Fully automated, high-throughput screening for drug discovery

24 July, 2018

A major obstacle for efficient drug discovery and development is the absence of physiologically relevant and predictive cell-based assays. Pharmaceutical companies understandably demand assays that are robust and reliable, and compatible with automated high throughput screening (HTS) platforms. Ncardia is proud of its role in this area, developing and commercializing highly predictive cellular assay systems derived from human stem cells which allows our partners and customers to accurately assess drug safety and efficacy. Dedicated assay development is a key element of all Ncardia’s offerings. Therefore, the company is actively involved in the design and validation of relevant phenotypic assays (i.e. those with a clear link to human disease in combination with functional readouts closely related to the desired clinical readout in patients) intended for day-to-day use by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Dr Stefan Braam, co-founder and CEO of Ncardia, explains: “Our aim is to put ‘human’ testing at the forefront of drug discovery, by developing the best possible human cellular models. This is very attractive from an industry perspective, as it ensures only viable candidate drugs are progressed through the pipeline, while minimizing risks and ethical considerations associated with animal testing.”

A successful drug efficacy screening and/or validation study requires not only a physiologically relevant cell model, but also validated HTS protocols to test the effect of drug candidates. To achieve this, scientists at Ncardia have developed a controlled approach for large-scale manufacturing of iPSC-derived (disease) cells and automated platforms for cell culturing in a 384-well microplate format, assay readout, and data handling. Assay performance is continuously evaluated using putative quality-controlled criteria such as S/B ratio, Z-prime and %CV to ensure robustness of high throughput compound screenings.


Figure 1: High throughput screening automation robot.

Ncardia's capabilities and developments are paving the way for pharmaceutical customers to effectively screen or validate tens of thousands of molecules in relevant disease model systems. Ncardia’s human induced stem cell-based cellular models in combination with automated phenotypic screening enables reliable efficacy testing of drugs at a high throughput, revolutionizing the drug discovery and development process. It is our firm view that Ncardia’s state-of-the art technologies and our customers research and efforts will get better drugs to patients faster.

Further reading

Gintant G, Fermini B, Stockbridge N, Strauss D. The Evolving Role of Human iPSC-Derived Cardiomyocytes in Drug Safety and Discovery. Cell Stem Cell Forum, Vol. 21, 1, P14 – 17 (2017)

Hutchinson L, Kirk R. High drug attrition rates—where are we going wrong? Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology – Editorial. Vol. 8, P 189-190 (2011)

Mordwinkin NM, Burridge PW, Wu JC. A review of human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes for high-throughput drug discovery, cardiotoxicity screening, and publication standards. J Cardiovasc Transl Res. Vol. 6, 1, P 22 – 30 (2013)

Picture reference: https://www.ppscreeningcentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/robot-full-cmyk.jpg