SLAS2016 Show Preview: A focus on the cell

5th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) to meet in San Diego and has added a new track focused on cellular technologies

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Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS)
SLAS 2016
5th Annual Conference and Exhibition
San Diego Convention Center
January 23-27, 2016
SAN DIEGO—In a new track focused on cellular technologies at the 5th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS), attendees will get a look at advances in methodologies to control gene expression and to introduce reporters and sensors into cells—combined with technological advances in instruments measuring cellular events—which promise to improve both target validation and cell-based screening efforts, says Steve Hamilton, director of education at SLAS.
This SLAS2016 track will focus on recent methodology and applications underlying gene-editing approaches in target knockdown studies, the introduction of reporters into cells and applications to control gene expression. Additionally, Hamilton tells DDNews, this track will cover the detection technologies associated with measuring these cellular systems. Progress in cell growth for tissue regeneration will also be a subject of this track. Three of the notable session titles include Application of CRISPR and RNAi in Genetic Screens for Target Discovery and Validation, Gene Editing for Disease Models and Scaling Challenging Cell Models for High-Quality High-Throughput Screens.
In collaboration with the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER), there also will be a Special Session on Biobanking called Evolving from Managing Small Molecules to Biological Molecules, with session chairs including Jonathan O’Connell of Forma Therapeutics and Andy Zaayenga of ISBER.
The session will focus on the reality that the quantity of biological samples and derivatives is rising with the introduction of biological drug molecules, nucleic acid screening and the archiving of clinical samples to support translational medicine—and will continue to do so. Automation of the processes to collect, prepare, distribute and archive the materials and the data associated with those materials becomes compelling as laboratory operations increase. Interoperability and facile exchange of specimens and data between collections, SLAS notes, is critical, adding that automated biobanks present challenging issues with regards to design, sample process, data process and labware. This session will discuss mechanisms to address these challenges, whether through developing a novel infrastructure or adapting an existing environment.
Presentations will include:
  • From Collection to Utilization: The Critical Role of Technology Innovation in Delivering Scientific Advances with Biological Samples—Clive Green, director and head of sample management at AstraZeneca.
  • Lab Automation to Support a Biologics Repository: Lessons Learned—Karen Billeci, senior scientific manager of Genentech.
  • Creating an IPSC Biobank as a Service and for Developing Novel Therapeutics—Marcie Glicksman, vice president biology at Orig3n Inc.
  • The Actelion Research Biobank: Experiences from launching biobanking operations within R&D of a medium-sized pharmaceutical company —Oliver Peter, group leader for high-throughput screening and compound management at Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Getting to know HTS and lead discovery
Also of note is a Special Workshop titled Assay Guidance Workshop for High-Throughput Screening and Lead Discovery. Hamilton notes that this full-day workshop serves as an introduction to assay development for high-throughput screening (HTS) and lead discovery projects. Many of the methodologies successfully implemented in such projects have been “tribal knowledge” within the pharmaceutical industry and not readily found in a classroom or the literature. This “tribal knowledge” has been developed for decades to facilitate identification of the most promising compounds and improve reproducibility in assays for probe development and drug discovery. An increasing number of researchers are actively developing assays for HTS, Hamilton says, and this workshop is designed to disseminate critical information about the implementation of robust assay methods, which are expected to benefit the entire drug discovery community.
As for the specific target audience, Hamilton highlights individuals with limited to no experience in assay development for HTS and lead optimization—the workshop content has been designed to benefit researchers who are planning or beginning to develop assays intended for HTS.
Looking to particular aims of this Special Workshop, SLAS indicates that it plans to give the audience a broad, practical perspective on assay development so that they can: (1) better understand the process of high-throughput screening/lead discovery and know where to find further information; (2) identify reagents, methods and instrumentation that are well suited to robust assays; and (3) be able to develop robust assays and counter assays for new targets. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to seek practical advice about individual research challenges.
