On the cutting edge

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

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From the humble but critical pipette to more advanced LC-MS and GC-MS platforms, from data analysis kits to ink jet printing and from 3D cell culture to 3D virtual learning and even 3D printing tech for pharma—that’s a lot of three-dimensional action—we’ve got quite the mix of technologies and tools this month.
Forsyth Institute enhances efficiency with VIAFLO
HUDSON, N.H.—INTEGRA Biosciences recently reported on how researchers at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Mass., are using a VIAFLO Assist to enhance their efficiency while maintaining the accuracy of pipetting protocols related to the discovery, measurement and validation of new biomarkers of disease that can be found in saliva. Founded more than a century ago, the Forsyth Institute has established itself as a leading independent research institute specializing in oral health and its impact on overall wellness. In addition to its affiliation with the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Forsyth has collaborations with a vast array of academic institutions, independent research institutes, biotech and pharmaceutical companies and hospitals.
“I was looking for an automated pipette system to make our workflow more efficient, while maintaining accuracy. The VIAFLO Assist is a great tool for adding reagents across a 96-well plate, in either an 8- or 12-channel format. In conjunction with the 8-channel VIAFLO II pipette, the Assist has enabled my lab to greatly reduce the amount of operator to operator variability in critical, low-volume reagent addition steps for 96-well plate assays,” explained Danielle Stephens, manager of the Forsyth Institute Luminex Core facility. “The user interface is easy to follow, whether you are using a predefined program or completely customizing one for your specific needs. This pipette station is flexible in the lab and can be used for multiple applications including Luminex, ELISAs, PCR or any other plate-based assays. The pipette itself is also ergonomically friendly, and the fact that it connects to the Assist by Bluetooth means fewer wires on the benchtop. The VIAFLO Assist is a great tool for a high-throughput laboratory looking to increase efficiency and precision to reach a higher capacity.”
PerkinElmer named exclusive distributor of InSphero 3D culture tech
SCHLIEREN, Switzerland—InSphero AG, a supplier of solutions for production, culture and assessment of more organotypic 3D cell culture models, announced in early August that its patented GravityPLUS Hanging Drop System and new GravityTRAP Ultra-Low Attachment Plates are now available for purchase exclusively through PerkinElmer.
With this move, InSphero says it will now broaden global access to its 3D cell culture plates while simplifying ordering and delivery logistics for a worldwide customer base. Working with PerkinElmer, InSphero expects to be better able to meet increasing demand for reliable methods to grow cells as more biologically relevant 3D spheroids. Furthermore, this agreement will provide additional capabilities to PerkinElmer’s extensive portfolio of consumables, assays and imaging systems, which the two companies have used to develop novel assays for drug discovery, safety and efficacy testing.
“The agreement immediately accelerates our ability to efficiently supply and deliver InSphero plate technologies internationally, and also forges a strategic relationship for the continued development of next-generation 3D cell culture platforms, as well as 3D-optimized imaging and cell-based assay protocols,” says Dr. Jan Lichtenberg, CEO and co-founder of InSphero.
Lichtenberg notes that the relationship between the two companies has already yielded novel, high-content imaging applications for assessing compound toxicity in liver microtissues and enabled users to perform RNA interference screens to sensitize tumor spheroids to radiation in research applications.
Aprecia introduces its first product using ZipDose formulation platform
BLUE ASH, Ohio—Aprecia Pharmaceuticals Co. announced Aug. 3 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Spritam (levetiracetam) for oral use as a prescription adjunctive http://www.certara.comtherapy in the treatment of partial onset seizures, myoclonic seizures and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures in adults and children with epilepsy. What gives this story a unique spin is that Spirtam uses Aprecia’s proprietary ZipDose platform, which uses three-dimensional printing (3DP) to produce a porous formulation that rapidly disintegrates with a sip of liquid. While 3DP has been used previously to manufacture medical devices, this approval reportedly marks the first time a drug product manufactured with this technology has been approved by the FDA.
“By combining 3DP technology with a highly prescribed epilepsy treatment, Spritam is designed to fill a need for patients who struggle with their current medication experience,” said Don Wetherhold, CEO of Aprecia. “This is the first in a line of central nervous system products Aprecia plans to introduce as part of our commitment to transform the way patients experience taking medication.”
ZipDose Technology enables the delivery of a high drug load, up to 1,000 mg in a single dose, so that administration of even the largest strengths of levetiracetam are possible with just a sip of liquid. Spritam is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2016.
“In my experience, patients and caregivers often have difficulty following a treatment regimen. Whether they are dealing with a swallowing disorder or the daily struggle of getting a child to take his or her medication, adherence can be a challenge,” said Dr. Marvin H. Rorick III, a neurologist at Riverhills Neuroscience in Cincinnati. “Especially for children and seniors, having an option for patients to take their medication as prescribed is important to managing this disease.”
Certara launches Simcyp analysis toolkit for early-stage research
