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Cambridge MedChem Consulting

The SULSA Assay Development Fund:

I've worked with a couple of academic groups who have a very interesting target but no small molecule leads. Whilst there are several places offering high-throughput screening the stumbling block is often development of a robust screening assay running in a high density format. Most academic groups have little experience in developing such an assay and to be honest will need to do so very infrequently.

The SULSA Assay Development Fund: accelerating translation of new biology from academia to pharma DOI describes efforts to support the development of such assays, work carried out in collaboration with the European Lead Factory in Newhouse.

However, many scientifically interesting, novel molecular targets lack associated high-quality, robust assays suitable for hit finding and development. To bridge this gap, the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA) established a fund to develop assays to meet quality criteria such as those of the European Lead Factory. A diverse project portfolio was quickly assembled, and a review of the learnings and successful outcomes showed this fund as a new highly cost-effective model for leveraging significant follow-on resources, training early-career scientists and establishing a culture of translational drug discovery in the academic community.

European Lead Factory technical acceptance criteria

  • Minimally 384 wells (max 30 μl)
  • Homogenous assay (no washing steps)
  • Defined endpoint
  • Z-prime >0.6
  • Readout stability >1 h
  • S/B signal >3
  • Incubation times <4 h
  • DMSO tolerance: minimum 0.5%
  • All reagents minimally 8 h stable
  • Recombinant proteins(s) >80% pure

Perhaps this quote sums things up very nicely.

‘We only got so far in optimising our assay because in my opinion we do not have either the equipment or the personnel with the skill set required to do this efficiently. So being able to come and work at Newhouse where you are then surrounded by people who can identify quickly where assay improvements should be made and then pass on the knowledge of how to set about applying these changes (as well as gaining experience with various pieces of equipment) was invaluable.’

More details are available here

The Wellcome Trust also provides Seed/Pathfinder awards that could cover similar projects.