Keynote speakers with some key insights
One of the keynote speakers at SLAS2016 will be Dr. Michael M. Gottesman of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with an address titled Analyzing the Complexity of Drug Resistance in Cancer.
Since 1993, Gottesman has been deputy director for intramural research at NIH, where he oversees research and training in the federal laboratories. Gottesman became chief of the Laboratory of Cell Biology in the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1990. From 1992 to 1993, he was acting director for the National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR), and he was acting scientific director of the NCHGR in 1993. His many hats at NIH and his research interests, reflected in more than 500 research publications, have ranged from how DNA is replicated in bacteria to how cancer cells elude chemotherapy
“Drug resistance is the major impediment to successful chemotherapy of cancer, but the detailed study of mechanisms of drug resistance in cancer cells reveals the daunting complexity of resistance mechanisms,” according to Gottesman. “Our goal is to define as many mechanisms of drug resistance in cancer as we can, and then determine the clinical relevance of these mechanisms so that we can develop means to circumvent or target these resistance mechanisms. Mechanisms of resistance can be cell-based, or may be due to the interactions of cancer cells with their host. Our studies have emphasized cell-based mechanisms, including the expression of energy-dependent efflux pumps for anticancer drugs such as the ABC (ATP-binding cassette) transporters, ABCB1 (P-glycoprotein, or P-gp), ABCC1 (MRP) and ABCG2 (BCRP, MXR).”
Also on tap to share his scientific and technical expertise in a keynote address is Adam Diedrich Steltzner, whose presentation is titled From Leading a High-Performance Team to Landing on Mars.
Steltzner is a renowned aeronautics engineer from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and he has worked on several high-profile NASA flight projects, including Galileo, Cassini, Mars Pathfinder, and the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER). Most impressively, in 2012, Steltzner led a breakthrough team of engineers that invented the pioneering landing system that spectacularly placed the Curiosity rover on the Martian surface.
Even with his rich and varied background, possessing many of the needed skills to lead the landing team for the Curiosity rover, his team would struggle for almost a decade with design challenges and setbacks.
And in that vein, his address will hit on point about teamwork and leadership. How did he keep the team focused and on task? What makes a team gel and enables truly innovative thinking? How do team dynamics drive that process forward or inhibit it? And how can organizational culture create an environment for sustained performance?
The challenges he and the team faced and the lessons learned from those struggles can, SLAS believes, help audiences understand how to better lead their high-performing teams, manage innovation and drive towards excellence.
More on leadership—and beyond the venue
This 5th annual SLAS conference will also feature the 2016 SLAS Leadership Forum on Monday, Jan. 25, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., following up on the first such forum last year. This second go-round will be dedicated to “key, strategic-caliber issues related to life-science R&D,” according to SLAS
This is an invitation-only event for executives, senior-level management and key opinion leaders among the SLAS community. Among the invitees will be past and current leaders of SLAS and the legacy organizations that combined several years ago to form SLAS—the Society for Biomolecular Sciences and the Association for Laboratory Automation.
This year’s program will feature a panel discussion, with the forum featuring a panel that will lead a discussion on a specific topic with a small invited audience of the 50 senior SLAS members who are in leadership positions in their organizations. The topic chosen this year is titled Genome-Based Therapeutics—Are We Finally There? The forum will not involve formal presentations, but is purely a discussion and question-and-answer session based on a pre-agreed discussion outline chaired by the SLAS past president.
Panelists will include Gottesman of the NIH/NCI; Dr. Jennifer Harris, director of drug discovery biology for the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF); Dr. John Leite, vice president of oncology, market development and product marketing at Illumina; Dr. Matthew J. McGinniss, executive director of Molecular Genetics; and Daniel G. Sipes (a past SLAS president who will serve as moderator), director of advanced automation technologies at GNF.
