SLAS2017 Show Preview: Putting together a ‘Capitol’ event

SLAS2017 will bring a wealth of scientific and other programming to Washington, D.C., in February

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Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS)
Sixth Annual International Conference and Exhibition
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.
Feb. 4-8, 2017
Putting together a ‘Capitol’ event
SLAS2017 will bring a wealth of scientific and other programming to Washington, D.C., in February
As the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) prepares to bring its Sixth Annual International Conference and Exhibition—more commonly known as SLAS2017—to Washington, D.C., Feb. 4-8, it seems only right to start off our preshow coverage with some of the highlights you can expect at the meeting. And with two conference co-chairs—Dr. Dana Vanderwall, director of biology and preclinical IT at Bristol-Meyers Squibb, and Dr. Marcie Glicksman, chief scientific officer of ORIG3N—who better than they to focus in on what those in drug discovery and development and in diagnostics R&D might find most tasty among the many scientific morsels to be had there?
“I think the agenda is particularly strong in practical applications of technologies that, while starting to mature, are still evolving significantly. For example, there are sessions relevant to phenotypic approaches in three tracks: Assay Development and Screening, Drug Target Strategies and Cellular Technologies; biophysical approaches come up in two tracks; genomic and genetic methods in several tracks,” Vanderwall says. “Many of these talks go beyond the technology development, where leading scientists in the industry share experience and insight from applying the technologies in particular screens or studies. That’s particularly useful when you’re trying to bring a new approach in-house and apply it for drug discovery—the more you can learn from others the sooner you are able to leverage a new technology or methodology to do something useful.”
“The Data and Analysis track is another where there are a number of sessions with practical applications, and where the sessions evolve significantly each year to align with the most significant challenges we face with managing and leveraging data,” he adds. “At the end of the day, the advances in screening and automation result in an increase in both the volume and complexity of data being generated. Topics that deal with tools or approaches focused on workflows, ease of access, use and sharing data, specific aspects of collaboration can all be useful to getting more of your organization’s data and technology investments.”
For her part, Glicksman says, “I am particularly excited about the regenerative medicine symposium I have organized with [Dr. G. Sitta Sittampalam] because this is a rapidly advancing area in drug discovery. The 21st Century Cures Act that was just passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama has a new provision to fast-track developing new therapies in the regenerative medicine area.”
She also points to a special session on research reproducibility that is co-chaired by Lenny Teytelman of and Cathy Tralau-Stewart of the University of California, San Francisco. “This is an area that has gathered a lot of attention both in academics and industry,” Glicksman says. “I look forward to a good discussion around potential solutions in this session. Lastly, I always enjoy the exhibition hall; this is one of the largest and I enjoy looking for new technologies and shopping for new equipment.”
And on that more general note, Vanderwall also expresses eagerness for the networking and the interplay between basic research, applied research and commercial technology that he says is a “standout” for the SLAS meetings.
“Few conferences provide for such a blend and interaction between those three interest groups and perspectives; I probably learn as much on the exhibition floor and in the mixers as I do in the presentations,” he says. “I also look forward to the keynotes—there is always a great symmetry between a high profile speaker on a technical topic with ties to the SLAS community and domain, and another with more of a topical, general interest perspective. I always come away from the SLAS conference with a reading list and new connections to follow up with.”
Steve Hamilton, the SLAS director of education, also points to the research reproducibility and regenerative medicine sessions as a particularly important and valuable part of the show for DDNews readers.
Hamilton also notes that SLAS2017 has some new features compared to last year, including new short courses on the topics of flow cytometry, mass spectrometry, data analytics for high-throughput screening and biomarkers. He also points to such “interesting” sessions as “Bioprinting and Multidimension Cellular Engineering,” “Exploring the Dark Genome, “The Digital Dark Hole: Reusing Data,” “Rational Screen Design,” and “Assay Platforms for Biologics.”
And speaking of biologics, Vanderwall notes that at SLAS2018, “we’ll see an even greater presence of topics related to biologics with its own new track, and the growth of technologies related to single-cell and other high-definition technologies.”
As for this year’s event, he adds: “There are also new areas within some of the traditional tracks, like new genomic technologies and their impact in several tracks and increased presence of topics related to biologics.”
Hamilton adds that in addition to the 2018 event adding a biologics drug discovery track, there will be two other new tracks as well next year, on chemical biology and high-definition biotechnology.
“The special combination of scientific programming, exhibition/new technology, and peer-to-peer networking that happens at SLAS is especially unique,” sums up Tom Manning, the SLAS director of marketing communications. “In addition, the natural collaboration between product developers and product users, and between industry, academic and government researchers—and between all those groups and technology providers—is also unique to SLAS.”
SLAS2017 Keynote Presenters
WASHINGTON, D.C.—As noted by Steve Hamilton, the SLAS director of education, among the many new aspects of SLAS2017—the sixth time that SLAS has put together the annual conference since it was formed from the merger of Society for Biomolecular Sciences and the Association for Laboratory Automation—this year’s event will for the first time feature dual female keynote speakers: Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz and Rachel Swaby.
