Phenotypic Screening – Complex and Disease-Relevant Human Primary Cell Assays

Drug Discovery & Development, Fundamental Research, Life Sciences, Pharmaceutical,
  • Monday, September 28, 2015

The Opportunity

In the past few years, there has been a revival of phenotypic screening for hit discovery and profiling. It is generally accepted that overexpression of targets in heterologous systems has a risk of creating functional artefacts, and in principle, such an assay is single-target focused. As the understanding of the complex interplay of networks and pathways within cellular processes increases, the need for ways to screen compounds in the correct disease context also grows. Now practitioners are starting to appreciate polypharmacology and can also harness the knowledge gained from clinical genetics using human primary cells from patients, drug discovery research and high-throughput screening is going through the next paradigm shift. Charles Rivers Laboratories now offers Customized assay development, along with screening with readouts including high-content screening and multiparameter analyte or biomarker detection.

The Assay Portfolio

Through more than 15 years of research, Charles River Laboratories have developed over 100 medium- and high-throughput customised human primary-cell-based assays for screening against multiple disease indications within 25-plus different human primary cell types. These cells are derived from (patient) tissue, blood and differentiated stem cells, all of which are sourced with ethics approval and informed consent. As a follow-up to phenotypic hit discovery, they also offer mechanism of action studies using our adenoviral SilenceSelect® and FLeXSelect® libraries.

A Case Study

One of Charles River Laboratories’ clients developed a natural product drug discovery platform involving the design of novel chemical entities based on known natural product scaffolds and employing novel chemistry. The project was based on the concept of phenotypic discovery through bioprofiling in a range of human, disease-relevant assays. They developed 13 human primary-cell-based assays, either from healthy control donors or from donors with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) or type 2 diabetes (T2D). A screen of 1,600 compounds in each of these phenotypic assays not only provided valuable starting points for further optimisation of the compounds, but also highlighted which assays in inflammation, fibrosis and metabolic syndrome help identify unique mechanisms of action.


David F. Fischer, Senior Director of Biology for BioFocus, a Charles River company, and Site Head of Charles River Leiden, the Netherlands

David Fischer joined BioFocus, a Charles River Company in October 2005 and has responsibility for the Charles River target discovery and primary cell-based screening activities in Leiden, the Netherlands. David holds a degree in Chemistry and a PhD in Molecular Genetics, both from Leiden University. During six years of post-doctoral fellowships at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam (an Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) and the Free University Amsterdam, he focused on neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Disease. David also mentored two graduate students, at the University of Amsterdam and at Leiden University. He has published over 50 patent applications and peer-reviewed papers in the fields of neurodegenerative disease, oncology, gene regulation and RNAi screening.

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Who Should Attend?

Senior level research scientists from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies involved in:

  • High Throughput Screening (HTS)
  • Discovery Biology

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Charles River

As your scientific partner and preclinical CRO provider, Charles River provides innovation, flexibility, and efficiency in IND-enabling studies from early discovery research and in vivo pharmacology models through safety assessment. Our unique combination of interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary drug discovery expertise and unparalleled scope of capabilities in targets, platforms, and therapeutic areas allow us to deliver depth and breadth in science with insight and data you can trust to progress your drug discovery programs at any point along the way, from your very first research question about a molecule to a drug candidates’ first trial in man.

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