Image is everything

PerkinElmer and IDBS aim to ease high-content screening analysis burdens with Columbus-ActivityBase integration

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WALTHAM, Mass.—PerkinElmer Inc. and IDBS announced in early January at the Cambridge Healthtech Institute's Sixth Annual High-Content Analysis (HCA) conference that the companies will combine their data management software with the goal of improving data analysis and interpretation of high-content screening (HCS).

The collaboration involves integrating PerkinElmer's Columbus image data management system for HCS with IDBS' ActivityBase XE screening data management software. According to the companies, the end result is a tool that is intended to give researchers a unified interface to access the features of both software packages, allowing them to access greater insights into the cell-based mechanisms of disease. The companies plan to co-market the integrated solution to their mutual customers. Financial details of the deal were not released.

Martin Daffertshofer, global software product manager for PerkinElmer Cellular Technologies Germany, explains that the collaboration is synergistic in that it integrates vast image content with large compound sets. Designed as a partner product for the Opera system, PerkinElmer's confocal microplate imaging reader, Columbus archives and manages images from confocal and standard research microscopes and acts as a central image data repository. IDBS' ActivityBase XE allows users to store and manipulate the numeric data coming from image analysis and features an intuitive visualization capability not available in generic spreadsheet packages.

"With our collaboration with IDBS, you have an ideal, seamless solution to extract the data from whatever instrument that generates high-content image data and put it into ActivityBase to combine that with chemical data," Daffertshofer says. "We're bridging the gap between biological information on the reader side and the chemical information coming from a compound library."

Andy Vines, product manager for IDBS' ActivityBase product line, adds the integration gives researchers the ability to reanalyze data that may have been rejected at some point while working in the ActivityBase environment.

"If a scientist sees data or results that look strange or unexpected, they can view the associated image files immediately, rather than make a note of the file name and look up the images on a file server or via instruments," Vines points out. "This takes out the annoying step of having to go to another application to look at the images that the data were derived from. It also gives researchers the opportunity to go back to images a long time after they were originally generated and analyze them again using new algorithms. This presents an opportunity to create a huge body of data for analysis and interpretation."

The companies' announcement at HCA spurred discussion about the challenges of high-content screening and the potential for image-based HCS to impact drug discovery, Vines says.

"From my point of view, this is a great thing, but it presents the same kind of data management challenges we saw when high-throughput screening hit the streets many years ago," he says. "On top of that, new image analysis algorithms and expanded methodologies used in cell-based, high-content imaging are all being rapidly developed. I think you're going to see a mushroom effect." DDN

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