By: Nathaniel Tok, Peak Associate


SFU has recently opened the new Centre for High Throughput Chemical Biology (cHTCB) facility. Bristling with high-tech automated equipment, the lab is the newest addition to the research facilities in the faculty of science and will conduct research at the crossroads of chemistry and biology.

In an interview with The Peak, professor and co-director of the cHTCB David Vadlo explained that the project began five years ago when a lack of high throughput screening technology in the region was observed. A solution in the form of an automatic robotic facility was conceived, which would allow for automation of procedures integral to studies such as identifying chemical probes or components of signalling pathways.

Roger Linington, associate professor in the department of chemistry and co-director of the new facility, called the facility “transformative for researchers in SFU’s life sciences departments, industry users, and outside academic researchers who want to take advantage of the speed and accuracy offered by the high throughput robotic platform.”

The cHTCB will allow researchers to conduct a high volume of experiments in a much shorter time frame than previously possible, analyzing up to 50,000 compounds a day by using robotics that are integrated with the lab instruments, such as liquid-handling devices and sensitivity detectors, via a scheduling software. The screening process, instructed by a computer program, is involved in procedures that range from culturing cells to analyzing data.

“This [facility] makes possible experiments that simply could not be done previously.” – David Vocadlo, co-director of HTCB

Vocadlo is aiming for the cHTCB to become a leader in laboratory automation and screening equipment. The innovative equipment will be made accessible to researchers within the region to advance science.

Within SFU, faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows will be able to use the faculty, with the hope that the facility will foster collaboration and keep SFU at the edge of scientific research. The centre will allow SFU researchers to create preliminary data in advance of grant applications.

Undergraduates will get to also get to experience the faculty through senior level laboratory courses. According to Vocadlo, this is “to ensure that students are exposed to the most recent technologies and laboratory automation that is changing how much research is now being done.”

(Nathaniel Tok / The Peak)

The faculty is already facilitating work on several projects, including research on antibacterials, cancer treatments, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A team of researchers is also studying genetic disease of the heart and how they can alter heartbeat rhythm.

“Long term, these results should contribute to new approaches for solutions to a number of important and emerging challenges in human health,” said Linington.