Zoetis, previously a subsidiary of Pfizer, is the largest animal health company in the world. The company provides a diverse portfolio of animal medicines and vaccines to meet the needs of veterinarians, pet owners and livestock farmers in more than 120 countries.
At its global R&D headquarters in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Zoetis develops effective treatments for internal and external parasites in companion and production animals by using in vitro models.
Senior Scientist Scott Timmins comments, “We were working with internal parasites, using a 384 well format, checking by eye for a reduction in motility. This was hugely labour intensive and we realised that it would take many years to complete the programme without some kind of automation”.
Following a visit to see a LemnaTec machine at BASF in Germany, we drew up a specification for an automated phenotyping system that could use the 384 well format with backlight and dark field functionality. The machine, a customized HTS Scanalyzer fitted with a robotic arm to position the plates, was delivered by LemnaTec the following year.
“We configured two cameras so we could scan an entire 96 well plate but also individual wells in 96 and 384 well plates”, says Scott. “We also introduced heat and carbon dioxide to stimulate model organisms that would otherwise be immotile is the absence of the stimulus”.
Having capacity for high throughput screening that can deliver a quantitative output greatly increases productivity and accuracy when compared to manual observation under a microscope. One problem the industry faces is that parasites eventually become resistant to products. The Scanalyzer is used to detect which treatments are effective against these resistant parasites.
“We use barcoded plates to track compounds and we record well coordinates plus the degree of movement of the sample. The Scanalyzer data is exported in CSV file format to a statistics package from which we analyse the data. This gives us a quick and easy way to interpret results from one to many thousands of samples” concludes Scott.