New electrophysiology facility in Wollongong to significantly improve the rate of drug discovery

15 November 2018
Dr Alan Finkel and Professor Adams examine the Nanion SynchroPatch 384PE robot.
Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, opened the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI)’s new electrophysiology laboratory last week.

The new facility houses the state-of-the-art Nanion SynchroPatch 384PE robot, which can measure electrical activity in up to 384 single living cells at a time and test their responses to different drugs. 

“This technology supports investigation of the most challenging diseases, those that affect the brain and nervous system. I am glad to be a part of the launch of IHMRI’s new facility, which will significantly improve the rate of drug discovery for conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, dementia and irregular heart beat,” said Dr Alan Finkel.

Electrophysiology is the branch of neuroscience that explores the electrical activity of living neurons and investigates the molecular and cellular processes that govern their signalling. 

The SyncroPatch 384PE is the most powerful tool available to functionally characterise cells and study the function of ion channels. Ion channels are membrane proteins that underlie cell function and are therefore important drug targets.

“This project aims to establish the first high-throughput automated patch-clamp facility in Australia, one of only a few in the world, to enable research at the forefront of cell phenotyping and drug discovery,” said Professor David J. Adams, Executive Director and CEO of IHMRI. 

A team of researchers from the Universities of Wollongong, Sydney and NSW, and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, were successful in their application of an Australian Research Council’s LIEF scheme grant for the machine.

The scheme funds specialist equipment and facilities, to enable them to be shared with researchers from across the nation.

The University of Wollongong, University Sydney and University NSW, and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute are partnered with Stem Cells Australia joining the initiative in 2018.