The soundwaves heralding a new era of smart screening

Summary: Our drug discovery capabilities are advancing at pace and in order to keep up with them, vital underlying industrial processes such as sample management also need to evolve. Our pioneering acoustic tube technology, co-developed with key partners, is enabling us to handle and process millions of compounds for biological screening with greater speed, accuracy, efficiency, agility and sustainability.

The critical enabler of drug discovery

Drug discovery technologies are not only advancing with unprecedented speed, they are also reaching new heights of sophistication and with this comes the need for a sophisticated high-throughput way of orchestrating what samples are needed for which experiment.

Sample management – the handling and processing of chemical compounds for high-throughput screening and experimentation – is a critical enabler in drug discovery. It is estimated that by 2023, 50 million samples a year will need to be accessed for screening compared to only 22 million a year in 2018. As such, it must be armed and ready for the extraordinary escalation.

The coming era of smart screening demands a new model of sample management – one that provides fast, efficient, streamlined and sustainable access to a broadening range of individual samples.

Clive Green Executive Director and Head of Global Sample Management, Discovery Sciences, R&D

What are acoustic tubes?

Acoustics (sound waves) have been deployed in sample management for some time – but only to transfer samples from multi-well storage plates into the eventual assay plate. The first ‘intermediate plates’ still had to be mechanically filled using pipette tips.

Our vision was to achieve a fully acoustic sample management solution, streamlining the entire process and eliminating the need for intermediate plates and tip-based dispensing. And by collaborating with three partners, Brooks Life Sciences (compound storage and retrieval specialists), Beckman Coulter Life Sciences (specialists in consumables and instruments for acoustic liquid handling) and Titian Software, our acoustic tube project was born.

Today, this approach is accelerating our process solutions for both hit discovery and lead optimisation research whilst driving miniaturisation in synthesis and screening assay platforms.1

The benefits of acoustic tube technology for fast and efficient sample handling

Our pioneering acoustic tube technology enables:

  • Unparalleled data quality via accurate, precise and contactless sample dispensing
  • Faster sample selection and retrieval, to meet escalating demand
  • Minimal wastage of samples, ensuring greater long-term sustainability

Beckman Coulter Life Sciences sees acoustic tube-based sample management as the next chapter in cost-effective drug screening. AstraZeneca’s leadership in drug discovery technologies helped translate the vision of tube-based storage into a real-world solution. We are proud of our close partnership with AstraZeneca as we collaborate to accelerate drug discovery.

Mike Musgnug Vice President and General Manager, Biotechnology Business Unit, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences


1. Green et al. Drug Discovery Today 2020.

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