PRINCETON, N.J.—Certara, a global biosimulation technology-enabled drug development company, recently announced the launch of its Simcyp In Vitro (Data) Analysis Toolkit, or SIVA Toolkit, version 1.0. The SIVA Toolkit is designed to enable the analysis of complex in-vitro studies, including those with whole cells, tissue samples and solid dosage forms. It combines the latest model-based data analysis approaches to assess the metabolism, transport or dissolution/solubility of drugs with powerful optimization algorithms in a sophisticated statistical environment. This approach reportedly ensures that users do not need to have extensive modeling or statistical experience to use the toolkit.
“Analysis of in-vitro data from whole-cell systems and dissolution studies is challenging and time-consuming, and yet it is crucially important to have accurate data analysis and informed data interpretation early in the drug development process when key decisions need to be made,” said Certara CEO Dr. Edmundo Muniz. “The SIVA Toolkit platform is designed specifically to analyze complex in-vitro data, providing accurate values for parameters that can subsequently be used in in-vitro/in-vivo extrapolation paradigms that are necessary to successfully predict in-vivo behavior of drugs in physiologically based pharmacokinetic models.”
The SIVA Toolkit can also be used to provide in-vitro data for decision trees in regulatory guidelines, mechanistic-static or static models. It is a standalone product and can be purchased independently of Certara’s Simcyp Simulator. The company expects the toolkit to be useful for researchers analyzing experimental data in the pharmaceutical industry, universities and contract research organizations.
HP accelerates life-saving research with InkJet technology
PALO ALTO, Calif.—Late July saw HP introduce a new HP InkJet-based dispensing instrument that enables pharmaceutical and life-sciences researchers to help increase lab productivity through faster, more precise dispensing of very small volumes of chemical compounds and biomolecules.
Building on the HP D300 Digital Dispenser, the HP D300e Digital Dispenser broadens testing capabilities, enabling dispensing in aqueous-based solutions in addition to solvent. HP D300e software simplifies complex experimental layouts, such as those required for drug synergy studies, and features digital randomization to help researchers design experiments that maximize results.
HP digital InkJet dispensing technology is already in use by pharmaceutical and life-sciences institutions for evaluating potential drug compounds’ effectiveness to treat diseases, such as cancer, AIDS and sickle cell anemia. Harvard Medical School’s Department of Systems Biology, for example, is using the HP D300e Digital Dispenser to help measure the response of cancer cell lines to therapeutic drugs and soluble components of the tumor microenvironment.
“In my research, I need to dispense drugs in solvent and peptides in aqueous solutions across large concentration ranges to analyze the effects on cancer cells,” said Dr. Mario Niepel, an instructor in the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology and Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. “The HP D300e Digital Dispenser saves time and energy in the lab, enabling me to digitally randomize treatments and easily design and execute complicated drug combination experiments that would otherwise be too difficult to do.”
“Accurate research and timely drug discovery is critical to addressing health and wellness challenges faced across the world,” said Annette Friskopp, vice president and general manager of specialty printing systems for HP. “The HP D300e Digital Dispenser will increase experimental accuracy, testing reproducibility and overall laboratory efficiency, expediting scientific advancements.”
Game-based learning for pharma and biotech
LONDON—Pharmaceutical Training International (PTI), a supplier of online and public event-based training courses for the pharma, biotech and medical device sectors, has expanded its game-based learning platform into a fully customizable virtual learning environment. In line with its ethos of creating bespoke training solutions, PTI recently announced it would develop a 3D virtual world that reflects a client’s real-world site or facilities and branding, allowing learners to interact with a familiar environment and each other. Organizations would benefit from the complete integration of their own learning materials, saving costs by extending material lifetime and ensuring staff receive the most relevant and immediately actionable training possible.
In addition to the integration of learning materials, PTI says making a “game” of all this through the development of tasks, quizzes and interactive scenarios by PTI’s experts ensures that a complete training solution is provided in a very cost-effective manner.
Whether a member of staff is a new hire or an experienced professional looking to expand their skills and knowledge, the company says the 3D environment enables them to learn in an engaging way, then apply their new skills in role-play with computer- and colleague-controlled avatars in the virtual world. Organizations additionally benefit from the ability to monitor employee progress throughout training, tracking how their skills develop in the longer term and receiving detailed analytics, allowing them to identify areas for future growth.
Thermo unveils new products at ASMS
WALTHAM, Mass.—As part of the annual meeting of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry this year, Thermo Fisher Scientific released several new products. For scientists performing advanced research in proteomics, biopharma and metabolism/metabolomics the new Fusion Lumos tribrid mass spectrometer now allows them to “test new limits of detection, characterization and quantitation,” according to the company. Meanwhile, laboratories performing pharmaceutical, metabolomic, food safety and authenticity, anti-doping and other analyses using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry can now achieve “new levels of performance” using high-resolution accurate-mass Orbitrap mass spectrometry. Finally, the company announced that new, exceptionally pure Fisher Chemical Optima UHPLC-MS (ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry) mobile phase solvents for UHPLC-MS instruments have been designed to reduce background signal and minimize chromatographic interferences, facilitating accurate, sensitive and rapid trace analysis.

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