SLAS prepares for digital event to “Ignite 2021 with a spark”

Get a look at what the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening’s virtual annual meeting has to offer

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SLAS prepares for digital event to “Ignite 2021 with a spark”

While the format for the 10th Annual SLAS2021 International Conference and Exhibition is different for 2021, notes the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS), “the program will include the same high-quality scientific discovery, technology and innovation research attendees have come to expect over the last decade.”

What’s on tap for the event?

To that end, SLAS2021 Digital—which takes place Jan. 25-27—will feature more than 80 scientific talks from 10 educational tracks and 45 vendor tutorials “to ignite virtual discussions and brainstorming.” The event with also feature keynote speakers Dr. Deborah Slipetz of imagine@Merck and Dr. Atul Butte of the University of California Health System, both of whom, SLAS promises, “will deliver impactful and relevant presentations on topics sure to get you excited about the future of drug discovery and automation technology.” Also on the keynote speaker list is Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner.

Other offerings of the virtual event include three short-course workshops; live and on-demand virtual exhibitions; exhibitor tutorials and education and content from exhibitors; new product awards; presentation of the InnovationAveNEW, SLAS Ignite and Tony B. Academic (not-)Travel awards; and more.

Who should attend?

Overall, the SLAS2021 Digital International Conference and Exhibition welcomes scientists, engineers, academics, graduate students, postdocs and business leaders from academia, government and industry who want to “immerse themselves in the latest life sciences discovery and technology research and new products,” according to SLAS.

The society encourages all professionals and students interested in accelerating their knowledge—and career—to attend for scientific sessions, keynotes, new product announcements, poster presentations and virtually-enhanced networking and partnering opportunities.

To find out more about the specific schedule and to register, visit

And now, both to honor the focus on technology that SLAS annual meetings typically bring to the fore and to lead into our “Tools & Technology” news section on page 30 following this preview article, continue on for a few news announcements of technology and supplies of interest to drug discovery/development and diagnostics researchers.

NGS-coupled protein biomarker tech

The Olink Proteomics Olink Explore 1536 platform, utilizing next-generation sequencing (NGS) as read-out, was to be used in a project to measure plasma protein concentration in 53,000 individuals from the UK Biobank, one of the world’s largest genetic resources, according to Olink in a December news release. The project is funded by a consortium of 10 biopharmaceutical companies.

This large-scale proteomics study will further enhance previous commitments from several consortium members on genomic analyses of the 500,000 volunteers in the UK Biobank resource, with the ultimate goals of developing a better understanding of disease biology and more effective therapies.

The Olink Explore 1536 platform combines high-throughput and high-quality protein-level data from very small sample volumes. The Olink platform, the company says, “combines the specificity of paired antibody binding with attached DNA-oligos to transform a protein-measuring challenge to a digital DNA counting solution.” Olink Explore leverages NGS readout technology using the Novaseq platform from Illumina, a technology being used for whole exome and whole genome sequencing of UK Biobank.

“We believe that by complementing ongoing genomics efforts with large-scale, highly validated and precise proteomic data, we will rapidly advance our understanding of real-time human biology and accelerate the development of life-saving new medicines,” said Jon Heimer, CEO of Olink Proteomics.. “This is particularly pertinent given that the majority of drug targets are proteins and that the protein biomarkers are valuable tools to guide effective and efficient drug development through enhancing the understanding of disease and by identifying patients who can benefit most from therapies.”

Live-cell imaging

CytoSMART Technologies announced late in 2020 its first fluorescence live-cell imager. The CytoSMART Lux3 FL is a small live-cell imaging microscope equipped with one brightfield and two fluorescent channels (green and red). The device reportedly enables researchers to unravel cellular processes in real-time, while the cells are kept in a controlled environment inside a standard cell culture incubator—and to track dynamic cellular processes with high specificity by taking high-quality images to create real-time time-lapse movies.

