Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre

Zebrafish UK Screening Facility

Speeding cancer drug discovery.

IGMM fish facility Beautiful-melanocytes-on-nerves

University of Edinburgh researchers have established a platform for high-throughput drug and chemical in vivo screening of zebrafish for the UK community and its partners.

The initiative follows from an Advanced Life Sciences Research Technology award from the BBSRC (with contributions from the Edinburgh Medical School and Biogen).

The screening facility helps to fully exploit the potential of zebrafish as an outstanding system for drug discovery and genetic-based-screening in vertebrates, speeding the discovery of new cancer drug-leads and targets.

The technology

Based around the Vertebrate Automated Screening Technology (VAST) marketed by Union Biometrica (, Professor Catherina Becker and Drs David Lyons and Elizabeth Patton (CRUK Edinburgh Centre affiliate) have developed a system that combines the liquid handling robotics offered by VAST, with high-speed and super-resolution imaging capacities available on Zeiss imaging platforms.

IGMM zebrafish facility

VAST allows researchers to overcome technical and time-limiting challenges in the manual handling of zebrafish, and provides a system to automate the delivery and orientation of zebrafish from multi-well plates or dishes to imaging systems. The Zeiss Cell Observer Spinning Disk Confocal System with a bespoke optical path allows imaging zebrafish at speeds of greater than 50 frames per second and whole animal reconstruction. Automated data analysis further streamline the screening process. For the highest-resolution screening and follow-up options the Zeiss LSM 880 Airyscan system provides super-resolution imaging opportunities with an eight-fold resolution increase per volume over standard confocal, and is compatible with live imaging.