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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Cell-Based High-Throughput Screens for Drug Discovery

The rapid progress in elucidating the mechanisms underlying human diseases, along with the enormous amount of data generated by the Human Genome Project, are significantly increasing the number of proteins that can be targeted for potential drug treatment. Parallel to these developments, the number and diversity of compounds that can be tested for activity against these targets are also rapidly expanding.

The combination of these trends in biology and chemistry has spurred the development of increasingly rapid, selective and reliable high-throughput screening assays to be applied in the early phase of drug discovery Typically, such assays allow screening of large numbers of compounds in an automated fashion to identify those that show an activity, either as agonists or as antagonists, on a defined biological target. Most of the assay formats developed to date can be grouped into cell-free (biochemical) or cell-based (cellular) assays. This article describes the applicability of cell-based assays in the early phase of drug discovery, with a particular focus on the use of yeast cells as an attractive option for high-throughput screens.


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By Dr Alcide Barberis, Chief Scientific Officer of ESBATech AG Dr Alcide Barberis is the Scientific Founder of ESBATech, a drug discovery company specialising in cell-based functional screening assays and high-throughput compound screens. Dr Barberis received his PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Zurich in 1988. He later moved to Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow, where he began working with yeast as a model system to study the fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation.
After a period at the Research Institute San Raffaele in Milan, he became group leader at the Institute of Molecular Biology at the University of Zurich. In 2002 he left academic research to become full-time Chief Scientific Officer of ESBATech.

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Dr Alcide Barberis
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