Charles River to accelerate hit discovery with AstraZeneca high-throughput deal

Charles River will perform HTS programs faster for its clients using AstraZeneca’s state-of-the-art HTS facility. (AstraZeneca)

Charles River Laboratories has strengthened its high-throughput screening capabilities (HTS) by gaining access to technologies available at AstraZeneca’s Centre for Lead Discovery in Cambridge, U.K.

“This collaboration gives us the opportunity to offer our clients access to a screening facility with highly flexible, high-resolution, automated screening platforms,” said David Cronk, Charles River’s director of hit discovery. “The collaboration also enables us to offer state-of-the-art assay detection platforms for label free and imaging-based assays, as well as the ability to run novel technologies, including acoustic mass spectrometry.”

AstraZeneca’s screening platform is home to a drug discovery robot called NiCoLA-B. Under the Open Innovation program, it is where AZ shares its compound libraries, HTS screening facility and assay platform with academic and industry collaborators like Charles River, the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.


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The HTS system developed by HighRes Biosolutions can run up to three times quicker in half the size of previous equipment, and the entire combined group of robots will test around 40 million chemicals for 40 to 50 diseases, according to AZ's website.

Charles River will place scientists-in-residence to work side-by-side with AZ’s teams at the center. Cronk said it will determine the exact number of residents based on the need of its clients and will initially relocate existing HTS staff from its local facilities.

RELATED: Charles River buys immunology player KWS BioTest for $20M

With the recent addition of 40,000 new compounds, the CRO’s own screening collection now contains over 900,000 unique chemical compounds, Cronk told FierceCRO. It has also restructured the “Lead-like” and “Diversity” compound libraries, enhanced its compound handling infrastructure by adding another fully automated acoustic platform and a cherry-picking system.

“These enhancements have delivered a collection with significantly increased structural diversity and lead-likeness, while increasing its overall solubility profile,” he said

Just a couple of weeks ago, Charles River took in British CRO KWS BioTest for about $20 million. Cronk said the acquisition provides access to a broad range of in vitro screens in immunology, immuno-onclogy and infectious diseases.


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