Labcyte Announces Collaboration with AstraZeneca to Develop Acoustic Sample Handling for Mass Spectrometry to Advance Drug Discovery
26 Sep 2013

Labcyte Inc. has announced a collaboration with AstraZeneca to use acoustic dispensing combined with mass spectrometry to greatly advance drug discovery applications. Labcyte, who developed and commercialized acoustic liquid handling, recently developed techniques for the direct loading of samples into mass spectrometers. This capability creates the potential for high throughput, low cost, label-free analysis. AstraZeneca is supporting this development effort with the goal of expanding mass spectrometry-based analysis throughout the entire drug discovery and development process.


Mass spectrometry is used to quantify the amount of drug substance in screening assays, drug metabolism studies, and safety and efficacy experiments. The Labcyte Echo® acoustic liquid handling system uses sound waves to dispense a wide variety of liquids in nanoliter increments.
The development of an instrument that enables the delivery of test samples into a mass spectrometer through acoustic dispensing will generate better results with lower costs compared to traditional systems, which can be prone to transfer errors and sample contamination. It will streamline the process required to carry out these activities while increasing capacity to enable use in screening.

The drug discovery process requires continued advancement to generate greater biologically relevant data at lower costs and faster throughput. Data rich, label-free assays and broader phenotypic analyses are viewed as critical requirements to the future success of drug discovery programs. This trend requires novel techniques to meet these challenges. Mass spectrometry is an ideal candidate from a data perspective, but current throughput and cost per data point prevent the technology from being fully exploited. The goal of this collaboration is to overcome these limitations by enabling analysis of samples transferred directly from standard microplates with throughput significantly higher than current commercially available systems with substantially lower cost per data point.

“The potential for this breakthrough is yet another example of the incredible impact that acoustic dispensing is having in all areas of life sciences,” said Mark Fischer-Colbrie, Labcyte president and CEO. “Customers, including AstraZeneca, are using our acoustic liquid handling systems to discover new therapeutics, generate better diagnostic results or achieve personalized medical treatments. This work with AstraZeneca has the possibility to achieve dramatic improvements in measuring samples and experimental results. We are very excited to be working with one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies to pursue this major opportunity. It is a further testament to the unique capabilities of acoustic liquid handling.”

“The potential benefits of combining these technologies were originally identified by two of our Scientists,” said Mike Snowden, AstraZeneca VP Discovery Sciences. “We are excited to be working with Labcyte to develop acoustic dispensing for mass spectrometry. This project forms part of AstraZeneca’s efforts to access world-leading innovation to enhance the success of drug discovery. Combining acoustic delivery with mass spectrometry has the potential to open up new areas of science through transformational improvements in sampling rates and reductions in sampling volumes."

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Michelle Maxwell
Drug Discovery Editor