“Currently, fluorescent labeling is mostly used as an end-point measurement,” noted Jan-Willem van Bree, chief technology officer at CytoSMART. “However, time-lapse imaging of live cells can give much more information about biological processes. By using automated imaging at regular time intervals, the temporal resolution of the fluorescent data is increased, leading to even more relevant data about the cellular processes.

“In this way, researchers can not only determine if a certain process has occurred, but also when it occurred and at what speed. Our customers have been asking us to develop a small and easy-to-use microscope with integrated image analysis of bright-field and fluorescence data. We have listened and made it happen.”

SARS-CoV-2 control kit

ATCC,a biological materials management and standards organization, recently announced the introduction of its new SARS-CoV-2 External Control Kit for clinical laboratories and test manufacturers. The ready-to-run kit provides controls in the rapidly changing COVID-19 testing landscape as a workflow-optimized kit with complete genome coverage that is said to be widely compatible with most commercial and laboratory-developed tests.

“This is the very first diagnostic quality control product that ATCC has brought to market,” said Dr. Raymond H. Cypess, CEO of ATCC. “It’s a logical next step for ATCC as it leverages our deep expertise in materials validation and standards. This reliable kit can help clinical laboratories meet their regulatory obligations, and test manufacturers validate their products so that both may continue to play a critical role as part of the global response to this ongoing pandemic.”

An Alzheimer’s diagnostic

Fujirebio Diagnostics announced that it has filed a 510(k) premarket clearance with the FDA for its Lumipulse G β-Amyloid Ratio (1-42/1-40) in-vitro diagnostic test. The Fujirebio ratio assay is a semiquantitative test intended to be used in adult patients, aged 50 years and over, presenting with cognitive impairment who are being evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of cognitive decline. It is intended to be used in conjunction with other diagnostic modalities.

When cleared, Fujirebio’s FDA-designated breakthrough device is expected to be among the first commercially available in vitro diagnostics for patients being evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.

A reusable cell culture plate

In December, eNUVIO announced the release of what is maintains is the first completely reusable 3D cell culture microplate on the market. Scientific research currently consumes high-volumes of single-use plastics—from serological pipettes and pipette tips to vials and culture microplates—that end up thrown in the garbage in labs every day.

The company says that its completely reusable EB-Plate “comes to the market at the right time as the demand for 3D cell culture microplates is high, conventional plastic plates are currently in short supply, and the zero waste movement is becoming increasingly popular in laboratories.” According to the company, the new plates pay for themselves after approximately five to eight uses, and can be reused many times more.

Digital Innovation Award finalists

Each year, SLAS honors innovative research that contributes to the exploration of technologies in the laboratory or demonstrates an advanced and integrated use of mature technologies, and the organization has announced the finalist, as follows:

  • Lee Cronin: “A Universal Chemical Processing Unit for Chemical Synthesis—The Chemputer”
  • Sisi Chen: “Defining the Breadth and Specificity of Drug Response in Heterogeneous Immune Cell Populations
  • Michael Recht: “Droplet-Based Microfluidic Optical Calorimeter”
  • Hee-Sun Han: “Drop Microfluidics for Virus Studies”
  • Stefan Schneider: “Organ-on-a-Disc: A Platform Technology for the Automated and Parallelized Generation and Culture of Microphysiological 3D Tissues Based on Centrifugal Forces”
  • Josh Gibson: “Apparatus to Extend Rare Cell Lifetime and Provide Methods to Undertake Longitudinal Analysis of Cell Behaviour, Structure and Supernatant”
  • Sebastian Eggert: “An Open-Source Technology Platform for Automated Manufacturing and Screening of 3D Cell Culture Models”
  • Weian Zhao: “A High-Throughput Respiratory Viral Antigen and Antibody Profiling Platform for COVID-19 Surveillance and Therapeutic Discovery”
  • Ming Yao: “A Multiwell Plate-Based High-Throughput Technology for Toxicity Screening Under Various Oxygen Environments”
  • Dan Nomura: “Reimagining Druggability Using Chemoproteomic Platforms”

The finalists will compete for a $10,000 cash prize during January’s annual conference, with presentations taking place Tuesday, Jan. 26 between 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

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