A sign of the times?

LabAutomation 2009 doesn’t skip a beat with strong year-opening event

Chris Anderson
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—If attendees at LabAutomation 2009 were looking for a barometer of what lies ahead for the industry in the coming year, the conference and exhibition gave hope that the life sciences industry is, and will remain, healthy. With more than 4,200 participants from all corners of the globe, attendance at this year's event was comparable to years past and is a tribute to the strong program presented by the Association for Laboratory Automation (ALA), sponsor of LabAutomation.

"The energy was high, activity was booming and the sessions were full," says Erik Rubin, president of ALA. "I think that is a testament to two things. One, the scientific content of the program was the best I have seen in 10 years of coming to LabAutomation. The other thing is the job the ALA management team did to make sure that we had new features and making sure all the bases were covered."

While it is just one event, and for many people the first event of each year, Rubin believes it is possible to draw inferences about the industry climate in broader terms based on LabAutomation.

"What we are finding is that LabAutomation is one of these components of R&D that is important to our productivity and important to the way in which we do our business," Rubin notes. "There's a relevance to maintaining a healthy level of investment in technology such as this in order to do things in a more modern and lean fashion, and that is a comment on the value of LabAutomation to the industry."

Wrapping up the conference were ALA's Innovation Award and New Product Award (NPA) Designation.

This year's Innovation Award—which recognizes 10 finalists who present innovative laboratory technologies or new, highly useful technology advances and applications as podium presentations—was won by Hyongsok (Tom) Soh, Ph.D., University of California-Santa Barbara, for his podium presentation, "High Performance Magnetic Separation in  Microfluidic Channels."

"The competition was tough and we were very pleased with the variety and quality of submissions for this year's award," says ALA Innovation Award Chair William Sonnefeld, Ph.D. This year's NPA Designations went to: Agilent Technologies for its Agilent Direct Drive Robot; GeneFluidics for it Proteus Robotics System; and Mettler Toledo for its Quantos QB1. DDN

Chris Anderson

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