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The ALSAM Foundation Funds Breakthrough Robotic Screening and Imaging

Instrumentation Lays Groundwork for New Drug Discovery Center

Author SOP Communications | Publish Date October 7, 2020

The ALSAM Foundation, a generous long-time benefactor to the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has provided $1.5 million, which together with funds from the Chancellor’s Office and CU Pharmacy, will fund a major new robotic high throughput/high content screening and imaging instrument dedicated to drug discovery. Delivery of the automated instrumentation is expected to take place in early 2021.

“The ALSAM Foundation has been a transformative force for the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and for advancing therapeutic innovations through grant programs totaling nearly $7 million over the past five years. We are enormously grateful to the foundation for its continuing support and look forward to the outcomes from the use of this drug discovery infrastructure with the goal of developing new therapeutics,” said Dean Ralph Altiere, PhD.

“We envision this new screening and imaging technology will be applied to both small molecule and biologic drug development and will position the Anschutz Medical Campus perfectly for the next generation of translational discovery where speed and efficiency are essential. This technology does not exist at any academic institution in the mountain west and is limited between the two coasts, placing the Anschutz Medical Campus in a unique position to harness unique cell-phenotypic and biochemical models of human disease to identify new therapeutic targets and translate those discoveries to therapies,” said David Ross, PhD, associate dean for research.

To enable this research to occur more readily, a new Center for Drug Discovery will be formed which will integrate closely with ongoing small molecule and biologic discovery efforts in the CCTSI and the Cancer Center to facilitate the discovery and development goals of both the SPARK and REACH programs.

“This new automation system and instrumentation provides a unique platform that enables rapid and cost-effective screening of hundreds of thousands of potential therapies,” said Daniel LaBarbera, PhD, director of the High Throughput drug discovery and chemical biology core facility. A unique feature of the instrumentation is that it will allow printing of patient samples, cells and organoids of different types into uniform arrays in wells or whole plates for screening or imaging purposes. The new generation imager will have four sCMOS cameras with simultaneous acquisition of up to four fluorescent and brightfield channels, generating images of exceptional quality faster than ever while other integrated detection systems will capitalize on the use of any light detection assay imaginable.

The last significant investment in robotics for high throughput drug discovery was made over 10 years ago with a grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development which enabled the purchase of the first generation of automation at the school. This new acquisition will enable the campus to enter a new era of screening and imaging technology allowing for more complex experimental design coupled to speed and precision, facilitating drug discovery and detection of new drug targets.

Check out recent news coverage highlighting the announcement: