SLAS2013 preview: Inside inspiration (part 1)

Member input and needs strong driver for second annual SLAS meeting

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ddn's SLAS2013 pre-show coverage sponsored by Beckman Coulter

ORLANDO, Fla.—They say all it takes is one person to make adifference. That may be a cliché, but that doesn't mean it isn't sometimestrue, as evidenced by a whole new subject area—phenotypic drug discovery—thatwill get major play at SLAS2013, more formally known as the second annualconference and exhibition of the Society for Lab Automation and Screening(SLAS), thanks to the urging of one SLAS member.
"High-content screening and cell-based analysis has alwaysbeen part of what we're about, but there's a spinoff of that we'll beaddressing throughout some of the presentations at the conference, and that'sthe idea of phenotypic drug discovery," says Steve Hamilton, director ofeducation for SLAS. "That's something one of our members came to us last yearabout, and he said this is a growing topic that we would want to pay moreattention to. In that light, there is now a new SLAS special interest group(SIG) focused on phenotypic drug discovery, and it's headed by the very memberwho urged us to pay attention to this area."
That member is Dr. Jonathan Lee, who has worked at Eli Lilly& Co. since 1998 and has served as a senior research advisor there since2005. He founded the Cellular Imaging group at Lilly's corporate center and hiscurrent duties include dealing with phenotypic drug discovery strategy,technology, enablement and operations. In his role as chairman of the SLAS phenotypicdrug discovery SIG, one of his charges is to help encourage sharing, discussionand debate on the advantages and disadvantages of phenotypic drug discovery, aswell as whether and how it complements targeted drug discovery strategies.
"Phenotypic drug discovery does definitely seem to be anemerging hot topic, so we wanted to make sure we threaded that through oureducational program at SLAS2013," says Greg Dummer, CEO of SLAS. "Also, with ushaving an SIG focused on that topic, this is something we can give significantattention to and cover in more depth, even beyond the conference in Orlando."
"We carefully wove the idea of high-content analysis andphenotypic drug discovery through the scientific education program so that itwon't show up as a track topic of its own, but there are five individualsessions that will follow that phenotypic drug discovery thread, along withthree short courses," Hamilton explains.
As SLAS, which is headquartered near Chicago in St. Charles,Ill., makes its way toward Florida for the SLAS2013 conference—to be held Jan.12-16 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando—thechanging needs of SLAS members and other conference attendees are very much inthe forefront in other ways as well.
"We've really expanded our coverage of bioinformatics thisyear to make it a full track, and that's an area we'd really like to emphasizeas a society and that we're really excited about growing," says SLAS2013Program Co-Chair Aaron Wheeler. "Informatics is outside my personal area ofexpertise, but it's very clearly an area in which it's important for SLAS tohave a presence."
"With the enlarged informatics program to a full track,that's 24 presentations on scientific informatics, covering things likecollaborative discovery, informatics in highly integrated systems andhigh-performance computing for laboratory data analysis," Hamilton adds.
Seven educational tracks comprise the scientific program. Inaddition to the new informatics track, and the high-throughput technologiestrack of which phenotypic drug discovery is a significant part, the other fivetracks at SLAS2013 are assay development and screening, drug target biology,micro- and nanotechnologies, bioanalytical techniques and diagnostics.
Outside of the scientific sessions in those tracks, Wheelerand Hamilton both point to a special highlight with one of the three keynotespeakers, Charles Sabine, an Emmy-award winning television journalist andscientific advocate whose talk is titled "The Pursuit of Hope and Dignity: WhyEvery Link in the Medical Chain Matters."
"Charles is a journalist with intimate experience inneurodegenerative disorders and is very well regarded in that arena, though nota scientist or clinician," Wheeler notes. "We've even built a special sessionof talks around him."
"That's something new this year we haven't done before,"notes Hamilton. "Prior to his keynote, we'll be holding a specialneurodegenerative disease session that he will co-chair as a kind of roundtablediscussion. In the past, we haven't integrated keynote speakers into othersessions, so that will be something special for our closing day." 
One of the other keynote speakers, Dr. Mehmet Toner, is aprofessor of surgery at the Harvard Medical School and professor of biomedicalengineering for Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology, and will present"Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of the Circulating Tumor CellMicrochip."
Wheeler counts Toner not only as a friend, but notes that"he is considered a kind of 'rock star' in my field of microfluidics. When Italk to people outside my field about what they hear about microfluidics andits potential, his is the name most of them will bring up."
Rounding out the keynote trio is Sir Harold Kroto of theDepartment of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Florida State University, whoreceived the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and whose presentation is titled"Science and Society in the 21st Century."
Although Wheeler doesn't know precisely what Kroto will say,he notes that the Nobel Prize winner was a trailblazer in nanotechnology and heexpects that Kroto will, in part, "give us a call to arms for not just bettersupporting science, but working toward educating the public about having a morescientific viewpoint on life, which I think is something society lacks rightnow and it good for society as a whole."
In addition to the scientific presentations, there is theexhibit floor, which Wheeler says is, at SLAS conferences, "second to none,where the big guns come out with all the latest toys for research, and it's afun experience to see all the high-tech robotics and other tools beinghighlighted and demonstrated."
In addition to the educational side and the exhibits, thereare other features to keep in mind as well at SLAS2013. On the tech side,Dummer says, SLAS has continued to optimize functionality for mobile phone andtablet computers at the conference, and says there will be an online postergallery for SLAS2013 that "will live on after the conference as well for peoplewho want to view it." Live streaming of two presentations will occur again thisyear, as was the case last year, with the topics this time being"Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of the Circulating Tumor CellMicrochip" and "HTS and Early Drug Discovery in Industry and Academia.Collaboration: Is the Sum Greater Than the Two Parts?" Also, the career centerwill be expanded compared to last year, and will also include a specificprogram on how best to use LinkedIn.
"I think it's important for people to realize that ourconference content is driven by our members and designed by volunteers,"Hamilton explains. "This is not created from my head or Greg's or the SLASstaff in general. Every year our program committee is new, and those are the peoplewho bring about the focus of what our conferences are about. It's by themembers and for the members, and intentionally designed to keep things fresh." 

