Combined mass spectrometry with robotic technologies technique could rapidly speed up drug discovery

Written by Georgi Makin, Future Science Group

Research published in Chemical Science describes the combined technique of desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) mass spectrometry with robotic technologies to create a high-throughput screening process which could be ten times faster than previous methods.

Developed by researchers at Purdue University (IN, USA), DESI was originally developed for biological tissue imaging and sprays electrically charged droplets at a sample, from which ions are generated, collected and analyzed in a standard mass spectrometer.

Graham Cooks, the Henry B. Hass Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry (Purdue University) explained: “We are spraying a solvent onto a mixture and creating a new product, which we’re seeing in a splashed droplet. This technique allows researchers to perform a reaction and analyze the product in one step, in one second. That’s the power of it.”

Cooks added: “The area of high-throughput library screening reached a plateau, where the fastest screens took about eight seconds per target. If you can reduce that time by a factor of ten, which is what we’re reporting, then you can potentially do library screens that might have taken months in days.”

Supporting the research was the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Make-It! Program, which aims to develop technology to create any particular chemical from cheap raw materials. Currently, methods and techniques for designing and producing new synthetic molecules can take years between initial design and final production. According to the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, increasing the rate of discovery and production of molecules could lead to advances in several areas crucial to national security.

Sources: Wleklinski M, Loren BP, Ferreira CR et al. High throughput reaction screening using desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Chem. Sci. doi:10.1039/C7SC04606E (2018) (Epub ahead of print);