Dielectrophoresis (DEP) has been used for many years for the analysis of the electrophysiological properties of cells. However, such analyses have in the past been time-consuming, such that it can take 30 min or more to collect sufficient data to make valid interpretations from a single DEP spectrum. This has limited the application of the technology to a rapid tool for non-invasive, label-free research in areas from drug discovery to diagnostics. In this paper we present the development of a programmable, multi-channel DEP system for rapid biophysical assessment of populations of biological cells. A new assay format has been developed for continuous near-real-time monitoring, using simultaneous application of up to eight alternating current electrical signals to independently addressable dot microelectrodes in an array format, allowing a DEP spectrum to be measured in 20 s, with a total cycle time between measurements of 90 s. To demonstrate the system, human leukaemic K562 cells were monitored after exposure to staurosporine and valinomycin. The DEP response curves showed the timing and manner in which the membrane properties changed for the actions of these two drugs at the early phase of induction. This technology shows the great potential for increasing our understanding of the role of electrophysiology in drug action, by observing the changes in electrical characteristics as they occur.