It's in the Genes
micronucleus test (MNT) in vivo (regulatory test to be conducted for drug registration)
comet assay in vivo
metaphase finding for chromosome aberration analysis (regulatory test to be conducted for drug registration)
MNT in vitro (for early genotoxicity screening)
comet assay in vitro (for early genotoxicity screening)
MNT in primary human lymphocytes (currently under development)
M is for morphology
MIL markedly supports the researchers to extract the vital information they seek. After "discovering" MIL in 1999, Frieauff found that it was "the most flexible and ready-to-use tool library which fully supported mathematical morphology functions, as well as advanced blob analysis, both very important for biological image analysis." These functions comprise the "core" of Frieauff's software. With more than 20 years of experience in image analysis development, Frieauff had already built some powerful software tools based on low-level imaging functions. MIL's functional interface simplified the overall software development. "For my applications," he explains, "automated segmentation of biological structures, that is, cells containing nuclei or other cellular patterns, is crucial. Thus, I developed automated segmentation functions for various specific applications in industrial toxicology."
The "various specific applications" of which Frieauff speaks is one of the unique features of ROBIAS. "You may find diverse systems covering individual solutions," he says, "but not one system covering all these tox[ological] assays on one platform. That was the main idea behind ROBIAS."
Currently, five ROBIAS units are deployed in Novartis locations, plus an additional two systems without the robotic slide feeder. These days Frieauff manages the laboratory's toxicology assays and oversees all aspects of ROBIAS. Always in the midst of new application development, he is currently investigating sophisticated details of the MIL's Edge Finder module. He is also working through the process of patenting ROBIAS. His determination has certainly paid off. In fact, in 2007 Frieauff received the Novartis VIVA Leading Scientist award. "I was extremely proud," recalls Frieauff, "the award reflects the importance of the ROBIAS system and the development of fully automatic image analysis applications for various units within Novartis Pharma research and development."