Cell Based Assay Development at Likarda with ASSIST (video)

Cell Based Assay Development at Likarda with ASSIST

My name is Lisa Stehno-Bittel. I'm president and co-founder of Likarda. Likarda is a five year old biotech company in Kansas City, that works on product development as well as assay development for testing for our clients. Cell based assays are essential to what Likarda does.

It's really a center of the company. We do product development in cell based therapies and those are 3D clusters of cells, that are used to mitigate diseases. We also do cell based testing for clients in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical arenas. So a client comes to us and they need to reproduce the physiology of the body in a petri dish, basically. And we know, that those essays are more predictable of what's going to happen in the body, if they're in 3D.

So we create the 3D clusters and we may also have to replicate the entire immune system, if it's an immunotherapy, that's being tested for the client. Likarda has specialized itself, in the early discovery phase of drug development. There the companies are trying to decide, if this is a potential drug, that has worth. We use a lot of automation and we keep the cost reasonable in that early discovery phase, to give them the answer. Yes, there looks, something is promising here or no probably not. 

My name is Steven Harrington. I am a research scientist and the director of production at Likarda at Kansas City. Part of my job here at Likarda is, to develop our quality control assays for islet transplant product. And so what that involves, is taking a and benchtop assay and sort of translating that into something more automated and high-throughput, that can be repeated over and over again. And so we use the INTEGRA ASSIST for is to sort of bridge that gap so a lot of times.

When you do something at the bench top level manually, it doesn't really translate into high throughput robotics very well and so the INTEGRA ASSIST is great, because it allows us to to think in robotic terms, but with the variability and and flexibility of manual bench top equipment. We have had the INTEGRA ASSIST for a little over a year and one of the key benefits of using the ASSIST is, consistency of data and the reproducibility of it between users.

We find, that the results from the INTEGRA are much more accurate than using manual equipment. And another thing, that's been really great about using the INTEGRA is, that we can now accurately move in from a 96-well format to a 384-well format, which really helped us save a lot of time, which is great for such a small team.  We really like the fact, that the INTEGRA ASSIST is a standalone system, so it doesn't have to be plugged in or connected to a computer system at all. So there's no software, that needs to be updated or anything like that, no keyboards no mice. And so everything is controlled by the pipette itself, so whether you're using that pipette on the bench top for just a quick assay or you're plugging it into the ASSIST instrument itself, it's all controlled by the pipette. And it's a really seamless transition from that sort of bench top to the automated set up.

The INTEGRA instrument is very ergonomic. The pipette itself is operated with one hand and really just your thumb. The touchscreen is very easy to work with, and all of the points on it are very easily accessible with just your thumb. And the buttons on the instrument itself are very easy to press, which is really great when doing a long process and a lot of high throughput work. The INTEGRA system is far less expensive than your traditional robotic liquid handling systems. And what this allows us to do is develop and execute more complex physiological assays at a fraction of the price.

Therapy's are becoming more and more complex - the easy targets have been found and drugs have been developed for those targets. Now we look at therapies, that interact with a number of different receptors, a number of different cells systems even physiologies. And so we need more complex early predictive tests. And that's where Likarda has really staked its claim. As we look to the future, complexity in the early assay development and testing, is where we think, will have the biggest impact.

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