A gay ol' time at theGaylord
The host venue for SLAS2013 is an experience in itself, amida plethora of other Orlando attractions
The Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, whereSLAS2013 will be held, isn't just located 1.5 miles from the front gate of WaltDisney World and close to the many other Orlando theme parks andexperiences—it's a bit of an experience unto itself.Most notable in that regard is that the resort featuresatriums that recreate three Florida environments: the misty Everglades, the"funky and vibrant island revelry of Key West," as Gaylord Palms puts it, andfinally the Spanish-infused, old-world charm of St. Augustine.
A variety of dining options also present themselves:specialty sushi and "eclectic handcrafted drinks" at Sora; Black Angus steaks,artisanal cheeses and quality wines at Old Hickory Steakhouse; seasonal menusinspired by European cuisine at Villa de Flora; and Sunset Sam's, a Key WestGrill, at which you go aboard a 60-foot sailboat to dine on a fusion ofFloridian and Caribbean fare. Also on tap is the resort's Wreckers Sports Bar,with sports events and the like playing on 50 high-definition televisions and atwo-story-high video wall.
For non-culinary activities, there is an arcade wherevisitors can enjoy not just gaming, but also win tickets to redeem for prizes,as well as the Relâche Spa, which offers not just things like scalp massages,deep-cleansing facials and manicures but also a 4,000 square-foot fitnesscenter.
Two pool experiences are offered at the resort. For adultsonly is the South Beach Pool, described as an "ultra-chic oasis" with tropicalpalms and poolside cabanas. For the whole family, there is the Cypress SpringsFamily Fun Water Park, an Everglades-inspired attraction featuring a multileveltree house, four waterslides, gurgling springs, oversized water tipping bucketand outdoor movie theater.
And, if you'd like to join in one of the othertried-and-true Florida activities, you can find clubs, balls, fairways andgreens at the Celebration Golf Club. However, unlike the other attractions,which are on-site, the golf club is a few miles from the Gaylord Palms Resortand isn't part of the resort, but rather an official golf course partner ofGaylord Palms.

