After five years of hard work, China has completed the world's largest kinase-based whole-cell screening library for high-throughput drug assay.
The cell library is located in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, and includes over 150 cell lines. The library covers more than 70 different kinases and mutations that are involved in human tumorigenesis and have been targeted through clinical treatment.
The kinase-specific screening library, which is the first of its type for drug screening in China, will provide enormous support for anti-cancer drug development in the country, due to the nature of many types of cancer.
Specifically, many cancers are induced by mutations that activate aberrant cell proliferation, resulting in uncontrolled cell growth. Many of these mutations involve kinases and can be inhibited through well-designed small molecule inhibitors.
Targeted therapy against these kinases has an advantage over traditional treatment methods since it is highly specific for oncogenic targets and cells. As a result, it spares normal cells, thus causing fewer side effects and toxicity.
After more than a decade of effort, targeted therapy has made significant progress with more than 30 drugs in clinical use. However, these drugs cover less than 10 cancer subtypes and are not available for most cancers. Even worse, the rapid appearance of drug resistance has dramatically increased the difficulty of new drug development.
"Patients in Test Tubes"
To address these problems, Dr. LIU Qingsong's research team at the High Magnetic Field Laboratory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CHMFL) set up the library, which was built "from scratch" using genetic engineering and a mouse prototype cell line.
Since the library's cell lines depend on a single active kinase mutation, they are extremely sensitive to compounds targeting these specific kinases and ideal for high-throughput drug screening.
Dr. WANG Wenchao, a leading researcher on the project and CHMFL scientist, likened the cell library to "patients in test tubes" since the cell lines can "mimic clinical patients in drug sensitivity evaluation at the cellular level."
To further improve the efficiency of cells in drug screening, LIU's team also set up a state-of-the-art high-throughput platform with automatic sample handling and data processing capabilities in 2013.
With the platform now in place, the team can finish over 10,000 drug assays in just one day and has already served more than 100 industrial and academic groups involved in drug research.