As with any event of this size and scope, not all the action is at the convention center, and SLAS notes that there is an off-site symposium of note, titled Technology to Propel Science: GNF Automation Tour and Seminar. This satellite event will be held Sunday, Jan. 24, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. This event will highlight technology and research at GNF, including presentations by leading researchers and technologists affiliated with GNF. Event attendees will receive round-trip bus transportation from the San Diego Convention Center, where SLAS2016 is being held, a full slate of scientific programming, a networking reception and optional facility tour led by GNF faculty.
Advance registration for this event is required and is only available to registered SLAS2016 participants. Attendance is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Why you should attend SLAS2016
SAN DIEGO—The anticipated delightful Southern California weather aside, here are five other reasons you should attend the annual conference and exhibition, according to SLAS:
  • Learn the latest and best practices for how to apply technology for life-sciences research and development
  • See the latest products, services and technology showcased in action, allowing you to envision and assemble specific solutions for your lab
  • Hear updates on breakthrough research, and have direct access to the participating scientists, providing inspiration toward your own research efforts
  • Meet thousands of peers who, like you, continually aspire to leverage technology to advance their own development goals
  • Form career-long professional connections with peers and partners invested in your success
Introducing the FUNd run
SAN DIEGO—To commemorate the new SLAS Educational Fund, SLAS2016 features the first-annual SLAS FUNd Run, sponsored by Agilent Technologies. Whether you're a competitive runner or just looking for some casual exercise along the Pacific coast, you are encouraged to mark your calendar to attend the SLAS FUNd Run on the morning of Monday, Jan. 25. Advance registrants who make a donation to the SLAS Educational Fund receive a commemorative FUNd Run shirt.
SLAS2016 Conference App
SAN DIEGO—Use your smartphone, tablet or Amazon Kindle to stay on top of the latest SLAS2016 news, plan your itinerary, review session abstracts, take notes, visit the e-poster gallery, view a virtual exhibition floor map and exhibitor listing and more with the newly designed SLAS2016 conference app for iOS and Android devices, available as a free download in early 2016. Visit for information.
SLAS2016 Short Course Program
The SLAS2016 Short Course Program provides 19 in-depth instructional courses on topics, issues and techniques related to the laboratory science and technology community.
New this year:
  • Multiparametric Analysis of Scientific Image Data (laptop required)
  • High-Content Screening: An Introduction to Instrumentation, Assay Development, Screening, Image and Data Analysis
  • Study Design and Statistical Analysis for High Throughput Screening (HTS) Experiments
  • Lab-on-a-Chip: Case Studies in Diagnostics and Screening
  • Screening Strategies for Drug Discovery: Matching Tools With Solutions (half-day)
  • Gene Editing for Drug Discovery (half-day).

SLAS2016 Tuesday Night Celebration
Anchors Away! SLAS to Commandeer the USS Midway!
Board Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 6:30 p.m.
Abandon ship at 9:30 p.m.
A hallmark of the SLAS experience is intelligent network building. SLAS notes that it is a global community, and members pride themselves on being well connected, inviting and helpful—just as they were once welcomed into the SLAS community.
Networking activities at SLAS2016 include daily meals and receptions in the exhibit area, evening functions, a fun run with fellow attendees, special interest groups, special programming for students, early career professionals and international guests and much more.
The final evening of SLAS2016 will be one to remember, the organization promises, as conversations continue aboard the USS Midway, one of America’s longest-serving and most impressive aircraft carriers. So, SLAS invites all hands on deck to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the international conference and exhibition.
From stem to stern, SLAS says, much of the ship will belong exclusively to the SLAS community, allowing them to explore the 20-story high, 1,000-foot long, 64,000-ton, 212,000-horsepower aircraft carrier while meeting old friends and making new professional contacts. While there, you can enjoy more than 60 exhibits, flight simulators, 29 restored vintage aircraft, a self-guided audio tour and, in a 15-minute multimedia presentation, a program titled Six Minutes that Changed the World. There will also be what SLAS is calling a “bountiful buffet” that includes select wines, domestic beers and soft drinks.

