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Our Flow Cytometry Core Facility is providing innovative, cutting-edge support to a global pharmaceutical as it assesses the performance and effects of new drugs.

Scientific discovery

We live in a time of incredible scientific discovery. Scientists can sequence entire human genomes in hours. They can turn skin cells into heart cells. Pharmaceutical company Genentech is working to turn such breakthroughs into medicines that have a real impact on human health.

Genentech is one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, with more than 40 drugs on the market. The company’s operations span the entire drug development pipeline, from discovery and validation to clinical trials. Newcastle University’s (Flow) Cytometry Facility provides it with innovative, cutting-edge cytometry to support the assessment of new drugs.

We work with the Newcastle Cytometry Core because of their ability to develop and execute extremely complex assays with exceptional levels of precision.

Dr William O’Gorman, Development Scientist at Genentech

Genentech and the Newcastle Flow Cytometry Facility

Genentech needs to know how any treatments affect the body. They need this at a molecular level to understand how they are helping to tackle diseases. The University’s world-class technology and highly-experienced staff are key. They measure characteristics of cells such as:

  • size
  • cell count
  • morphology
  • DNA content
  • presence or absence of proteins on the cell surface.

Dr William O’Gorman, Development Scientist at Genentech, says: “We work with the Newcastle team because they develop and execute extremely complex assays. They work with exceptional levels of precision. Importantly, their deep experience as both biologists and single-cell technologists enables collaborative work to be done efficiently and pragmatically.”


Highly experienced

The Newcastle team is led by Professor Andrew Filby. He is the council member responsible for method development and technology at the International Society for the Advancement of Cytometry. His team focuses on a range of techniques including:

  • fluorescence cytometry
  • mass cytometry
  • metabolimetry
  • imaging cytometry

They also draw on wider expertise from across the University such as genomics, bio-imaging and microscopy.

Dr Andrew Filby working in the Genetech lab

Global impact

Organisations from across the world send the team samples of blood or tissue for analysis. They are also frequently involved in clinical research trials or sub-studies. The technology has developed far beyond traditional flow cytometry so that tissue samples that aren’t in fluids can be tested.

Andrew explains that every human disease is caused by a failure of cell function. Cancer is caused when cells stop behaving normally and continually divide when they shouldn’t. HIV wipes out a particular type of immune cell, leaving sufferers open to infection. Newcastle University’s Flow Cytometry Facility can measure such changes to help create life-saving treatments. 

Broad applications

But it’s not just drug companies that benefit from work at the facility. The team has also helped organisations to check for the presence of bacteria in water. They are also heavily involved in the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) initiative to map all the cells in the human body. They design bespoke assays to help clients overcome specific problems.

Combined, the team have more than 80 years of experience, working on all forms of cytometry. Andrew adds: “We work to best practices and provide a high level of quality assurance, expertise and continuity of technology, technique and methodology. Even if people come and go the practices we have within the team and within the lab are maintained”.