Boosting drug discovery with micromotors
It takes at least ten years for a new drug to come to market, with clinical trials alone taking up to seven years. But drug developers, especially those developing vaccines, have had to work much faster lately. Could the industry maintain this momentum and develop pharmaceuticals more quickly? Right here, Dave Walsha, Director of Sales at precision drive systems provider, Electrical Mechanical Systems (EMS), explores how micromotors contribute to drug discovery.
The tasks of analytical devices and machines used in laboratories are becoming more and more sophisticated, and these devices require a system that allows very precise actions.
Micromotors, as their name suggests, are motors designed for smaller applications. But their size does not determine performance. Instead, these engines are extremely fast, accurate, and very powerful, making them an ideal choice for drug discovery applications.
Small Engines, Big Impact
In a survey of 70 NHS organizations and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), BT found that 90% are accelerating digital transformation plans, encouraged by the demand for remote services, rising patient expectations and the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digital transformation in the medical industry ranges from digitized patient services and medical software to medicine that contains sensors and robots used in laboratories.
Robots have been used in the medical field since 1985, when the Puma 560 was developed by the first robotics company, Unimation, to perform brain biopsy. It was developed to combat the risk of error related to hand tremors during needle placement. However, the industry did not fully accept robots into regular practice until the 1990s.
Today’s robots can be used elsewhere, in delicate processes like drug development. In particular, robots are used to automate and speed up processes, including drug screening, anti-counterfeiting and manufacturing tasks. But for this, these robots must be powered by high-performance and precise motors.
Where else can micromotors be used to drive drug development?
An immunoassay is a test that uses biochemistry to measure the presence and concentration of an analyte. These can be large proteins, antibodies that a person has produced due to an infection, or small molecules.
These sensitive assays are used in the preclinical and clinical stages of drug development, where they can assess biomarkers of drug response, immunotherapy success, and toxicity. Immunoassays automatically and quickly run tests on multiple samples in parallel, saving vital time and enabling high-throughput screening of samples – an invaluable capability for drug discovery scientists.
Immunoassay tests are often performed by an immunoassay analyzer, a compact device with a built-in computer. To ensure the speed and reliability of the test, the analyzer should be powered by motors such as brushless DC servo motors. These motors are designed for extreme and repetitive operating conditions because they are precise and have long life cycles.
Support cell culture
Cell culture, also known as cell analysis, is one of the most valuable testing methods in medical practice and helps bring drugs to market safely. Cell culture is the process of growing cells from human tissue in an incubator to provide enough material for drug testing. Cells are grown in tissue culture flasks in medium containing cell nutrients and growth factors.
This activity is carried out in the last phase of drug development — the clinical trial phase. Cell culture serves as a surrogate for testing drugs safely. For example, it determines what dose achieves the desired result without side effects and at what limit the drug becomes toxic.
Testing cell cultures is a long and repetitive job that requires great precision on the part of the technician to ensure that there is no contamination, which can harm the cultures. Instead, automated test systems are becoming increasingly popular to save time and improve accuracy and quality.
EMS are the UK’s only supplier of FAULHABER motors, which offer a superior combination of high performance, precision and low weight motors, ideal for use in medical and laboratory equipment. Indeed, its motors are used to power the CYRIS®FLOX automated test system, designed by the German biotechnology company INCYTON.
In combination with an integrated motion controller, six brushless dc servo motors are built into the device, each serving a different purpose. Three move the pipetting head in the robot arm in three axes. A fourth motor drives 24 suction pistons, which transport the culture medium into sterile pipette tips.
The last two motors move the microscope on an XY table under the cell samples. In this request, the motors ensure that the cultures are supplied with nutrients and drugs throughout the assay and that cell development is closely monitored. What else, the small and precise characteristics of FAULHABER motors guarantee precision and reliability in this continuous operation.
Although it takes about a decade for new drugs to hit the market, we have seen that the medical industry can work with greater agility when needed. Using powerful and precise micromotors, automated immunoassays can provide high-throughput screening, and automated cell culture testing systems can determine if a product is safe, helping to bring drugs to market faster. medications.
To learn more about the small and medium motors supplied and manufactured by EMS, visit www.ems-limited.co.uk.