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© Colourbox
German Trends and Innovations

March 20, 2008

Automated Cell Tests

On average, the development of a new therapeutic drug takes twelve years and costs 800 million dollars. Tests of effective ingredients are what make pharmaceutical research so complicated. Every new drug requires a “target structure” – in other words, a molecule in the body onto which the medicine can dock and thereby influence the respective disease. When researchers find an appropriate structure of this kind, they can test up to two million possible active ingredients before they hit the target. The vast majority of these tests involve manual work, which makes it difficult to meet the requirements of modern pharmacy. However, Munich-based company Nanion Technologies has found a way of automating some of these tests, thereby making the development of new drugs more efficient and safer. The so-called patch-clamp method is still the standard measuring technique in the laboratories of the pharmaceutical industry. It involves a researcher placing a glass micropipette filled with an active ingredient on a cell. An experienced scientist manages ten cells a day. The machine from southern Germany achieves results considerably faster. Controlled by a chip, it reliably investigates one sample after the other. Staff only need a few hours of training to be able to operate the apparatus. The inventors from Munich are thus fulfilling the dream of many researchers. Laboratories in Asia, North America, Europe and Australia are already performing measurements using the new patch-clamp-on-a-chip technology.

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© Deutschland magazine/February/March 2008/Roland Knauer



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