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Journal of Automatic Chemistry
Volume 17, Issue 2, Pages 55-58

The trials and tribulations of a robotic screening core

Wyeth-Ayerst Research, C.N. 8000, Princeton, NJ 08543, USA

Copyright © 1995 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


It is well recognized within the pharmaceutical industry that high throughput screening is a valuable and rapid tool to identify novel chemical compounds that may lead to tomorrow's drugs. High throughput screening involves testing as many chemical compounds as quickly as possible against a defined molecular or cellular ‘target’ (for example an enzyme) in the hope that interacting compounds may provide significant therapeutic benefits.

At Wyeth-Ayerst Research, a Robotics and Automation Research Core Group has been established which serves as the in-house resource for high throughput screening. The robotics group has three missions: (1) develop and perform high throughput screens for customers in all therapeutic departments in the company; (2) educate customers in issues related to screen design; and (3) help customers to bring automated workstations into their laboratories. The mission, therefore, requires the effective use of automation, as well as building a strong collaboration with customers.

The challenges that have been faced fall into two categories: technology limiting and customer relations. Technological challenges arise because it is necessary to develop and implement assays with very different formats and biochemical endpoints within extremely shortened time frames. The primary means to meet these challenges is with flexible robotics and flexible people. Challenges in the area of customer relations include setting realistic expectations, maintaining a sense of collaboration (and not merely service), educating investigators as to how to deal with the huge amount of data generated and seeking feedback. Effective and frequent communication, and an awareness of each individual's perspective, are essential to provide the most appropriate service.