Columns & Interviews


Participation in DISC1) Business with Miniaturized HTS as a Bridge

1) DISC: Drug discovery Innovation & Screening Consortium

Benefit from miniaturization

Six years ago, in 2013, I was assigned to serve as the head of the high-throughput screening (HTS) group of Daiichi Sankyo RD Novare Co., Ltd. At that time, I did not realize that I was thrown into the place where employees work desperately to refine the technique of miniaturization of assays. However, my first impression at that time was, "Researchers conduct experiments with a small volume of liquid like pursuing their own world." So, honestly, I did not clearly understand.

In the early 1990s, when I started my career at the company, HTS using 96-well micro plates was the mainstream, and the standard volume of reaction solution was 100 μL. At that time, it was really difficult to secure the purified enzymes such as proteins required for HTS. We spent many days struggling for mass cultivation and mass purification of hundreds of liters of recombinant E. coli in total, by borrowing culture facility in a factory.

Some time after I became the head of HTS group, I happened to decide to calculate how much reaction solution is being saved. Current HTS standard in our company, 1536-well or 3456-well micro plates are mainly used, requires only 1-2 μL of reaction solution. Rough calculation shows that 1/100, or only a few liters of culture solution required to prepare the protein. It is just a world away from what I had learnt. Now we are possible to conduct research projects which we were forced to abandon HTS because the reagent is priced out or too small in portion.

In other words, the “miniaturization in quantity” has produced "qualitative changes" that makes it possible to perform HTS which used to be impossible.

"It may be awesome."
"Small is excellent"

I corrected my first impression drastically. And, although it may sound somewhat exaggerated, I was determined that this HTS should be used widely for the world.

Spirit of drug discovery concierge

The word “concierge” is originally from French and meaning "managers of apartments." In the medieval Europe, concierge meant a church person who welcomed pilgrims with hospitality, solved various troubles during the pilgrimage, and guided them to the next destinations. Recently, concierge is often heard as a job title who response to customer requests at hotels and department stores.

In the past 6 years, we have consulted hundreds of HTS-related topics including the consultations through DISC project. In those consultations, the spirit of concierge was essential. What do you think the primary thing to do as a concierge in the scene of drug discovery and early drug exploratory? I believe it is sharing goal images with consulters. Concierges have to continue to talk in tandem with consulters assuming even the consulters do not have clear goal images in some cases. In addition, we want to strongly support drug discovery with the insights and practical abilities we have gained through experience of the past consultations. We comfort consulters saying, "Is this the goal you want to achieve?" or "With this method, you could obtain result."

Efforts are essential for concierges. By continually updating and effectively utilizing the knowledge of the latest technology, concierges are able to develop the field of new drug discovery with unique perspective. In present time, it is relatively easy to find what are sold in on-line shopping malls. In other way, it is very difficult to find things which are not sold nor things you have never seen. Things not in the market do not always mean unnecessary nor worthless. Therefore, preparing things in the market is not enough. In order to utilize the latest technology for drug discovery in a timely manner, it is necessary to increase experiences in practice and to devise ways and combinations to use. Concierges also try to enhance their own sense and intelligence, strengthen imagination, deepen expertise in specialty fields, and obtain their own perspective in order to prepare marvel and sensational solutions.

The most important aspect for concierges might be to understand the true needs of the future generation and prepare carefully. In this sense, having opportunities of consultation, which is "chance meetings" with research professionals in academia, as a part of the DISC project by Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) is very valuable for concierge to build a clear image of researchers’ needs. Consultations are really fortunate chance meetings for concierges to glimpse of the future directions of science and technology. We would like to provide solutions which exceed the expectations of consulters in a good sense.

"I didn't think we could do that quickly."
"We could not accomplish this without you."

Those are the most pleasant words that the concierges want to hear.

January 2020

Kenji Wakabayashi, Ph.D.
Vice President
Biological Research Department
Daiichi Sankyo RD Novare Co., LTD.



Page TOP