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December 15, 2003 | Evotec's OPERA system can screen 100,000 compounds per day. "That's 2 million images each day, and up to 1 to 2 terabytes of data per week," explains Steven Kain, head of high-content screening business development at Scimagix.

Clearly, there are some data issues brewing in the high-content screening (HCS) arena.

 Who's got the hookup? HCS analysis results for a fibroblast (top) and a human hair follicle (bottom) are linked to the corresponding images for data mining and review with Scimagix's SIMS software. 
In anticipation, Scimagix is developing the Scientific Image Management (SIMS) HTA (high-throughput applications) module in collaboration with instrument leaders such as Amersham Biosciences (makers of the InCell Analyzers) and Molecular Devices (makers of Discovery-1). Launching in early 2004, HTA allows users across a company to store and access files from a single database. "Our product brings together the images and the results into a searchable database," Kain says.

Being able to review and reanalyze data is crucial, according to ID-Business Solutions (IDBS)'s Douglas Drake. Using IDBS's ActivityBase, scientists can view, analyze, store, and reanalyze both chemical and biological screening data, linking out to third-party databases when needed. With the company's Discovery Warehouse, even disparate groups with very large data stores can access and manipulate data more easily.

Now, "the race, as a vendor, is to develop technologies for visualizing and measuring pathways and mechanisms of action with direct therapeutic implication that no one else has," Drake says. He points to Norak's beta-arrestin assay, which "visualizes GFP-labeled beta-arrestin clustering to endocytic compartments," when GPCRs are activated.

New assays require new analytical algorithms. "Data analysis is the hot topic now," says Susan Catalano, senior scientist and principal consultant at Drug Discovery Imaging, who sees a tremendous need for new analytical tools. Vendors are taking notice. "We are actively working with third-party vendors to make sure there are informatics solutions," says Anne Jones, product director for cell biology at Amersham Biosciences.

Data storage is also becoming an issue. Currently, Q3DM's instrument runs with just a single PC. But people are starting to do more complex analyses, such as "highly accurate plasma membrane localizations," says Edward Hunter, chief technology officer at Q3DM. As a result, he expects the company will need to pair its instrument with a scalable computing platform that can be adjusted as demand changes.

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Images courtesy of James E. Hayden, The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA

For reprints and/or copyright permission, please contact Angela Parsons, 781.972.5467.