What Are the Benefits of an Automated High-Throughput Screening Process for Custom Cell Culture Media Development?

Posted: Nov 21, 2019 10:59:14 AM

We are often asked if culture media development can be customized at the discovery stage of the product, and if feasible, how it can be done. In this post, we will outline one approach that can be considered to customize media development for discovery-based processes.

Scientist observing cell growth through a microscope

(For some background, in a previous post we outlined the key benefits of customized, animal component free (ACF), chemically defined (CD) media for cell and gene therapy (CGT) products. Read it here if you missed it.)

The approach outlined below involves testing hundreds, and potentially thousands, of different media formulations in a small-scale format to determine the optimal growth conditions for a specific cell type of interest. The advantage of using such high-throughput screening methodology in media development is that it provides a birds-eye view of cells responding to an array of conditions. Using a state-of-the-art liquid handling robot customized for media development purposes can be instrumental for further accelerating the process.

With this information in mind, read on to learn the benefits of automating the development process.

Automated High-Throughput Screening

Anyone who has worked in a cell culture labHVC 14 - Download now button - new design knows how laborious, and often monotonous, the work can be. Automating this process makes life easier for operators and it has the potential to speed processing times, and greatly reduce error by limiting manual steps.

Here’s how automation can improve the screening process:

  • It’s flexible, adaptable and customizable.

    Multiple parameters including rate and speed of aspiration, liquid dispensing speed, tilt of the plate, temperature of the medium and cell mixing rate for every operation of cell culture and screening process are controlled by the operator.
  • The system can be optimized for different cell types.

    This includes cell aggregates in suspension, single cell suspensions and adherent cells.
  • Automated cell culture procedures include:

    • Seeding of cells;
    • Moving plates from incubators;
    • Media exchange;
    • Hands-off high-throughput imaging;
    • Retention of spent media for intermediate analysis;
    • Cell harvest; and,
    • Cell preparation for analytics.
  • It’s adaptable for any type of analysis method.

    The screening platform can be adapted for different types of read-outs, including imaging and flow cytometry.

How Does Automation Drive Improvements?

The primary benefit of automation for high-throughput screening is reduction in error rates. Controlling for operator error when performing manual steps at the order of magnitude required for high-throughput screens is virtually impossible. In enabling this, it is still possible for the liquid handling robot to introduce error into the process; however, the nature of such errors can be more tightly controlled. Also, the biases that a manual operator could introduce, such as fatigue, can be mitigated.

Automated processing also improves the efficiency of cell culture. For instance, robotic media aspiration with a controlled depth of pipette can help retain more than 95 per cent of cell aggregates. When the same operation is performed manually, over 50 per cent of aggregates are typically lost.

Another benefit of the automated system is the potential for continual improvement. For instance, using a 96-well pipette head add-on for media exchange in the system can significantly reduce processing time.

With automation-driven process improvements, your organization will benefit from generating custom media solutions in the development of CGT products.

If your organization needs to develop automated, custom solutions for your CGT product, contact us now.