A pair of alliances GE Healthcare recently penned, aimed at extending the number of cellular analysis-automation tools it can offer IN Cell Analyzer and LEADseeker customers, come as a greater number of labs seek these kinds of tools, according to some industry experts.
The non-exclusive deals, with Process Analysis and Automation and MatriCal, also come as a number of big GE rivals, among them Thermo Fisher Scientific and PerkinElmer, angle to offer similar tools.
GE’s agreements, announced two weeks ago, include a plan with MatriCal to provide IN Cell and LEADseeker customers with 96- and 384-well, flat glass-bottom microwell plates at competitive rates; and a deal with PAA to match components and coordinate installations so that IN Cell and LEADseeker users no longer have to work with multiple vendors to build an automation platform for high-content analysis and high-throughput screening (see CBA News, 1/18/08).
According to Nathalie Aulner, an associate researcher at the Columbia University Molecular Library Screening Center Network, GE’s timing is prescient as more labs look to automate their cell-analysis projects, while big rivals see the growing demand and look to supply it.
”As more and more people want to run live-cell assays, having this automation potential makes this easier,” Aulner told CBA News this week. “This same holds true for other hard-to-transfect cells such as primary cells and stem cells.”
In addition, she said, “more and more vendors, such as Thermo Fisher [Scientific] and [PerkinElmer], are offering these types of solutions with their platforms.”
Having complete, out-of-the-box solutions such as those from PAA makes integration easier as well, because it obviates the need to cobble together tools in-house, Aulner said.
Aulner also said that her lab, which has a GE IN Cell Analyzer 3000, plans to buy additional high-content imaging systems “this year, if possible.”
The Columbia MLSCN facility functions as a core facility, “so it uses different cell lines, different output, and different incubation protocols for the screens it runs.” The lab has studied the inflammation pathway, neurodegenerative diseases, and diabetes, among other disease mechanisms. “It is very varied what we do here.”
GE rival PerkinElmer agrees with Aulner’s view of the market. “In the high-content analysis space, PE is definitely seeing a demand for increased throughput and automation,” said Andreas Niewoehner, product manager for automated solutions at PE. “Now, however, [customers] want to use it more and more in an automated format and in a production mode.”
For example, Niewoehner said that PE has customers who are using this in secondary screens and higher-throughput screens.
With its acquisition of Evotec last year, PE got its hands on additional automation and robotic technologies, Niewoehner said. The company just launched the cell::explorer HCS system last year, which includes components from that acquisition.
PE is seeing an entire spectrum of different customers for its automation products, Niewoehner said. “PE is seeing more and more demand in the biotech and academic markets for this automation as well,” he said. “It is no longer limited to the large pharmaceutical companies.”