Children’s Cancer Institute Australia

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer is a unique facility dedicated to the development of new anti-cancer therapeutics. Based within CCIA, and housed within the the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at University of New South Wales (UNSW) the Drug Discovery Centre focuses on identifying new compounds for the treatment of both childhood and adult cancer. 

The Drug Discovery Centre uses advanced robotic automation and an array of different small molecule chemical libraries to screen for chemical hits capable of altering complex cancer cell phenotypes or biochemical pathways. The Centre is available to all medical research groups and operates on a subsidised fee-for-service basis, providing expertise and assistance in scaling laboratory assays for high-throughput and robotic small molecule screening and conducting those screening projects.  


The Drug Discovery Centre operates within an accredited PC2 facility.

Year of Establishment

The Drug Discovery Centre was officially opened in August 2010.

Access and Pricing

The Drug Discovery Centre operates on a fee-for-service basis. Please contact the Drug Discovery Manager for pricing.

Previous Clients

The Drug Discovery Centre has performed a wide variety of different screening projects involving the use of cancer cell lines, transgenic cell lines, patient-derived cells, cancer stem cells, and co-cultures. Clients using the Centre have identified (a) novel chemical hits for hit-to-lead and lead optimisation in drug development, (b) small molecules as biological tools to further decipher the underlying cell biology involved in a specific system, (c) synergistic and additive drug combinations, (d) new molecular mechanisms of action, (e) drugs for re-positioning and (f) links between novel small molecules and genotype or therapeutic targets. The Centre has performed screening projects for cancer and medical research groups at CCIA, UNSW, Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre and biotechnology companies.

Contact information

Main contact: Greg Arndt
Phone: 1800 685 686



Perkin Elmer cell: explorer liquid handling workstation composed of a centralized 6-axis robotic arm integrated with a Biotek ELx405 plate washer, plate stackers, plate transfer stations, Janus liquid handler, an Liconic automated CO2 cell incubator (with 110 plate capacity), Enspire multimode plate reader and an Opera high content imaging system. The high content imager permits rapid multi-parametric analysis of individual cells in multi-well plates. The images are stored using a Columbus data management system and can be accessed and analysed remotely.

Consult with investigators and assist with funding applications and assay design

Hamilton Microlab STAR liquid handling work station with multi-deck plate capacity integrated with a Biotek ELx405 plate washer, automated CO2 incubator, and SpectraMax M5 plate reader. The liquid handler has a gripper arm for automated plate transfer and 384-tip head.

Customised assay development and optimisation

Hamilton Microlab Nimbus liquid handler with 11-deck capacity, a 96-tip head and gripper arm for plate transfer and accessing equipment off-deck. 

Assay miniaturisation and automation

Chemical small molecule libraries including (a) a novel diversity library of 115,000 small molecules co-owned with Walter & Eliza Hall Institute, (b) a commercially available diversity library of 34,000 compounds, (C) known drug libraries of 3600 compounds containing FDA-approved drugs and drugs with known mechanism of action, and (d)  several boutique small molecule libraries containing kinase and epigenetic inhibitors . All of the libraries are stored and managed within the Queensland Compound Library. The Drug Discovery Centre will also screen custom or analogue libraries.

High-throughput small molecule screening

Several automated liquid dispensers (Thermo Multidrop 384 and Multidrop Combi) for routine dispending of reagent and cells into 96- and 384-well mictrotitre plates.

Chemical hit confirmation

Complex data management system (IDBS ActivityBase) commonly used within high-throughput small molecule screening facilities in large pharmaceutical companies.

Dose response analysis

Chemical structure confirmation 

Compound analogue testing

Cancer cell line panel screening 

Drug combination screening