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Roche Applied Science Unit Plans to Add Automated Cell-Analysis Tech to Portfolio

Roche, a long-time consumer of high-content screening technologies, is looking to become a vendor.
Buried in its annual business report, released earlier this month, was a single sentence saying that the firm’s Applied Science unit “plans to add new research reagents and products for automated cell analysis to its portfolio.”
Asked to elaborate, a Roche spokesperson said that “right now, we are evaluating different technologies, but it is too early to come up with concrete information.”
It was not immediately clear whether Roche intends to acquire the technologies or develop them in-house.
Ralph Garippa, a research leader at Roche Discovery Technologies whose lab uses many high-content screening products, said as a consumer he would welcome an automated cell-analysis product from Roche.
“I’ll take any new reagent as good as it is from the outside, whether they come from Molecular Probes, Invitrogen, Promega, the Roche group,” Garippa told Cell-Based Assay News this week. “We’re always looking for the field to advance.”
Roche is no stranger to cell-analysis and high-content screening technologies, though it currently uses them strictly for internal discovery. The company is known to rely on a variety of high-content cell-screening platforms, among them Evotec Tech’s Opera (now owned by PerkinElmer), the ArrayScan made by Thermo Fisher Scientific unit Cellomics, GE Healthcare’s IN Cell 3000, TTP’s Acumen Explorer, Zeiss’ Apotome, and Guava’s PCA.
Roche also has some experience with automated cell-analysis products: the Swiss giant has used Innovatis’ Cellscreen product for internal discovery. On the HCS informatics side, in 2004 Roche began using Cellomics’ Store product, an enterprise class database for HCS integrated with EMC Corp's Centera content-addressed storage system [see 4/27/2004 CBA News].  

“I’ll take any new reagent as good as it is from the outside, whether they come from Molecular Probes, Invitrogen, Promega, the Roche group. We’re always looking for the field to advance.”

Roche uses the technologies to manage, store, analyze, and archive cellular image data, which in turn enables its scientists to create, manage, and analyze high-content screening experiments, cellular-image data, and to discover relationships for potential targets, lead compounds, and genes.
Roche has also been heavily involved with Molecular Devices, for which it helped validate the company’s AcuityXpress software. Garippa and Anne Hoffman, another HCS scientist at Roche, conducted the validation [see 6/20/2005 CBA News].
“The advent of HCS has provided a common platform for the merging of several technologies and disciplines,” Garippa said at last year’s High-Content Analysis conference. “Cell biologists have found it to be an avenue for higher throughput, semi-automated analysis of complex physiological processes, even using it to search for new molecular tools to define these discrete cellular processes.”
At this year’s conference, Garippa talked about the option of outfitting a lab with diverse HCS instruments, or whether “one size fits all.”
“Every year seems to bring the launch of a brand new HCS/HCA instrument or, at the very least, a newly released upgrade from a major manufacturer,” he said. “The question is, ‘Is it time to move up and expand one’s capabilities on existing platforms or, rather, to delve into a new HCS/HCA operational realm with a broader spectrum of features?’”

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