Global aspirations
With a growing presence in Asia, SLAS looks toward Europe
ST. CHARLES, Ill.—One of the founding tenets when theSociety for Biomolecular Sciences and the Association for Laboratory Automationmerged in spring 2010 to form the Society for Lab Automation and Screening(SLAS) was to go forth with a strategic vision of being a global society, notesSLAS CEO Greg Dummer. SLAS2013 will serve as a springboard to making a big leapin that direction.
"One of the things on the horizon is—now that we have stakesin the ground in Asia—is to be global in nature, and we've had a presence inShanghai for a few years now," Dummer says. "Going to Orlando, we will beannouncing SLAS' expansion plans for Europe. It's part of our vision andstrategic plans to have feet in the U.S., Asia and pan-Europe, so that will bebig news coming out of Orlando."
Going forth fromOrlando, and playing into its growing role in Asia, SLAS recently announced theThird Annual SLAS Asia Conference and Exhibition in Shanghai, China, June 5-7,2013, at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Details about the event can be found inChinese and English at
The conference, which will be presented in English, isthemed "Drug Discovery Science and Laboratory Technology." The keynote address,"Nano-flares for the Analysis of Circulating Cancer Cells," will be presentedby Dr. Chad A. Mirkin, of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Mirkin is the director of the International Institute forNanotechnology and Northwestern's George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, aswell as being a professor of chemical and biological engineering, professor ofbiomedical engineering, professor of materials science and engineering andprofessor of medicine. He is a world-renowned nanoscience expert, according toSLAS, who is known for his development of spherical nucleic acid nanoparticleconjugates, nanoparticle-based biodetection schemes, the invention of Dip-PenNanolithography and contributions to supramolecular chemistry. He is the authorof more than 500 manuscripts and 444 patents worldwide, and the founder of fourcompanies that are commercializing nanotechnology applications in thelife-science and semiconductor industries.
On June 6 and 7, 26 speakers will make scientific presentationsrelating to five educational tracks at the Shanghai event: Screening for NovelBiological Mechanisms and Disease Targets; Translational Medicine BasicResearch; Assay Development and Screening; Exploring Biological Systems UsingMicro/Nano Technology; and Drug Discovery Science
  Also, a special closing session will showcase presentations by four ofthe SLAS Innovation Award finalists from SLAS2013 in Orlando.

SLAS to honor fouryoung scientists at SLAS2013
ORLANDO, Fla.—The SLAS Young Scientist Awards Program willhonor achievement by four students at SLAS2013. Undergraduate students,graduate students and postdoctoral students from around the world competed forthese awards by authoring poster presentations that received top honors at 2012events presented by allied scientific organizations, including the Institute ofFood Technologists, European Laboratory Robotics Interest Group and MipTec.
"Continued advancement of the laboratory science andtechnology field depends on new technologies, new ideas and new thoughtleaders," says SLAS President Dave Dorsett regarding the awards. "The SLASYoung Scientist Awards Program is one more example of how SLAS is working toreach out and develop the next generation of talent. Other examples include theSLAS Tony B. Academic Travel Awards program, SLAS Student Poster Competition,SLAS Career Connections program, SLAS Student Internship program and deeplydiscounted student memberships."
The SLAS Young Scientist Awards Program honorees are:
Alexander Daschner and Kamran Honarnejad of theGerman Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitätin Munich, Germany, for "A Novel Multifactorial Drug Candidate for Alzheimer'sDisease: High-Throughput Screening, Identification and EfficacyCharacterization"
Aurore Lejeune of the Molecular PharmacologyDepartment, Cancer Research Technology Development Laboratory, at WolfsonInstitute for Biomedical Research, University College London, England, for "ANovel Cell-Based Screening Approach for the Identification of FOXA 1 PathwayInhibitors for the Treatment of Tamoxifen-Resistant Breast Cancer"
Lin Lu of the Department of MolecularBiosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, Hawaii, for"Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopic Technique with a FunctionalizedMicrowire Sensor for Rapid Detection of Foodborne Pathogens"
One award-winning student from each allied organizationreceives a $500 cash prize, round-trip airfare to SLAS2013, shared hotelaccommodations and full conference registration. In addition, SLAS YoungScientist Award winners are invited to enter their work in the SLAS2013 StudentPoster Competition.

