Katrin Beeman, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt

The quantification of gene expression is an essential step to understand the function of a gene in a physiological context. In recent years transcriptomic solutions have been developed to investigate the gene expression levels of different tissues and cell types associated with diseases e.g. oncology. Bioinformatic tools have been heavily used for the identification of biomarker and the identification of novel drug targets. Based on these investigations a specific gene expression analysis is frequently part of an early assay cascades within drug discovery projects. Therefore, we at Merck decided to implement a high throughput RT-qPCR (=Reverse transcription-quantitative real-time) workflow to address higher demands on early compound profiling and screening application. The presentation describes different assay approaches, automation solutions and application examples. Additionally, another application for high throughput RT-qPCR emerged due to the circumstances early 2020, when the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic started. We at Merck identified the synergies of the existing automated RT-qPCR workflow and adapted it to the gold standard for SARS-CoV-2 virus testing.