The Society for Biomolecular Screenings annual conference, held earlier this week in Geneva, focused on advances in high throughput screening technologies with an emphasis on cell-based assays. These are becoming more important in early drug discovery, and many companies presented data on their unique approaches to further enhance compound screening and data analysis.
EuroScreen (www.euroscreen.com), for example, is focused on developing technologies for assay development and screening of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR), which play a major role in cell signaling. Functional and cellular testing of these receptors is increasing, with an emphasis on large-scale screening. We presented an innovative use of validated procedures, said Paolo Meoni, Ph.D., director of scientific marketing.
In order to increase flexibility in cellular testing, the company has developed a process to freeze and arrest cell growth of various GPCR-expressing cell lines. Although cellular testing is much closer to physiology than biochemical tests, it claims higher variability due to, among other things, the state of the cell and the number of cells.
So what we have been trying to do is disconnect the cell culture from the testing, explained Dr. Meoni. Cells are cultured in large batches, frozen, and irradiated with gamma rays to arrest their growth. This controls variability between different testing sessions, and provides enough cells for small-scale testing without having to transfer the cell line, which is more expensive.
The idea is to have cells from a given batch that you can use at different times. If you do one experiment every week, you can have different aliquots of cells from the same batch, so it controls the variability between experiments, added Dr. Meoni. Data has shown that this process does not impede the pharmacology of the results.
There are three main applications the company is currently focusing on: profiling, lead optimization, and bulk production. An initial panel of approximately 20 receptors, available as frozen cells, was launched recently.
It will be in some ways, a stand-alone product for a specific number of receptors, and it will be a service for specific applications, like large-scale screening. Well also provide a service of upscaling and freezing, and we already have some batches of ready-to-use cells, summarized Dr. Meoni.