On July 18, 2023, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. organized an on-site explanatory session at their new research center, Chugai Life Science Park Yokohama, which was opened in April. Invited to the session were about 100 media reporters and investors/analysts, who attended either physically or online to learn about Chugai's current growth strategy and advanced approaches to drug discovery research. Among the day's highlights was the next-generation lab automation system, which was co-created by the three parties of Chugai, OMRON, and OMRON SINIC X (OSX) in a pioneering initiative. Designed to accelerate Chugai's attempts to generate innovations in drug discovery research, verification tests of the system are scheduled for this fall at Chugai Life Science Park Yokohama.
The goal of these tests is to develop robots that flexibly move and operate in a room where humans are present, to automate a series of non-routine operations that researchers currently handle as they are difficult to automate, including preparation and cleanup before/after testing, handling of various kinds of reagents, operation of experiment instruments and equipment, and collection of data. Applying this system to drug discovery research should allow researchers to conduct more creative activities.
The beginning of this co-creation project dates back to 2018 (and then 2021), when OMRON and OSX teamed up with universities and research institutions to enter the Assembly Challenge of the World Robot Summit. The team's brave attempt at the difficult task of having robots assemble products without using special assistive devices invited Chugai's empathy. Soon the three companies began discussing opportunities for co-creation, leading to these verification tests.
Through this project, they are challenging themselves to realize one of the principles that OMRON founder Kazuma Tateishi advocated; "People should leave what machines can do to machines and enjoy activities in more creative areas." Through these verification tests, OMRON and OSX hope to allow drug discovery researchers to give full play to their creativity in their attempts, thus contributing to innovation while creating technologies that "empowering people through automation" to accelerate the solution of social issues in each of OMRON's focus domains.
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