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A hot microplate
March 2012
by David Hutton  |  Email the author
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POWAY, Calif.—Brooks Life Science Systems (BLSS) is entering into a partnership with the Scripps Research Institute to jointly complete the development of a microplate imaging system to evaluate the quality of compounds during drug discovery. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.  
 
Peter Policastro, senior director of business development for the Scripps Research Institute, explains that BLSS proved to be an attractive partner for the collaboration because "it is a leader in the field of laboratory automation equipment and instrumentation."
 
In addition to teaming up to finish development of the microplate imaging system created by Scripps Research, Policastro said the partnership also will enable BLSS to manufacture and commercialize the imaging system.  
 
John Lillig, senior vice president and managing director of BLSS, says the company is looking forward to its collaboration with the Scripps Research's Compound Management Group on the development and the commercialization of this compound quality assurance technology.   
 
"With more than 350 million samples stored in Brooks' Sample Management Systems around the world, the new Plate Auditor will complement our Brooks Tube Auditor and be a valuable new quality enhancement tool for our compound management customers," he says.  
 
Lillig says that initially, the goal of the partnership is to work closely with Dr. Peter Hodder's group at Scripps to complete the development and then pick up the commercialization of the high-performance Plate Auditor system that was developed by Hodder and his group at Scripps.
 
"We will then work with the team to explore other areas where progress could be made in the automation and efficiency improvement of the overall drug discovery process," Lillig says.  
 
Hodder, who is senior director and head of lead identification at the Florida campus of Scripps Research, explains that the technology "was developed to address an unmet need in our compound management operation—the automated assessment of compound quality in plate-based HTS libraries. Both HTS and compound management staff now consider it indispensable for routine quality control of cherry-picked samples as well as periodic monitoring of sample quality across all our screening libraries."  
 
"This is the first instrument of its kind and first in its class," Hodder adds. "As a detection platform, it provides a wealth of information about a compound sample that you simply couldn't get from one instrument."  
 
Hodder says he hopes the new technology gets people thinking about Scripps Florida in a new way.   "We want people to know that in addition to discovering therapeutic molecules, we can also design and build novel instrumentation for screening operations," says Hodder, who founded and has directed the high-throughput screening laboratory at Scripps Florida since 2005. "With the automation of these previously laborious, error-prone measurements, compound managers and screening scientists will waste less time cherry-picking and screening 'expired' compound samples, thus improving the quality of data emerging from HTS efforts. Application of this technology will immediately impact compound management and HTS lab productivity, as well as downstream drug discovery efforts."  
 
The new instrument made its debut at the first Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) in February in San Diego. Hodder will be presenting the new HIAPI-CM at a European Lab Automation Conference in May.  
 
According to Hodder, the timing couldn't have been better for the collaboration between Scripps and BLSS.  
 
"Through mergers and acquisitions, pharmaceutical companies have inherited legacy screening collections that need to be assessed for quality before they are screened," he notes. "The concurrent expansion of HTS operations in the academic, biotech and CRO domains has resulted in the distribution of compound collections around the world."  
 
Lillig agrees, adding that the Plate Auditor technology represents the very first development of a system that can automatically, without human interpretation, assess the quality and integrity of the thousands of samples to be routinely tested by each drug discovery lab in their high-throughput/high-content screening operations.  
 
Ultimately, the benchmark for success will be financial results, and Policastro says that will be marked "by achievement of significant market penetration in an expeditious manner."  
 
Lillig adds that the partners have "already received a significant level of genuine interest in this important product from a number of major pharmaceutical drug discovery groups around the world, and as such, we are very pleased to see this partnership already getting off to a very successful start."  

 
Code: E0031211

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