Short Course program
Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 23 and 24, at SLAS2016 will feature 19 Short Courses, one of them spanning both days and two others structured as half-day programs.
Revamped this year, the lineup includes six brand-new offerings covering topics, including Lab-on-a-Chip Case Studies, Gene Editing for Drug Discovery and Study Design and Statistical Analysis for HTS Experiments. Short Course instructors are recognized subject matter experts with proven ability to impart even complex lessons in a style and pace suited to all students. Short Course attendance is limited and requires an additional registration fee.
One-day courses
3D Cell-Based Assays for Drug De-Risking
The continually rising numbers of compound failures and increasing costs of drug and substance development are fostering the use of biologically more complex cell models. Physiological relevance is a key parameter to improve the predictive power of cell-based assays. The course covers advanced 3D cell culture technologies and their use in substance testing.
Introduction to Laboratory Automation
This course presents a broad introduction to laboratory automation in the R&D laboratory environment (i.e. nonclinical). A general understanding of a laboratory environment is helpful.
Lab-on-a-Chip: From Technology to Bioanalysis on Chip
This course is aimed at researchers who are interested in learning more about new developments in the technology behind lab-on-a-chip systems. This course is a “how-to” primer that could form the basis for the development of prototypes having integrated functions for a variety of purposes.
Multiparametric Analysis of Scientific Image Data
This new hands-on course (laptop required) analyzes multiparametric data typically extracted from images in high-content analysis using the open-source platform KNIME. The course shows how to transform complex datasets into biological insights using advanced data mining techniques without programming.
Affinity-Based, Biophysical Methods for Screening and Mechanistic Studies
This course provides an overview of the most relevant biochemical biophysics/label-free technologies for screening and lead finding/characterization. Learn how this toolbox of novel technologies helps advancing target-based drug discovery projects.
Cross-Functional Project Management for Technical Professionals
The course reviews both the art and science involved in running successful cross-functional project teams. Course work stresses the planning activities required for success as well as the keys for project execution. Upon completion of this course, attendees are exposed to the key activities required in planning and managing successful cross-functional projects.
Data Management in the Age of Big Data, Mobile and the Cloud
This data management course provides decision-makers and practitioners from biopharma, healthcare and academia with a comprehensive overview of information technology trends in laboratory automation, data management and systems integration. It highlights the current hot fields in the area of data management, big data, cloud computing and mobile technologies. This course provides crucial guidance for assessing how these new technologies fit into your laboratory data landscape. The instructor supplies practical guidance and examples for how to apply these techniques to laboratory workflows.
Derivation of iPS Cells and Maintenance Techniques of iPS-Derived Cells for Use in High-Throughput Screening and Disease Modeling
This course provides a general overview on the basic stem cell biology and laboratory techniques used to derive and maintain human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) and the application of using iPS-derived lines in high-throughput screening (HTS) and disease modeling. Additional topics include manual and semi-automated reprogramming techniques, characterization of iPS assays and embryonic stem cells protocols and HTS strategy with emphasis on the derivation of neural and other lineage cell lines.
Digital Image Processing and Analysis for the Laboratory Scientist: Theory and Application
This course (laptop required) takes a practical, hands-on approach to the application of digital image processing and analysis in a life-sciences laboratory. Diverse techniques and applications will be covered. Upon completion, the attendee is prepared to apply learned methodologies to their own experimental images and to summarize results.
Establishing Cell-Based Assays for Screening
This course describes developing standard procedures for handling cultured cells to set up cell-based assays, techniques for measuring cell health and the pathways leading to cytotoxicity, developing siRNA screening assays and an overview of various GPCR screening methods.
High-Content Screening: An Introduction to Instrumentation, Assay Development, Screening, Image and Data Analysis
High-content screening (HCS) is a powerful technology platform for implementing functional cell-based assays that allow truly multiparametric analysis in the physiological context of intact cells. This new course provides a state-of-the-art overview of the components of HCS (instrumentation, reagents, high-content assay development, automated image analysis and multiparametric data analysis and data standards) together with some showcases of small-molecule and RNAi high-content screens in industry and academia.
