The facility is staffed by highly experienced researchers who collaborate closely with Crick research groups throughout a project life cycle from developing assays to screening through to final data interpretation and secondary screening.
In addition we have invested in machinery to help conduct the experiments, such as liquid handling devices, automated microscopes and image analysis software and a database to retain, interrogate and display the information.
The net effect of the equipment and the staff is to reduce the barriers for any researcher to adopt this sort of screening technology. There is nothing to fear about a large-scale screening project; the ‘doing’ of it is not an issue. The most important questions at the outset are scientific: why screen in the first place, what information can it yield and how will the information be interpreted and used?
In this collaborative environment, we try to turn original scientific ideas into a viable screening campaign, a process that benefits hugely from a thorough understanding of the variables influencing the biology under investigation and we can use a variety of techniques to control that variation as the scale increases.
Almost inevitably, some compromises will need to be made along the way but the early and thorough considerations of what the point of the screen is, will act as an invaluable guide.
Much of our time is spent identifying the crucial interdependencies of the assay variables and how or indeed whether they impact on the biological information that can be inferred from the cellular phenotype observed. Assays that have gone through this process are robust and reliable. Frequently we find that assays developed in the facility become standard lab assays thereafter.
In addition to equipment and reagents, the HTS provides all researchers with access to the accumulated data from all screens conducted in the facility. Data is held within a central bespoke database that can be interrogated and browsed enabling researchers to identify novel activities associated with their gene(s) of interest, browse the hits from screens relevant to their research and identify colleagues with whom they can collaborate.