The Problem: Primary cells are ideal for drug screening, but their quantities are highly limited.
Cell-based assays are used in early stage drug discovery to identify and optimize drug candidates based on their effects on living cells. Currently, pharmaceutical researchers rely mostly on cell lines, which are often obtained from tumors or are artificially immortalized, and hence are available abundantly. But these cells have lost many native properties and their drug responses are of mediocre biological relevance. Screening such cell lines can result in drug candidates that are more likely to have reduced efficacy or unintended side effects in actual patients, and can lead to costly clinical trial failures. Accordingly, this issue is central to the pharmaceutical industry’s problems of decreasing approved drug candidates in market and increasing costs of drug discovery.
Primary cells are cells that are freshly obtained from human or animal tissue, and hence are ideal for cell-based assays because they retain properties very similar to cells in the human body and exhibit highly clinically relevant drug responses. Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical and biotech companies have long desired using primary cells for drug screening. Unfortunately, primary cells can only be obtained in limited quantities, and it is usually prohibitively expensive or practically unfeasible to acquire enough cells for large scale studies or extensive characterization.
Conventional approach and pitfalls: Low throughput, limited capabilities, and expensive
The current approach to dealing with the above problem is to miniaturize cell-based assays using high-density microtiter plates. This approach, however, is fraught with problems: (1) the numbers of cells required still does not permit large scale studies on a single sample, (2) difficulties in fluid handling at miniature scales limits the types of assays that can be implemented, (3) the required fluid-handling equipment is very expensive. Consequently, drug screening using primary cells is largely out of reach, making it difficult to identify at an early stage drugs that are likely to be safe and effective in humans.
Euveda's Solution: Use microfluidics to miniaturize drug screening assays and reduce cell usage, thus enabling screening on primary cells.
Euveda's technology implements cell-based assays in an innovative microfluidic format that provides both miniaturization and integrated fluid handling. The miniaturization reduces cell usage by at least 10-fold compared to the best available conventional technology. The integrated fluid handling provides an elegant and inexpensive way to ensure accurate and gentle delivery of drugs and other fluids to the cells. Further cost savings are obtained by lowering the usage of expensive biochemical reagents through the smaller assay volume, which is at least 150-fold lower than the best available conventional method. These technology advances will finally enable high throughput drug screening on primary cells, which will enable researchers and clinicians to identify the best drugs for each patient and disease.