Lab-on-a-Chip: Case Studies in Diagnostics and Screening
This new course is aimed at researchers who already have a good basis in lab-chip technologies and are interested in exploring more recent applications, in particular how lab-chip systems have been or could be developed for researchers in cutting-edge drug development and the life sciences. Lectures will be presented using a case-study approach, using a number of selected examples—such as cell-based assays, drug screening and bioassays—to emphasize which aspects and issues play a deciding role in how a particular system is developed.
Liquid-Handling Essentials
This interactive course is designed to introduce important concepts that affect liquid-handling performance so that the overall quality and efficiency remain high. With a balanced mix of discussions and activities, this course will focus on applying key practices on live systems and measuring performance metrics.
Next-Generation Sequencing Technology: Fundamentals and Applications
Next-generation sequencing technologies allow laboratories to do genome-wide research that was previously only possible at large genome centers. This course teaches key concepts and applications of major sequencing technologies (Illumina, 454, SOLiD, Ion Torrent and PacBio), including their technology basics, sample preps, data analysis and associated information technology supports.
Sample Management: Best Practice, Trends and Challenges
Presented in partnership with the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories, this course provides current status and considered best practice in the discipline of sample management. It focuses on the traditional aspects of compound management (including how to maintain and measure quality of compounds) and covers the synergies and differences in managing biologics. Consideration is given to key challenges and future directions. With the growth and interest in biological sample management, the course has been expanded to cover this discipline.
Study Design and Statistical Analysis for High-Throughput Screening (HTS) Experiments
As data analysis methods for HTS continue to evolve, methodological research has shown that the reproducibility and validity of HTS screens can be greatly improved by modern design and statistical methods. Approximately one-third of the course covers basic study design principles (e.g., randomization, internal validity, avoiding confounding variables) and introductory statistical principles (e.g., systematic versus random error, data visualization, inferential versus exploratory data analysis, false positive versus false negative errors). The remaining time is spent applying these principles to HTS experiments, covering both primary and secondary (validation) screens.
Two-day short course
Getting Started With Excel & VBA in the Laboratory
Excel is widely used in scientific laboratories to automate tedious data manipulation and presentation tasks. This course (laptop required) reviews many of the tools built into Excel for handling problems commonly encountered in the laboratory. It also introduces the Visual Basic for Applications scripting language as a way to customize Excel and expand upon its functionality.
Half-day short courses
Screening Strategies for Drug Discovery: Matching Tools with Solutions
A new short course on drug discovery screening strategies with an emphasis on effectively using and integrating phenotypic-based and target-based screening approaches into drug discovery programs. This course provides a broader context of the drug discovery process to help understand how to best utilize existing knowledge, tools and technologies.
Gene Editing for Drug Discovery
This course serves as an introduction to genome engineering applications in drug discovery with an emphasis on the rapidly developing CRISPR/Cas9 technology platform. Given the pace that genome-editing tools are reshaping what is possible within the biological sciences, it is timely to survey their proven and potential impact on the process of drug discovery. This course introduces the audience to the exciting possibilities of what can be achieved with genome editing, the current limitations and the fundamentals of how to apply these technologies to enhance the pursuit of novel therapeutics.

Special interest groups
One of the key benefits of attending SLAS2016 is the ability to meet face-to-face with others in your area of interest and expertise. Over the course of the conference, you will enjoy the esteemed company and expertise of thousands of scientific peers with similar interests, professional roles and relevant experience. SLAS2016 hosts 16 different special interest groups (SIGs), which meet at various times.
A new SIG for 2016 is the Compound Combination Screening Special Interest Group. The mission of this SIG is to create a knowledge-sharing forum for screening practitioners active in the field of compound combinations. As such, the goal is to mature the field of compound combination screening, aimed at better science that accelerates the pace of drug discovery.

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