High-throughput screening underpins drug discovery

19 March 2019

Whether they conduct yeast, plant or animal research, scientists are likely to be confronted with test systems that are too complex for screening. The VIB Screening Core remedies this situation by optimizing and miniaturizing assays.

As head of the VIB Screening Core in Ghent, Dominique Audenaert knows the ins and outs of high-throughput screening and its added value to scientific discoveries. Supported by a team of operational experts, he makes sure that life science researchers – both within and outside VIB – get direct access to automated imaging and screening technologies. In doing so, the core facility paves the way to scientific research and drug discovery.

Getting the big (cellular) picture
“Whereas the VIB Bioimaging Core conducts single-cell and subcellular analyses in high-resolution mode, we enable single-cell and subcellular imaging in high-throughput mode by using automated microscopy. This allows us to analyze the effect of a large number of molecules – up to 50,000 – in a fast, robust and standardized way,” explains Dominique.

“Our work is challenging in the sense that each assay model system is different, involving a range of samples from yeast and plant cells to mammalian cells and 3D cultures. Also, there are plenty of assay read-out technologies, including plate reader-based and high-content imaging technologies. As such, assay optimization and miniaturization require specific intellectual and technical input from our side.”
Put in concrete terms, the VIB Screening Core team enhances the technical reproducibility and robustness of an assay and makes it compatible with high-throughput screening for subsequent hit identification through statistical and cheminfor- matic analysis.

Creating a hit list
After hit identification, the screening specialists deliver the hit compounds to the research groups, which further develop them for their applications. In doing so, the VIB Screening Core accelerates the discovery of biological processes and delivers starting points for the development of novel products for medical or agricultural applications.

“The VIB Innnovations & Business team as well as VIB Discovery Sciences translate these hits into potential drugs. But we also offer services to external users in both the industrial and academic worlds.” Examples from the latter group are Ghent University and the Ghent Cancer Research Institute (CRIG). Clearly, the VIB Screening Core provides a centralized platform to support assay development and screening for the broad life sciences community.

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​Our scientists about the VIB Cores

Sarah-Maria Fendt (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology): “VIB/CCB Core Facilities are a great resource for biomedical research. Collaborating with them is always a great pleasure and success.”

Xavier Saelens (VIB-UGENT Center for Medical Biotechnology): “Thanks to the Nanobody Core Facility, we discovered a new way to strike at the Achilles heel of RSV.”

Ive De Smet: (VIB-UGENT Center for Plant Systems Biology): “Major breakthroughs in the Functional Phosphoproteomics research group and many other groups within the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology were made possible through the mass spectrometry-driven proteome analyses the VIB Proteomics Core offers. In the past year, this has resulted in many publications for our center (3 in particular for my group), and we will continue to heavily rely on (phospho) proteome analyses for our future research.”

Jorge Valadas (VIB-KU LEUVEN Center for Brain & Disease Research): “The combination of imaging, behavioral, genetic and biochemical techniques, together with the use of unique disease models allowed us to describe the cellular and molecular defects that lead to sleep dysfunction. This paper was a result of many productive collaborations, including with the
VIB Bioimaging Core.”