HCS Pharma is a biotechnology start-up focused on in vitro preclinical research and development. The company specializes in multi-parametric cell imaging assays using High-Content Analysis (HCA) and High-Content Screening (HCS) approaches. This allows them to save time and money by investigating several different parameters within the same experiment. The team, led by Nathalie and Grégory Maubon, performs both primary and secondary screens and develops new assays and 2D/3D cell culture models. These can be used for services in different application areas such as toxicology, pharmacology, dermo-cosmetics and nutraceutics.
HCS Pharma creates innovative 3D cellular models which enable researchers to perform phenotypic screening on more relevant 3D cellular assays that also consider the extracellular matrix (ECM). To reach this goal, HCS Pharma has recently acquired BIOMIMESYS® technology, which is a unique and natural hyaluronic acid-based hydroscaffold, biofunctionalized with other ECM components to better mimic the microenvironment of every organ!
The team needed to implement 3D confocal imaging using powerful and reliable high-throughput systems that could be integrated within a robotic platform, allowing high-throughput imaging. Specifically, the team needed:
- Confocal imaging to perform 3D reconstructions
- A high signal-to-noise ratio to maximize acquisition speed
- A fully integrated platform, from incubators to imagers
- Imaging software to perform high-throughput 3D image analysis
“We needed a solution which would maximize the rentability of our studies by enabling us to offer more parameter extractions in less time”, says Nathalie Maubon.
The team at HCS Pharma envisioned an entire automation platform for their facility in Lille and they chose Molecular Devices products and services for the design and integration.
The workflow contains:
- AquaMax Microplate Washer
- Plate sealer
- Pipetting platform (96/384-well format head)
- Two ImageXpress® Micro Confocal High-Content Imaging Systems, one of which is temperature-regulated and equipped for phase contrast microscopy (allowing live cell imaging)
- MetaXpress® High-Content Image Acquisition and Analysis Software
- MetaXpress PowerCore Software
The entire integration of the automated platform was done in collaboration with the Advanced Workflow Engineering Solutions (AWES) team at Molecular Devices.
This extraordinary platform has a name, they call it “HAPIx”, the HCS Automation Platform for Imaging X. The X refers to the fact that the team can image many different structures such as cells, spheroids, skin, histology slides, etc. More information on the HAPIx platform, including a 360° immersive video, can be found on the HCS Pharma website.
The ImageXpress Confocal system is a high-content solution that can switch between widefield and confocal imaging of fixed and live cells. It can capture high quality images of whole organisms, thick tissues, 2D and 3D models, and cellular or intracellular events. The spinning disc confocal and sCMOS camera enable imaging of fast and rare events like cardiac cell beating and stem cell differentiation. With the MetaXpress software, the system enables many confocal imaging applications from 3D assay development to screening.
Today, HCS Pharma can perform high quality 3D cell assays in a high-throughput manner. With the implementation of their HAPIx platform, they now have a very powerful and fast tool that they can offer to customers from the pharmaceutical industry to perform high-throughput phenotypic screens on 3D cell models. This is in addition to the low/medium throughput assays that they already offered to the pharmaceutical, dermo-cosmetic and nutraceutical industries.
The combination of MetaXpress Software and MetaXpress PowerCore Software allows HCS Pharma to analyze many parameters from 2D and 3D images quickly and efficiently. They use both applications modules, home-made custom modules and journals, either independently or with the support of the Molecular Devices’ team.
Below are examples of images that researchers at HCS Pharma have acquired using their ImageXpress Micro Confocal systems.