Bellbrook Awarded Phase II SBIR Grant to Fund Development of Microchamber Assay Plate for Cystic Fibrosis Drug Discovery

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The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute awarded BellBrook Labs a Phase II SBIR Award for $850,000 to continue development of a specialized assay plate for primary airway epithelial cells, which form the lining of the trachea and lung and become damaged in cystic fibrosis. The innovative plate provides significant advances in miniaturization and optics that will make it possible to screen large drug libraries using high content, phenotypic assays with patient-derived airway epithelial cells.

BellBrook Labs today announced the awarding of a Phase II SBIR grant for $850,000 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to continue development of a specialized assay plate for primary epithelial cells. The innovative plate, called the ALI Assay Plate, is designed for culturing primary airway epithelial cells at an air liquid interface and is fully compatible with existing automated liquid dispensing and imaging (high content analysis) equipment.

Primary epithelial cells growing at an air-liquid interface undergo a full differentiation program and are widely acknowledged to be the best model for cystic fibrosis and other airway disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, current air-liquid interface culture methods require large numbers of cells and are not amenable to automation. The highly miniaturized microchambers of the ALI Assay Plate will reduce consumption of rare primary cells by at least a factor of ten, and allow a wide variety of functional high-throughput and high-content assays that are not possible with the current tools. The plate will also be useful for drug discovery and chemical safety studies using primary skin cells and other barrier models. The Phase II award will fund design optimization, functional validation and manufacturing of a 96-well version of the ALI-Assay Plate, which will be commercialized via BellBrook’s direct sales and international distribution channels.

The company is seeking collaborations on the ALI Assay Plate with potential end-users in biotech, pharma, CROs or cosmetic companies interested in screening compounds for effects on airway epithelial or skin cell models. Please contact BellBrook Labs for more information or to inquire about collaborative opportunities.

Development of the ALI Assay Plate was an offshoot of BellBrook's investment and expertise in microfabrication and microfluidics technology for their iuvo™ Microconduit Array platform. The over arching concept is the same: miniaturization and automation of advanced cell models that are more representative of human physiology.

About BellBrook Labs. BellBrook Labs is dedicated to accelerating drug discovery and biological research by providing innovative high throughput screening solutions for enzymes and phenotypic assays. The company’s Transcreener® HTS enzyme assays, used by all of the major pharmaceutical companies, make it easy to screen thousands of different enzymes, including validated targets like kinases, as well as emerging targets like ATPases, GTPases, methyltransferases, and glycosyltransferases. The iuvo™ Microconduit Array technology and assay screening service is a line of unique microscale devices for miniaturization and automation of advanced cell models that are more representative of human physiology. Visit BellBrook’s website for more information:

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Robert Lowery
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