Pharm Bots - Sloan Kettering Wins Award for its High Throughput Screening System

Mention robotics and many people still envision 2001: A Space Odyssey.  If they don't think of HAL, chances are they think of automotive plants, but robots are finding increased use in pharma, in packaging applications but also in R&D areas such as sample preparation and high throughput screening.  Last year, the NIH described how it was applying robotics, while Robotics Online summarized some applications in this overview. (Note - we're surveying our readers on their use of process control, automation and robotics.  If you work in the industry and can spare 5-10 minutes to take a brief survey and receive benchmarking results (and potentially one of five $100 Amex gift certificates), please click here).Click Here to take survey Last week, the Automation and Robotics Show, sponsored by the Robotics Industry Association (RIA) in Chicagoland, highlighted many of the applications that robotics have, or could have,in pharma.  RIA also presented awards to the most innovative applications of robotics.  One of the winners was New York's Sloan-Kettering, which is using robots for high throughput screening. RIA selected Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for its High Throughput Screening Core Facility at the center uses robots and machine vision to screen large chemical libraries against various cancer targets. The application has been successfully working in production since 2004. Among the key benefits provided by the system is the ability to discover novel and potential drugs for clinical use to fight a broader range of cancers, especially for those being neglected by the large pharmaceutical companies "For economical reasons, many pharmaceutical companies aren't willing to research certain type of rare cancers," said Dr. Hakim Djaballah, head of screening at Memorial Sloan Kettering. "Thanks to this innovative application, we can now research these cancers using chemical screening techniques typically associated only with large pharmaceutical companies. We can investigate several cancer cell lines in forward and reverse time schedules, especially those primary cancer cells derived from patients, where we can correlate clinical observations to findings in the laboratory as to the response of these cancer cell lines to different therapeutic regiments," Djaballah explained. The Memorial Sloan Kettering HTS system was designed internally and integrated by the laboratory automation and integration group at Thermo Fisher Scientific located in Burlington (Canada). "Memorial Sloan Kettering has demonstrated that robots and vision technology can impact our lives in many ways we'd never imagined," said the RIA's Vincent. "Most people think of factory applications when they think of robotics, but this application shows just how diverse the uses of robots can be." -AMS
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