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Science in Action: Chemical Biology

In this exhibit, Broad scientists describe today’s powerful genomic technologies and how they are being used to transform genomic scienceand medicine.

The Films

High-throughput screening. The search for new drugs or special molecules requires sifting through hundreds of thousands of chemicals to find just the right one. Nicky Tolliday explains how automated machines make such screening possible, potentially revealing a new understanding of disease or even a new treatment.

Screening for cancer drugs. Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer with only a few treatments. One of these works by targeting the tumor cell’s main “trash disposal” system, although it is only effective in a small percentage of patients for a short while. Jay Bradner reveals how high-throughput screening led to the discovery of a new molecule that blocks one of the cell’s “garbage trucks” and could lead to a new, effective cancer treatment.

The Technology

Gene Chip Scanner

Laboratory Robotics. For over twenty years, articulated robots have been deployed in a variety of laboratories to accelerate research and provide consistent, reproducible results. This category of robotics provides the precision and dexterity to access the most difficult to reach instruments. With smooth, human-like movement and full range of motion, articulated robots are utilized in many research applications, ranging from genomics, proteomics and high-throughput chemical screens to highly sensitive cellular assays.

Plate Stacker

Plate Stacker & Liquid Handler. Plastic dishes partitioned into hundreds of separate compartments, or wells, enable researchers to run thousands of experiments side-by-side. This machine, a kind of conveyer belt, transports these empty plates to be filled with live cells and with solutions containing different chemicals to be tested. With the compound collection and modern machinery at the Broad Institute, thousands of chemicals can be analyzed at once.

Automated Microscope

Automated Microscope. As the eyes of chemical screening, this elaborate microscope provides visual proof of how cells react to different chemicals. Automatically, it peers into tiny wells, finds the cells within them, and snaps a photograph. Thanks to its robotics and sophisticated software, hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds can be rapidly tested for their biological effects.