Optical Screening Technologies

Welcome to the website of the Division of Optical Screening Technologies/Robophotonics (Gilbert & Schuermann Group) at the Institute of Medical Biotechnology. The group develops technologies for high-throughput screening in cultured cells and computational methods to analyze phenotypic data sets, including the development of miniaturized assay formats and new approaches for massively parallelized microscopy.

Custom-designed High-content screening robotics

ToxFinder© is a custom-designed automated fluorescence-based high-content life-cell imaging system with integrated liquid-handling robotics. The technology was installed in the lab of Prof. Joe Lynch, Department of Molecular Neuroscience at QBI, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, by Daniel Gilbert in early 2011. This system is the latest of overall three comparable devices. The first robot was developed and installed by Urban Liebel and Daniel Gilbert in the lab of Prof. Stephan Frings, Department Molekular Physiology, Centre for Organismal Studies, University of Heidelberg, in 2000-2001. The second system is running in the lab of Prof. Joe Lynch since 2005.




ToxFinder© is a valuable tool in development, optimization and miniaturization of cell-based assays. The spectrum of applications is versatile: ToxFinder© has been used for screening of fractioned animal toxins on cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels, for time-course calcium imaging to assay TRPV1 activation as well as for structure-function analysis and pharmacology of glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors (GlyR, GABAAR) and other membrane proteins. The robot is currently being used for development of novel cell-based high-content screening assays using a variety of cell lines, fluorescence indicators, natural and synthetic small-molecule libraries as well as random-mutant overexpression collections. Image by courtesy of Prof. Joe Lynch.


The robot is made up of an inverted fluorescence microscope with attached CCD camera and fully automated auto-focusing infrastructure. It is equipped with a motorized stage for precise positioning of multititer plates and a pipetting device for automated liquid-handling. Hardware controlling, data acquisition and quantitative image analysis is accomplished by in house-built software modules written in LabView (National Instruments) running on a standard PC.

  • Microscope:              Nikon Elipse Ti
  • Excitation:               X-cite series 120, Lumen Dynamics
  • CCD camera:           HAMAMATSU Photonics K.K.
  • Motorized stage:      ProScan™III Motorized Stage, Prior Scientific
  • Liquid-handling:       LC-PAL HTC-9xt, CTC Analytics
  • Software:                 LabView 2010, National Instruments


  • Balansa W, Islam R, Fontaine F, Piggott AM, Zhang H, Webb TI, Gilbert DF, Lynch JW, Capon RJ. Ircinialactams: subunit-selective glycine receptor modulators from Australian sponges of the family Irciniidae. Med Chem. 2010 Apr 15;18(8):2912-9. Epub 2010 Mar 6. PubMed PMID: 20346682.
  • Gilbert DF, Jaedicke A, Boutros M. Hochdurchsatz-Screening von Wirkstoff- und Signalweg-Interaktionen. Laborwelt, Nr. 1 / 2010 – 11. Jahrgang
  • Gilbert DF, Islam R, Lynagh T, Lynch JW, Webb TI. High Throughput Techniques for Discovering New Glycine Receptor Modulators and their Binding Sites. Front Mol Neurosci. 2009;2:17. Epub 2009 Oct 30. PubMed PMID: 19949449; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2782790.
  • Gilbert DF, Meinhof T, Pepperkok R, Runz H. DetecTiff: a novel image analysis routine for high-content screening microscopy. J Biomol Screen. 2009 Sep;14(8):944-55. Epub 2009 Jul 29. PubMed PMID: 19641223.