Exhibitors competefor SLAS New Product Award
As many as three exhibiting companies will be honored by theSociety for Laboratory Automation and Screening with SLAS New Product Award(NPA) Designations for presenting new products that are judged to beexceptional at SLAS2013.
Each year, a panel of SLAS judges scrutinizes new productsand services on display at the SLAS Exhibition and awards the SLAS NPADesignations. The judges consider achievement in four areas:
  • Market opportunity—narrow or broad in scope
  • Impact on the field of laboratory automation,screening, technology and drug discovery
  • Extraordinary technical originality
  • Quality of supporting data
"The exhibition is a highly valued component of the annualSLAS conference and exhibition. Every new product is of interest to SLASmembers," says SLAS President Dave Dorsett. "But some new technologies alwaysstand out for being exceptionally innovative and inspiring. It's these gamechangers that are celebrated with SLAS New Product Award Designations."

To be eligible for consideration, exhibiting companies mustcomplete and submit brief entry forms by 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13. Productssubmitted for consideration entries must be less than one year old (launchedsince SLAS2012), must be on display at the SLAS2013 exhibition and havesupporting performance data available. Major product enhancements are eligible.

Entrepreneurialcompanies to be showcased on SLAS Innovation AveNEW
ORLANDO, Fla.—Eight entrepreneurial start-up companiesoffering "inventive new products and services" have been named to SLASInnovation AveNEW at SLAS2013, which is a special section located in Aisle 300of the SLAS2013 exhibition.
SLAS Innovation AveNEW showcases a juried collection ofstartup companies that offer creative new solutions to the laboratory scienceand technology community. Up-and-coming companies from around the world competefor positions on SLAS Innovation AveNEW, and those whose applications areaccepted receive complimentary exhibit space and accessories, travel andlodging for one company representative, the opportunity to make a presentationat the Late Night with LRIG Rapid Fire Innovation session at SLAS2013, andpromotional visibility. At SLAS2013 in Orlando, SLAS Innovation AveNEW willpresent what it calls "eight promising new companies from three differentcountries," as follows:
  • Future Health Biobank, Chantel St. Denis,Switzerland
  • Genometry, Cambridge, Mass.
  • ImmunoGenetix Therapeutics, Lenexa, Kan.
  • Nano Discovery, Orlando, Fla.
  • OcellO, Leiden, the Netherlands
  • Samdi Tech, Chicago, Ill.
  • Sandstone Diagnostics, Livermore, Calif.
  • Screvo, Enschede, Overijssel, the Netherlands 
"SLAS members are collaborative problem-solvers who seek creative newways to build better mousetraps. Whether their labs are in college campuses,government agencies or corporate office buildings, SLAS provides a uniqueintersection for their multidisciplinary innovation," says SLAS President DaveDorsett. "By presenting a highly regarded forum for the introduction of newtechnologies, the SLAS2013 Exhibition and SLAS Innovation AveNEW, in particular,can catalyze and accelerate the process."
(To go on to part 2 of the SLAS2013 pre-show coverage, click here)

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