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BioImage Demonstrates Translocation Assay Utility on FLIPR; No Plans for Further Validation

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Scientists from Danish drug-discovery and cell-based assay provider BioImage have published a paper comparing the use of two major cell-based assay plate readers in conjunction with Redistribution, BioImage’s flagship fluorescent assay technology for exploring protein translocation in live cells.

The paper, entitled “Identification of Akt pathway inhibitors using Redistribution screening on the FLIPR and the IN Cell 3000 Analyzer,” appears in the February issue of the Journal of Biomolecular Screening, and compares the title instrumentation platforms manufactured by Molecular Devices and GE Healthcare, respectively.

According to Len Pagliaro, BioImage’s vice-president of business development, the goal of the paper was to provide proof-of-principle that Redistribution could, in some cases, be used with FLIPR — an instrumentation platform that he said is rarely used with BioImage’s assays.

“In terms of pursuing the FLIPR as a platform [for Redistribution], that’s something that’s probably not of much interest going forward,” Pagliaro told Inside Bioassays last week. “We had some data there, it was an interesting correlation for a paper, so basically we said ‘Let’s write it up and send it out.’

“The FLIPR does have a camera, but it images the whole footprint of the plate, and it basically does intensity measurements of the wells from that image,” Pagliaro added. “We found out — almost accidentally — that at least some translocation patterns under the right conditions can be detected or read on the FLIPR.”

In the paper, BioImage compared results from an assay for inhibitors of Akt1 translocation obtained with the FLIPR versus GE Healthcare’s IN Cell Analyzer, an instrument that many current Redistribution customers are more intimately familiar with.

BioImage has had an official partnership in place with GE Healthcare and one of its predecessors, Amersham Biosciences, for about four years, and has validated its Redistribution assays on the IN Cell for joint marketing purposes.

On the other hand, BioImage does not have an official partnership in place with Molecular Devices. However, as stated in the paper, BioImage’s rationale for demonstrating the FLIPR application is that fluorometric plate readers — particularly FLIPR instruments — are much more ubiquitous in laboratories than are more specialized image-based high-content screening platforms like the IN Cell Analyzer.

“The value of it would be, at least where we were interested, is suppose you have a translocation assay, a so-called high-content assay,” Pagliaro said. “Suppose you’re an organization that already has a room full of FLIPRs installed — but you don’t yet have an IN Cell, you don’t have an [Evotec] Opera, you don’t have another one of these high-content systems — could you run some assays on the FLIPR instead?

“The bottom line for us is that you probably could, but you’re still going to sacrifice a lot of information,” he added. “You can get a read-out from a translocation event, but you don’t get the high-content value out of it, you don’t get the additional parameters.

“Is anybody really going to do that? Three years ago, maybe, but today there are so many instruments on the market,” Pagliaro added. It was a very short window when that would have been a practical interest.”

Still, scientists often like to stick with their instrument platform, whether due to comfort issues or financial constraints, so any validation of the popular Redistribution assay on a big-selling instrument like FLIPR can only be of benefit to BioImage. In addition, fluorometric plate readers in general are prominently found in many laboratories — at least more so than high-content imagers.

Furthermore, as stated in the paper, high-content and high-throughput imaging systems are considerably more expensive to acquire and maintain, and in terms of throughput, BioImage found the platforms to be comparable for such a basic assay.

As for Molecular Devices, that company also markets the Discovery-1 and ImageXpress platforms, which are more comparable to HCS readers like the IN Cell, Opera, or Cellomics’ ArrayScan. However, Pagliaro said that BioImage has not yet made the move to validate Translocation assays on those platforms, either.

“We know that there are people out there using those platforms [with Redistribution],” Pagliaro said. “We know of both in use, and we have data from the Discovery-1, but we don’t have one in house. It would be nice to have a room with one of each in it, but that’s a pretty expensive undertaking.”

— BB

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