DDW: How Innovation in Automation Is Transforming Drug Discovery

May 11, 2022  |  Trends

Automation is making a huge difference in accelerating key steps in drug discovery. In a recent article from Drug Discovery World, scientists from AstraZeneca and Biosero reviewed some of the many ways in which automation is now used in drug research and development. In this blog post, we’re summarizing the top article takeaways for a quick read. Check out the full article if you’re interested.

Manufacturers are Democratizing Lab Automation

While automated systems were once so expensive that only select pharmaceutical companies could afford them, things have changed. Advanced robots and sophisticated software make it possible for smaller pharma and biotechnology companies to use automation for a wide variety of tasks. Scientists can easily design and run customized experimental procedures and protocols for interesting drug targets.

Liquid Handlers are Foundational Automation for the Lab

Today, many scientists used automated liquid handlers in their drug discovery research. These machines can dispense precise, nanoliter-scale volumes of liquid that are difficult for scientists to do manually and integrate multiple instruments or devices.

These tools offer significant improvements in the quality and integrity of experimental data and reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Because they can work with small volumes of liquid, scientists can save on the costs of consumables and reagents and reduce the amount of waste they generate.

Mobile Robots are Rising

Another game-changer in the automation landscape has been the introduction of autonomous mobile robots in the lab. In the past, scientists running similar workflows and working in different labs on a pharma campus would have needed their own workstations and instruments. But with autonomous mobile robots, scientists can set up a centralized model where they put key workstations in a core facility and then bring samples to it from all over the campus. They can also connect bioreactors, liquid handlers, and other instruments in a single continuous workflow. Scientists can plan and prepare to run experiments whenever they want, and they can easily manage the materials and samples they need.

Training is Critical

Scientists are not necessarily automation engineers, so getting them to switch over to a new system may take time. Even if they are not resistant to the system, scientists may not be using all their automation systems’ capabilities.

Whether a laboratory is partially or fully automated, it’s important to recognize that automation doesn’t replace people. Automation allows teams to focus on high-value tasks and extend productivity outside of core work hours.

For more details about automation in drug discovery, check out the full article.