Next-Gen Automation Lab Aims to Speed Up Drug Discovery Process

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Eli Lilly and Company and industry partners, including Ziath, are focused on speeding up the drug discovery process with a fully automated lab.

Eli Lilly and Company and its industry partners, including Ziath, a UK-based sample management company, have set their sights on speeding up the drug discovery process with the fully automated Lilly Life Sciences Studio (L2S2) lab in San Diego, Calif. The lab, set up as part of the Lilly Discovery Automation Research and Technologies Group, establishes a center where a team of automation engineers and scientists can work together on the design, implementation, and operation of a variety of innovative automation projects, Ziath announced in an Aug. 3, 2021 press release.

The lab comprises a Magnamotion track, on which individual islands of automation can cover compound synthesis, purification, analysis, and biological testing. These different research tasks are brought together in one large laboratory space and are controlled by one bespoke automation scheduling software.

Barcoded tube rack readers (Cube 2D, Ziath) are used in this automated process to identify and monitor the position of individual samples travelling throughout the storage and processing modules in the lab. Using 2D-barcoded tubes and vials allows the readers to keep track of hundreds of samples being processed at any one time across L2S2 by reporting their individual ID numbers to the master scheduler from each workstation or touchpoint. In addition, advanced sample management technology is utilized in the input–output module, where samples are received and retrieved from the L2S2 system.

“Our Life Science Studio is exciting because it allows us to reduce cycle times, go faster on projects, and ultimately bring the right drug to the right patient in a timely fashion,” said Devon Thompson, senior research fellow at Lilly, in the press release.

“The input–output module allows the operator to have one touchpoint to put samples on and take samples off the system. This is very important because we really want to do positive sample tracking of every sample that’s moving on the system at any time,” said Rick Robbins, the L2S2 Automation Group leader, in the press release.


“A key component of this lab is the ability to track the data from the very beginning of the order, all the way through to the end,” said Lilly research fellow James Beck in the press release. “We generate annually roughly 15–20% of the entire Lilly compound collection that goes to biological screening”.

“This novel deployment of Ziath readers as part of a large-scale automated [d]rug [d]iscovery laboratory is both exciting and yields huge productivity gains, pointing the way forward for many other drug discovery companies to go in future,” said Landon Diaz, general manager of Ziath America, in the press release.

Source: Ziath