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European Biopharmaceutical Review

New Applications of Picodroplet Technology for Drug Discovery and Development

Picodroplet microfluidics is rapidly becoming the technology of choice for single cell analysis, providing an easy-to-use tool to encapsulate single cells in picolitre-volume aqueous droplets at high throughput rates (see Figure 1). Picodroplets create a unique confined microenvironment to study each cell, while maintaining high cell viability, revealing information about a single cell and the heterogeneity of a cell population that researchers cannot obtain in conventional bulk assays (1).

Cell-secreted molecules are trapped in picodroplets and accumulate quickly to a concentration that can be reliably and quantitatively detected using assays based on the Förster resonance energy transfer theory (FRET). In a FRET assay, two fluorescent probes, donor and acceptor, will bind to the target secreted molecule. The binding event brings them into proximity, resulting in energy transfer from donor to acceptor, detected as a decrease in the donor’s fluorescent signal and an increase in the acceptor’s fluorescent signal. Picodroplets containing desirable cells are then sorted by fluorescence and dispensed into individual wells in a microtitre plate for downstream analysis. This process is performed within a fully integrated picodroplet single cell analysis system, creating a streamlined, automated workflow (2).

Fully integrated and automated picodroplet systems continue to push the boundaries of biologic discovery by accelerating research, expanding the scope of exploration, and reducing upstream development costs. These technologies are extensively used in antibody discovery and cell line development, providing a high throughput and sensitive method for performing quantitative screening assays, and the applications are expanding (2).

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Olivia Hughes is a Life Science Writer and Digital Marketer at Sphere Fluidics, covering the latest advancements in single cell technologies and their applications in biotherapeutic discovery and development. Olivia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Design Innovation from Victoria University, New Zealand, and is currently completing a Master’s at King’s College, London, in International Marketing.
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