Automated Radiobiology

  • Reduction in labour for preparation and analysis
  • Increased temporal resolution
  • Iterative cell plating optimization

A robotic, automated high-throughput clonogenic assay system to accelerate radiobiology research, support combined modality studies, and maximize data extraction.


The clonogenic assay is a common and standard method to produce measurements of in-vitro cell survivability of tumour cells to treatments such as radiation treatment and chemotherapeutic agents. While robust, the clonogenic assay requires significant time and allocation of cell culture and microscopy resources. As well, standard clonogenic assays are planned using chosen cell seeding schemes that are not optimized for each assay. Other limitations include throughput and a lengthy experimental turnaround of several weeks to grow and count sufficient cell colonies. Furthermore, the standard clonogenic assay does not typically include all clonogenic colony growth dynamics and interactions that may occur between cell treatment and sample fixing which can be important indicators of radiation damage to DNA.

Researchers at Princess Margaret have developed a high-throughput automated clonogenic assay employing automated image analysis and rapid cell and colony detection that can identify colony formation and cell movement with similar precision to manual cell counting and with additional temporal information that is unavailable to the standard assay. The high temporal resolution of the technique enables the tracking of individual cells throughout their growth as they form colonies. The system may further analyze the colonies to observe their interactions with other colonies, as well as compensate for errors in cell seeding which may bias the experimental outcome. A statistical model of cell survival is then deployed which treats every seeded cell as a unique experiment, and provides an analytic formulation of uncertainty in the cell survival curve. The model allows the system to learn optimal experimental design using a data-driven approach, facilitated by the robotic radiobiology assay platform, enabling high precision experimental results with fewer consumables in shortened timelines. Overall, we developed a model and system that improves the efficiency of performing clonogenic assays and which leads to an 85% decrease in labor and 80% reduction in experiment turnaround time.

Potential Applications

Clonogenic assays for oncology research

Contact Information

Name: Noah Schwartz


Phone: 0000000000