Dr Amee George with the drug-testing machine. Photo by James Walsh.

Dr Amee George with the drug-testing machine. Photo by James Walsh.

An Extraordinary Robot

Robots don’t always have the best reputations – think Star War’s C3PO, iRobot or the Terminator – but at ANU, a robot that could help save lives has landed. KATE PRESTT reports.

It’s called a high throughput drug screening platform. And while the name isn’t as exciting as Terminator, it’s what this new machine can do that makes it remarkable.

With its mechanical arm and multiple pipettes, the robot will be able to test thousands of compounds at a time, helping researchers find the critical breakthroughs in the fight against disease.

The robot will be housed in The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR).

Its chief function is to deliver a small amount of cells into hundreds or thousands of plates containing tiny wells loaded with compounds to test which ones react, showing their potential to either kill or save a cell from disease.
Not only is the machine accurate, it performs the test much faster than staff with eye droppers or pipettes.

Researcher Dr Amee George says the multimillion dollar technology will reduce screening times from years to months.

“Researchers will have the power to sift through enormous amounts of material and find what is really important,” she says.