On the cutting edge

A roundup of instrumentation, software and other tools and technology news

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In early February, drug discovery and life-sciences researchers got a new automated patch clamp (APC) functionality in Genedata Screener for Ion Channel Screening and a Genedata Ready-to-Run integration with Nanion SyncroPatch 384PE. The package provides seamless data capture and innovative analysis of Nanion’s multi-sweep, multi-dose current traces as well as interactive access to the raw traces for visualization and analysis optimization. The Genedata Screener/Nanion SyncroPatch 384PE integration was demonstrated along with the new functionality at a tutorial session during the SLAS2017 meeting held in February in Washington, D.C.
APC technology provides scalable functional measurement of ion channels—which are increasingly becoming important therapeutic targets in drug discovery, noted Basel, Switzerland-based Genedata and Munich, Germany-based Nanion. However, advanced APC measurements generate gigabytes of data per plate, resulting in data analysis bottlenecks and incomplete workflow support when multiple plates are screened. As many researchers rely on Genedata Screener for Ion Channel Screening to address these data analysis challenges, the latest version of Genedata Screener is intended to further advance these capabilities. 
In a single session, Genedata Screener supports the simultaneous analysis of any number of ion channel probes across multiple plates, and reportedly covers the complete workflow from individual events to final results—and this full integration and workflow automation is said to reduce analysis time by upwards of 95 percent.
“The integration of Nanion SyncroPatch 384PE with Genedata Screener takes APC experiments to a new level,” notes Dr. Niels Fertig, CEO of Nanion, adding that with Nanion SyncroPatch 384PE, recording from 384 wells in parallel, ion channels can now be measured for drug discovery and safety testing in a cost-efficient, high-throughput manner. 
Users of Nanion instruments with Genedata Screener also reportedly can better weed out false positives and confirm strong leads early on in the drug discovery process and also integrate the full suite of Nanion’s quality control parameters with compound information and cursor settings directly imported from the instrument, which allows for automatic and coherent data evaluation.
“High-throughput screening (HTS) laboratories face a real challenge in finding effective solutions to analyze and compare huge amounts of data from diverse in-vitro assays. On the Genedata Screener platform, researchers can combine ion channel data with results from other screening technologies,” noted Fertig, “Many of our customers in HTS labs already use Genedata Screener in their data analysis workflow, and this factor, combined with the software’s rich capabilities, ease of use and excellent support from Genedata, influenced our decision to integrate with Genedata Screener rather than other software solutions.”
Nanion is among a group of instrumentation vendors that integrate their instruments with the Genedata Screener platform. Through the Ready-to-Run program, partners enable their customers with an out-of-the-box, efficient connection of their respective instruments to the customer’s data analysis in Genedata Screener. Nanion distinguishes itself as the first Ready-to-Run partner integrating APC instrumentation with Genedata Screener for Ion Channel Screening.
“Our collaboration now enables our joint customers to considerably scale up functional ion channel screening in drug discovery to increase their chances of success,” said Dr. Othmar Pfannes, CEO of Genedata. “With Genedata Screener installed at most of the world’s leading pharma companies, we strive to work with innovative technology providers such as Nanion to further streamline and automate workflows and accelerate the pace and quality of high-throughput screening in drug discovery.”
Read on for more tools and technologies of interest to drug discovery and development professionals.
Eppendorf’s new microinjectors provide optimal sample control 
HAMBURG, Germany—The CellTram 4 Air is a pneumatic injector ideal for gentle holding of cells or embryos in suspension. At the same time, it is highly suitable for the uptake and injection of cells (e.g., of sperm or embryonic stem cells). Therefore, users can set up their workstation with air injectors on both the holding and injection side and conduct microinjections entirely oil-free. Additional new features of the CellTram 4 Air are the dual coarse/fine drive, and the piston position scale, which allows setting the injector’s pressure characteristics according to personal preference.
The CellTram 4 Oil is optimal for users who prefer the direct responsiveness of an oil-filled injector. It features a new oil-filling system that minimizes oil spills and helps save time during the filling process. 
Both models have been designed with special emphasis on excellent ergonomics, ease of use and high precision. They also feature improved accessories, such as a scaled capillary holder 4 for reproducible mounting, and a new grip head 4 for easier capillary exchange and better user safety. For transgenic customers, a new capillary holder 4 (slim shape) is available that allows for injecting at angles less than 15° in combination with Eppendorf manipulators. Flat angle injections can help minimize mechanical trauma, thereby contributing to higher survival rates of the injected cells.
Dr. Rudolf Walczak, global product manager for cell handling, said: “Eppendorf has served as expert partners to embryologists and microinjectionists for more than 30 years. We are happy to offer our customers the new and highly improved CellTram 4 injectors. We are dedicated to helping them achieve the best possible results, both in research and in clinical applications.”
Beckman Coulter introduces Biomek i-Series at SLAS
INDIANAPOLIS—Beckman Coulter Life Sciences sees itself as re-emerging as an innovator in automated liquid-handling solutions with the recent introduction of the Biomek i-Series Automated Workstations at the SLAS2017 meeting in Washington D.C. 
“Beckman Coulter Life Sciences is renewing its commitment to innovation, our partners and our customers with the introduction of the Biomek i-Series Automated Workstations,” said Demaris Mills, vice president and general manager of Beckman Coulter Life Sciences. “The platform is specifically designed to enable continuous innovation to help our customers meet the ever-changing demands of life-science research by delivering improved levels of simplicity, efficiency, adaptability and reliability.”
This is the first major addition to the company’s family of Biomek liquid-handling platforms in more than 13 years, and marks a significant period of investment in research and development for the company since it became part of the Danaher global portfolio four years ago. 
