AstraZeneca expands technological investment in new Cambridge lead discovery centre

20 November 2015

AstraZeneca today announced three new partnerships that will deliver industry-leading technologies to drive the AstraZeneca MRC UK Centre for Lead Discovery in the search for novel small molecule medicines. The partnerships will ensure state-of-the-art screening and compound management at the facility, which will be located within the company’s new global R&D centre at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. It will screen around 2 million chemical structures per target to find new compounds for disease targets.

The partnerships, which will deliver a collaborative screening platform, space-age robotics, and sound waves that can move liquids, include:

  1. A three-year agreement with HighRes Biosolutions, a leading global provider of automated robotic systems to the life sciences industry, to develop next generation, intelligent robots for the high throughput screening of compounds. The ultra-light weight, maximum strength robots use technology originally developed for the European Space Agency. A feature of the robots is that scientists can interact with them directly rather than being separated by a protective shield, allowing them to perform diverse research applications with a mobility that maximises efficiency. AstraZeneca will be the first adopter of this advanced robotics within the pharmaceutical industry.
  2. A strategic partnership to use the energy of sound waves to dispense compounds directly from individual storage tubes into well plates for testing. This comprises fully-automated liquid handling by Labcyte, automated liquid storage systems by Brooks Automation, and a co-developed acoustic sample storage tube. Acoustic dispensing is contactless, eliminating the use of pipettes and reducing the compound volumes by 10-fold. The system also increases automated retrieval of compounds from storage, enabling any compound from AstraZeneca’s collection to be selected for any screen in the UK Centre for Lead Discovery. It will provide an unparalleled level of quality in the screening data produced from biological assays.
  3. A five-year collaboration with Genedata, a leading provider of advanced software solutions for drug discovery and life science research, which will speed data sharing with partners. The partnership centres on a software platform to help expedite collaborations in drug discovery and reduce data analysis costs. AstraZeneca will become one of the largest users of the collaboration platform software, which it will share with its early stage partners.

Steve Rees, Vice President, Screening Sciences & Sample Management, Discovery Sciences, AstraZeneca, said: “Working together with leading technology providers, we are creating cutting-edge capabilities for compound management and screening. This will deliver new ways of working, help reduce costs and transform our ability to identify new molecules that could become medicines of the future.”


A Comment article co-authored by AstraZeneca scientists describing the future vision for compound management and high throughput screening will be published online in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery on 20 November 2015 at 12:00 GMT.

About Brooks Automation, Inc.

Brooks is a leading worldwide provider of automation and cryogenic solutions for multiple markets including semiconductor manufacturing and life sciences. Brooks' technologies, engineering competencies and global service capabilities provide customers speed to market and ensure high uptime and rapid response, which equate to superior value in their mission-critical controlled environments. Brooks is headquartered in Chelmsford, MA, with direct operations in North America, Europe and Asia.

About Genedata

Genedata transforms data into intelligence with a portfolio of advanced software solutions, which make research data accessible and understandable and research processes more efficient. These solutions are used worldwide by leading pharmaceutical, industrial, and agricultural biotechnology companies as well as academic research organizations. Genedata innovations enable scientific discovery that fights disease and improves health and quality of life worldwide. Founded in 1997, Genedata is headquartered in Switzerland, and has offices in Germany, Japan, and the US. For more information, visit

About HighRes Biosolutions

HighRes Biosolutions is a global leader for laboratory automation solutions.  The company designs and builds innovative laboratory automation systems, dynamic scheduling software, and lab automation instruments that accelerate and streamline discovery.  HighRes offers highly flexible, modular solutions that provide its clients with the ability to scale and reconfigure their automation equipment as their assays or technology changes. For more information, please visit

About Labcyte Inc.

Labcyte, a global biotechnology tools company headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, is revolutionizing liquid handling. Echo® liquid handling systems use sound to precisely transfer liquids without contact, eliminating the use of pipettes. Labcyte instruments are used worldwide throughout the pharmaceutical industry, as well as by biotechnology companies, contract research organizations, and academic institutions. Our customers work across a wide spectrum of scientific research, including drug discovery, genomics, proteomics, diagnostics and personalized medicine. Labcyte has 55 U.S. patents and others internationally. For more information, visit

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit:


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