Cell-Based Assays

Drug discovery has evolved from the early days of limited target-based screening in simple cell-based assay that had little physiological relevance, to today’s enhanced complex multicellular assays developed, even engineered, to mimic disease states to deliver insights that are translatable to the clinic. As our understanding of the complex interplay of networks and pathways within these cellular processes increases, the need for ways to screen compounds in the correct disease context also grows. Charles River has extensive experience in functional and phenotypic screening in disease-relevant human primary cells with multiplatform readouts for medium- and high-throughput.

Drug target validation: an interview with Ian Waddell

adenovirus target cells for drug discoveryMedChemNet spoke to Ian Waddell, Executive Director of Biology at Charles River Laboratories, to find out more about the validation of drug targets in his research. Read Interview

Understanding this complex biology requires the use of multiple cell-based technologies, from monitoring cell viability via cell proliferation assays through to phenotypic screening via high-content analysis. The most important thing is to not rely on any one technique. It is impossible to pick a single technique, as each candidate is not only different in concept but often also in the tools that are available to test your hypothesis. Cell-based in vitro assays that best mimic the complexity of a biological environment are more predictive of how a compound will respond in vivo.

We offer customized assay development and screening with readouts including high-content analysis and multiparameter detection (HT-FACS, Luminex and Meso Scale Discovery). With quality systems applied throughout the process – monitoring cell viability to data analysis – we deliver data you can trust.

Start here for personalized help in selecting cell-based assays


  • 100 complex human primary cell-based assays for hit finding, target discovery, and target validation
  • Cells derived from tissue, blood and differentiated stem cells
  • Cells from healthy donors or donors with defined disease characteristics
  • High-content analysis platforms with multiplexed readouts
  • Scientific expertise in over 25 human primary cell types and more than 20 disease indications
  • Mechanism of action studies using adenoviral SilenceSelect® and FLeXSelect® libraries

New applications using multicellular, co-culture and 3D spheroid platforms are building up speed, providing richer data faster to monitor cellular invasion, destruction, and adaptation, as well as insights into the immune environment. Cellular interactions can now be monitored in real-time around-the-clock for a better understanding of the reactivity in a live environment. These assays are more predictive of how a compound will respond in vivo.


Charles River offers early research and proof-of-principle pharmacology studies in relevant animal models of human diseases to assist your efficacy evaluations.