Significant efforts have been made recently to improve data throughput and data quality in screening technologies related to drug design. The modern pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on high-throughput screening (HTS) and high-content screening (HCS) technologies, which include small molecule, complementary DNA (cDNA) and RNA interference (RNAi) types of screening. Data generated by these screening technologies are subject to several environmental and procedural systematic biases, which introduce errors into the hit identification process. We first review systematic biases typical of HTS and HCS screens. We highlight that study design issues and the way in which data are generated are crucial for providing unbiased screening results. Considering various data sets, including the publicly available ChemBank data, we assess the rates of systematic bias in experimental HTS by using plate-specific and assay-specific error detection tests. We describe main data normalization and correction techniques and introduce a general data preprocessing protocol. This protocol can be recommended for academic and industrial researchers involved in the analysis of current or next-generation HTS data.
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