Extending the Biomek portfolio of automated liquid handlers, the i-Series enables a broader range of solutions for genomics, pharmaceutical and academic customers. 
BioTek receives patent for imaging and microplate reading in one instrument
WINOOSKI, Vt.—BioTek in February was granted US patent 9,557,217 for imaging and microplate reading in one instrument. The intellectual property protected by this patent is used in BioTek’s award-winning line of Cytation Cell Imaging Multi-Mode readers. Other patents are pending.
Cytation offers fluorescence, brightfield, color brightfield and phase contrast imaging up to 60x, as well as multimode detection optics that include fluorescence intensity, luminescence, absorbance and advanced measurements such as fluorescence polarization, time-resolved fluorescence and AlphaScreen. Cytation systems are said to be ideally suited to live-cell assays, with incubation to 65°C, shaking, plus available CO2/O2 control. Gen5 Microplate Reader and Imager Software controls all imaging and multi-mode instrument operations, and provides quantitative and qualitative image and data analysis for a wide range of applications, including cell migration, label-free cell counting, phenotypic analysis, DNA/RNA quantification or ROS assays.
Emulate adds new capabilities to Human Emulation System for studying viral diseases
BOSTON—Emulate Inc. announced today that its Organs-on-Chips technology has expanded functionality to model viral infection in a human-relevant system, opening new opportunities for studying infectious diseases and better predicting human responses to new medicines. The new applications are based on results published online recently in PLOS One. The original research was led by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the academic origin of Emulate’s technology and founding team. Emulate holds an exclusive license for Organs-on-Chips technology from the Wyss Institute for translation into commercial products, including the company’s Human Emulation System.
The study in PLOS One used the Intestine-Chip to demonstrate how a human pathogenic virus enters polarized cells in the intestine, replicates to drive the infectious disease process and is released into the intestinal lumen. This is not possible using conventional human cell cultures. By demonstrating the release and function of a virus in a human-relevant system, Emulate’s Organs-on-Chips technology offers the potential to evaluate efficacy and safety of new medicines prior to human trials. The technology could also be applied in the future to study viruses ranging from seasonal flu to diseases of global health concern like Ebola and Zika.
“By modeling viral disease in a human-relevant microenvironment outside of the human body, Emulate’s Organ-Chips provide a new way for researchers to study how viruses act in human cells and how disease caused by viruses may potentially be treated,” said Dr. Geraldine A. Hamilton, president and chief scientific officer of Emulate. “Infectious diseases pose an enormous burden on global health, and we aim in the future to contribute to the effort to create new medicines by expanding our applications of Organ-Chips for infectious disease research. We hope this work will speed up the R&D process, improve response to new epidemics and help us better understand the process of infectious diseases that have a massive impact on global health.”
MicroCal PEAQ-DSC improves characterization of protein and biomolecule stability
MALVERN, U.K.—The new MicroCal PEAQ-DSC microcalorimeter from Malvern Instruments is said to “reset the performance standard for characterizing protein and biomolecule stability.” This latest innovation in differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) has been created specifically for the regulated environment and delivers essential data to guide biopharmaceutical development from protein engineering through preformulation and process development and then to formulation and manufacture of the final product.
The new system offers developers a quick stability assay to identify biotherapeutics with good stability potential and enables them to determine the conditions that maximize the shelf-life of a biotherapeutic. In manufacturing, it helps maximize yields of biotherapeutic compounds and supports the robust demonstration of batch-to-batch comparability or innovator to biosimilar comparability.
MicroCal PEAQ-DSC reportedly delivers unattended 24-hour operation, together with streamlined workflows and automated data analysis to produce results in hours, driving productivity and efficiency gains in research and production. In addition, the system is network-ready, and has built-in automated cleaning and self-validation protocols that minimize downtime and ensure that all data reported is of the highest quality. Dedicated instrument standards are available so that performance can be validated throughout a series of runs.
“We have worked closely with users of our previous-generation DSC system to make sure that the MicroCal PEAQ-DSC supports a wide range of needs across the biopharma development cycle,” said Ronan O’Brien, head of business development for MicroCal at Malvern. “As the importance of biopharmaceuticals continues to grow, we see customers searching for powerful analytical systems that can deliver data that genuinely informs development, formulation and process decisions, as well as supporting regulatory challenges.”
Optimizing cold-chain monitoring management
PARIS—OCEASOFT, a provider of wireless connected solutions for monitoring and tracking critical physical parameters, has developed twonew tools to streamline the high-volume management of its Bluetooth-enabled datalogger products.
The company’s new automation tools, the Loading Bench for fast datalogger configuration and OCEABridge for automated wireless data collection, bring several sought-after innovations for cold-chain monitoring management for transportation and high volume shipment.
The OCEASOFT Loading Bench programs OCEASOFT Atlas dataloggers in just two seconds wirelessly using near field communication technology. The process includes a quick series of tests and controls as a last-minute quality control measure. The OCEASOFT Loading Bench will be available in the second quarter of 2017.
The OCEABridge is a gateway, using Bluetooth Low-Energy, to  automatically detect all dataloggers entering its wireless range and collect recorded sensor readings and other important information.
Laurent Rousseau, CEO of OCEASOFT, explained that, “At OCEASOFT, we didn’t just create a datalogger. We took users into consideration from the beginning of the supply chain to the end. We help optimize the whole supply chain, saving time and energy to meet real-world challenges of our customers.”

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