.

The collaboration, announced in late April at the 15th Annual Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) Conference in Lille, France, aims to provide researchers with unprecedented capabilities for the detection and analysis of single cells via high-content screening (HCS) technologies, for faster and better outcomes in identifying cellular markers associated with human health and disease.

After working independently on customer projects that used PerkinElmer's high-content screening instrumentation and image acquisition software as well as Accelrys' software solutions, the companies will combine PerkinElmer's Columbus image data management system and Accelrys' Pipeline Pilot data analysis and reporting platform.

PerkinElmer's Columbus software is designed to handle high-volume image storage and management. Designed as a partner product for image-based screening systems such as PerkinElmer's Opera or Operetta cellular imaging readers, the software is compatible a wide range of image file formats, can be used to archive and manage images from confocal and standard research microscopes and acts as a convenient central repository for all image data.

Accelrys' Pipeline Pilot data analysis and reporting platform streamlines integration and analysis of the vast quantities of data that frequently become a bottleneck in research informatics. The software's enterprise-scale data flow control, extensive data mining, intelligent decision support and effective reporting seek to provide an agile development environment, fast and secure deployment, minimal maintenance costs and application extension.

In this collaboration, PerkinElmer's Columbus software will provide the detailed images containing single cells as well as large amounts of cell-level data, and Accelrys' Pipeline Pilot platform will furnish intelligent algorithms and image analysis data transfer capability. The integrated technologies will enable the companies' customers to analyze large amounts of information faster, in greater detail and more conveniently across multiple research sites, says Dr. Achim von Leoprechting, vice president and general manager, cellular imaging and analysis solutions, Bio-Discovery, PerkinElmer.

"Several leading pharma and biotech customers have been using Accelrys and PerkinElmer products for high-content screening applications successfully for a long time," von Leoprechting says. "With the growing need of managing image data on a larger scale, as well as the desire to understand the cellular response on a more detailed level, customers were seeking a more streamlined interface between image data storage and analysis. Both companies are committed to continuously developing enabling technologies for cell-based drug screening. Ultimately, researchers will profit directly from this agile partnership and collaboration by accessing specific information about cellular responses and mechanisms easier and in greater detail than ever before."

By analyzing cellular responses on a single-cell level scientists benefit from access to information about morphology, specific cellular compartments, as well as molecule translocation or interactions as well as texture analysis for even deeper understanding of cellular processes in disease research. Now, with this collaboration, the use of machine learning and computer automation on the vast amount of data available at the cell level will bring some of the early promises of high-content screening to fruition, von Leoprechting says.

"Particularly in the Pharma market, these new possibilities will elevate the position of high-content screening in the drug discovery process from a predominantly secondary screening position into the target discovery and primary screening arena," he adds.
Counting many Fortune 500 companies among its customers, Accelrys develops scientific business intelligence software and solutions for the life sciences, energy, chemicals, aerospace, and consumer products industries. The company also has a vast portfolio of computer-aided design modeling and simulation offerings that assist customers in conducting in silico scientific experiments.

Tim Moran, director of life sciences marketing at Accelrys, says the company has always strived to be "platform independent," refraining from aligning itself with any major pharma player and instead focusing on creating an open platform and environment for data integration between disparate research sources.

"This type of environment involves an enterprise-level platform that can be utilized by very skilled developers to build complex algorithms, but also by novel technicians," Moran says. "It has the ability to be flexible enough to allow for advanced data flow and development of protocols. These protocols can then be deployed across the enterprise via the Web."

PerkinElmer is one of several top HCS vendors with whom Accelrys has formed an alliance, Moran adds.

"We try to play nice with all of the leading vendors, and we have been successfully able to do that so far," he says. "We have the ability to take this world of informatics, which was generally less efficient, and bring it into HCS with easy-to-use programs and tools that a biologist can understand and utilize. But what we are seeing more and more when I go into a room in Big Pharma is that we are not just talking to the biologist—the informatician, IT specialist and chemist are all also in the room. This platform has done an amazing job of bringing different disciplines together and integrating different pipelines because those people from different disciplines are now all working on the same data flow."

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