COVID-19 in the Crosshairs: Reflections on Developing a Collaboration with BMG LabTech

Dan Thomas, Head of Discovery Biology at Arctoris, discusses data precision and new partnerships in light of new global health challenges. This blog follows from Dan’s recent workshop at ELRIG UK.

Arctoris Ltd
4 min readMar 4, 2021
Spot the difference between 1960 and 2021! Has anything changed in laboratories?

SARS-CoV-2 is not the first time a highly contagious coronavirus spread from the animal kingdom into the human population. And chances are it won’t be the last. If viruses continue to be a threat and evolve, we must continuously adapt our approaches to protecting our populations’ health as well.

As the picture above illustrates, labs have remained fundamentally unchanged since the 1960s, despite many improvements in our scientific knowledge, capabilities and technology. Ever-increasing amounts of scientific literature are being published, challenging researchers to keep up with the latest developments, while also spending long days in the lab manually performing experiments. If only scientists could spend more time designing high-value experiments that yielded reliable, precise and reproducible results…

Arctoris recently celebrated its 5th birthday, and with this celebration, came the launch of our expanded robotic platform, Ulysses. Our mission is clear: to eliminate variability at its source and guarantee consistency, transparency, and reproducibility by using precision automation to conduct experimental and analytical workflows.

Highlights from Arctoris’ new Ulysses platform

The integration of BMG plate readers into our automated laboratory facility has delivered speed and quality of data acquisition, enabling real-time experimental monitoring.

This ensures that we can:

  • Customise all projects, endpoints and data outputs
  • Eliminate human variability, producing fully reproducible results every time
  • Reduce experimental cycles and improve data confidence
  • Minimise reagent usage, carbon footprint and costs
  • Increase fidelity in our capture of all data and metadata

For a biotech partner company, we onboarded catalytic assays for a family of 4 kinases, optimised and validating them in under 100 hours on our Ulysses platform, delivering robust Z’ > 0.8 for all assays.

Highly reproducible and precise data generated on Ulysses in 12 hours for a family of 4 kinases

To create effective intervention strategies against COVID-19, prior understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of the virus-host interaction is critical. This knowledge is used to identify targets for antiviral intervention, including the SARS CoV-2 Spike-ACE2 protein-protein interaction, which is one of the primary focus areas for the development of therapeutics. It is this interaction, essential for binding the virus to the host cell at the start of the infection, that plays a pivotal role in host specificity and viral infectivity. With this knowledge, two mechanisms have been highlighted as routes to block this interaction:

Mechanism 1:Binding the viral spike protein to prevent interaction with ACE 2 through neutralising antibodies Mechanism 2: Binding the viral spike protein to block the conformational changes required for the successful fusion of the viral and host cell membranes

The use of state-of-the-art dispense and read capabilities, alongside a strongly collaborative approach to industry engagement enabled us to provide our partners with advanced access to a key viral assay. In this example, we were able to achieve successful onboarding of a novel assay within 24 hours, deliver a robust readout (S:B > 20:1, Z’ > 0.8), and confirm displacement using untagged recombinant control proteins (ACE2 and Spike-RBD).

With Ulysses, we ensure rapid high-quality data turnaround, accelerating our understanding of COVID-19.

As COVID-19 adapts, so should we. Every data point matters. Make yours count.

Dr Daniel Thomas is a seasoned drug discovery professional with experience of over 20 years in early-stage research and development in the pharmaceutical industry. He has extensive theoretical and practical knowledge of assay development, molecular profiling and enzyme kinetics, and is an accomplished leader with a track record of developing trans-national matrix research teams and leading early-stage programmes across a broad range of therapeutic areas during his time at GSK. As the Head of Discovery Biology at Arctoris, he is responsible for the development and implementation of a comprehensive scientific strategy designed to deliver the best in data quality.

About Arctoris Ltd

Arctoris Ltd is an Oxford-based research company that is revolutionising drug discovery for virtual and traditional biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical corporations and academia. Arctoris has established the world’s first fully automated drug discovery platform, offering pre-optimised and fully validated processes for its partners and customers globally. Accessible remotely, the platform provides on-demand access to a wide range of biochemical, cell biology and molecular biology assays conducted by robotics, enabling rapid, informed decision-making in basic biology, target validation, toxicology and phenotypic screening. These assay capabilities are accessed using a powerful online portal that streamlines experiment planning, ordering, tracking and data analysis. Thanks to the Arctoris platform, customers can rapidly, accurately and cost-effectively perform their research and advance their drug discovery programmes.

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Arctoris Ltd

We are the world’s first fully automated R&D platform generating drug discovery data on demand