FAQs

General information

The National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC) is an initiative of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research to advance scientific discoveries through the development of new medicines to treat disease.

The NDDC houses the latest in advanced robotic high-throughput technology and screening, staffed by a team of world-class experts with academic and industry experience in advancing novel drugs.

Read our strategic plan

The NDDC is available to users from Australia’s academic and bio-pharmaceutical sectors.

We operate on a fee-for-service model, with a number of subsidised screens available each year for eligible academic researchers through the support of a grant from the Australian Government Medical Research Future Fund.

An expert review panel meets periodically to select the successful applications for subsidised screens.

In 2019, the Institute received $25 million from the Australian Government through the Medical Research Future Fund and $18 million from the Victorian Government.

These investments support the expansion of the NDDC and its accessibility to the medical research community in Australia.

These funds build upon the Institute’s own $32 million investment, as well as previous Victorian Government support and generous philanthropic donations.

Our screening facility is equipped with two high-throughput robotic platforms, providing capability for both biochemical and cell-based assays (up to PC2/BSL2 enclosure standard). These platforms are highly configurable and can support a wide variety of detection modalities, including:

  • whole-plate fluorometric imaging (FLIPR)
  • absorbance
  • fluorescence
  • fluorescence polarisation
  • FRET
  • time-resolved fluorescence
  • luminescence
  • high-throughput flow cytometry
  • high-content imaging

The facility uses acoustic dispensing technology for accurate volume measurement. The Institute maintains a diverse screening collection containing more than 100,000 lead-like compounds. Smaller, boutique libraries may also be appropriate for some targets.

More information

No. We aim to assist academic researchers in the development of innovative therapies to treat all types of human diseases.

Price

A fixed number of subsidised screens is offered to the Australian medical research community at a 90 per cent subsidy to actual costs.

As an indicative guide, the full cost of a 300,000-compound screen is typically in the range of $1.00 to $1.50 per compound.

Applicants whose project is chosen for a subsidy should expect charges between $30,000 and $45,000, after the 90 per cent discount is applied. Half of this fee is payable upfront, with the balance upon receipt of the final report.

Eligibility for a subsidised screen

Applications for subsidised screens are open to researchers from Australian research institutions and small-to-medium enterprises.

Researchers who are not eligible to apply for subsidised screens are encouraged to contact us regarding the possibility of collaborative or contract-based projects.

Your assay needs to meet the criteria detailed in the assay readiness requirements guide.

For example, your assay needs to be demonstrated in 96-well format and satisfy other criteria, such as minimum robustness, signal-to-background and component-stability requirements.

It is essential that you or someone in your lab has hands-on experience in running the assay so you can successfully transfer it to us.

Applying for a subsidised screen

Access to a subsidised screen follows a submission process designed to select the most promising research projects in Australia.

To apply, you will need to:

  1. Meet the assay readiness requirements 
  2. Complete a Mutual confidentiality agreement
  3. Request a login to our secure application portal
  4. Complete an online application form available on our secure application portal

Proposals are assessed according to their scientific quality and rationale, feasibility and innovation.

Our activities are overseen by a National Steering Committee - a panel made up of experts in biological sciences, translational biology and drug discovery, assembled from Australian and international research organisations.

The Committee is responsible for selecting the most promising project applications, with the aim of translating Australian medical research discoveries into new treatments for human disease.

Yes. Unsuccessful applicants are encouraged to re-apply in subsequent rounds once any identified shortcomings have been addressed. We encourage you to discuss your application with us before resubmission.

Yes. There are currently no restrictions on submitting more than one application.

Six projects will be selected for a subsidised screen in 2020. This capacity will expand each year, reaching full capacity over three years.

Cut-off dates for application rounds will be published on our website.

To be kept informed of key dates and information join our mailing list using the form at the bottom of this page.

Please contact us to discuss your drug target or screening assay, or if you have other questions about your application.

Yes, the NDDC offers access to more than 100,000 diverse compounds, but users are welcome to provide alternative screening collections as long as they can be plated in the required HTS format.

Intellectual property

Yes. Before you submit any confidential information, please download and complete the mutual confidentiality agreement form.

You will have full ownership rights to new intellectual property generated from the screening results.

If the screening campaign is successful in generating active ‘hits’, the applicant will receive a list of the most active structures via secure file transfer.

Any new intellectual property arising from the hit list is owned by the applicant, subject to a Service Terms contract. Applicants are then free to pursue further development however they desire.

The screening process

Once your application has been accepted, we will liaise with you to initiate the assay transfer.

We then reproduce the data generated in your laboratory and optimise, miniaturise and finally, automate your assays.

At this point, the assay is tested via a pilot screen, running approximately 10,000 compounds in duplicate. If the pilot screen is successful (returning the expected hit rate and robustness), the full-scale screening campaign will commence.

We will test up to 300,000 small molecules in your assay (single point). Hits from this screen will be triaged according to their effect, using thresholds determined by our screening experts. Hits interfering with the technology will be filtered out through a counter-screen assay. Finally, the potency of the hits will be determined with a 5- or 10-point dose-response assay.

We will liaise closely with you to ensure the smooth transfer of your assay to our facility. For this reason, it is essential that you or someone in your lab has hands-on experience in running the assay.

Once in the NDDC, your assay will be miniaturised and adapted to a format suitable for high-throughput screening.

You will receive regular updates on progress of the screening campaign. After the screen is complete, you will receive data and a final report.

The final report will include:

  • a detailed standard operating procedure of both the primary and counter-screen assay
  • global statistics on the performance of the screening campaign
  • details of the activity thresholds and filtering strategy that were determined by our team and used to triage
  • the hits selected for progression along the screening cascade
  • chemical structure, commercial information (including supplier and catalogue ID where possible) and the activity of the hits in the primary assay and in the counter-screen.

The final report and data will be transferred to you via the secure online portal.