Lippincott-Schwartz is group leader for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, where her research uses live-cell imaging approaches to analyze the spatio-temporal behavior and dynamic interactions of molecules and organelles in cells. Her group has pioneered the use of green fluorescent protein technology for quantitative analysis and modeling of intracellular protein traffic and organelle biogenesis in live cells and embryos, providing novel insights into cell compartmentalization, protein trafficking and organelle inheritance.
Most recently, her research has focused on the development and use of photoactivatable fluorescent proteins, including the development of photoactivated localization microscopy, (i.e., PALM), a super-resolution imaging technique that enables visualization of molecule distributions at high density at the nanoscale.
Her work has been recognized with election to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Medicine, and with the Royal Microscopy Society Pearse Prize and the Society of Histochemistry Feulgen Prize.
For her part, Swaby is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her book Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World came out in 2015 to critical and popular acclaim. Swaby’s work has also been published in Wired, Runner’s World, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and others.
In her book she provides a 300-year history of scientific discovery, sharing the tenacity, perseverance and creativity of female scientists who challenged obstacles and advanced knowledge in the fields of medicine, biology, genetics, physics and more. “I want to share the impact that these women made,” says Swaby. In sharing some of those stories with SLAS2017 attendees, she says, “I want to talk about the themes that have come out of the book, how outside interests matter, and how all of these things can be woven together to make your work stronger ... When you have someone with a flair for life like some of these women had, it’s totally unforgettable.”
What’s on tap for the scientific program
WASHINGTON, D.C.—SLAS2017 offers attendees a world-class scientific program that showcases the top laboratory science and technology podium presentations from industry leaders around the world. Each podium presentation is hand-selected by the SLAS2017 Scientific Program Committee from hundreds of abstract submissions. According to SLAS, “Presentations offer SLAS2017 participants compelling content and new perspectives on emerging laboratory technologies from a broad range of industries, including drug discovery and development, informatics, clinical diagnostics, food and agricultural sciences, forensics and security sciences, petrochemicals and energy, and consumer products.”
The SLAS2017 scientific program features seven educational tracks:
  • Advances in Bioanalytics, Biomarkers and Diagnostics
  • Assay Development and Screening
  • Automation and High-Throughput Technologies
  • Cellular Technologies
  • Data Analysis and Informatics
  • Drug Target Strategies
  • Micro- and Nanotechnologies
SLAS2017 presents 140 unique podium presentations in those seven educational tracks that in turn produce 36 sessions. Podium presentations are presented on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in both morning and afternoon sessions.
In addition, SLAS2017 will feature more than 350 poster presentations. Posters are displayed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning with actual presentations taking place between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday.
Special programming at SLAS2017
Assay Guidance Workshop for High-Throughput Screening and Lead Discovery
Saturday, Feb. 4
8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
This full-day workshop will cover a broad range of critical concepts underlying 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. An increasing number of researchers are actively developing well validated assays for drug discovery that include phenotypic and biochemical assays for lead optimization. This workshop is designed to disseminate critical information about the implementation of robust assay methods and intended to benefit the entire drug discovery community. Many of the workshop instructors have 20 to 30 years of experience in the field of drug discovery.
The target audience is individuals involved in bioassay development for drug discovery and development, and this workshop is expected to be a valuable resource for academic, industrial and government laboratory scientists who are planning or beginning to develop test methods for high- or low-throughput screening that are amenable to automation using appropriate statistical and operational concepts. The workshop will also be useful for early career researchers and experienced investigators who wish to learn about the latest assay concepts for HTS and lead optimization.
Panel Discussion: Whose Responsibility is Research Reproducibility?
Tuesday, Feb. 7
3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Session chairs for this discussion are Lenny Teytelman of and Cathy Tralau-Stewart of the University of California, San Francisco.
There is a broad consensus among academic and industry researchers, funders, and other stakeholders that increasing reproducibility of published research is an important goal. However, questions of who should be responsible for validating research results are tricky; industry and academia naturally diverge in answering these. Moreover, specific proposals for improving reproducibility are frequently contentious with fears of unintended consequences for the research enterprise. The goal of this panel is to have a conversation with both industry and academic perspectives on this challenging issue.
Regenerative Medicine: Next Generation Treatments
Wednesday, Feb. 8
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Providing a combination of institutional and corporate approaches to science, the session chairs for this offering are Dr. G. Sitta Sittampalam of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Marcie Glicksman of ORIG3N Inc.
Regenerative medicine is having a big impact on the future of medicine. It has the potential to fully repair damaged cells, tissues and organs. Developments in stem cell technology, tissue engineering and molecular biology are pushing the frontiers of medicine by providing the possibility of cures through the use of cellular therapies. The next decade will see the rapid development of treatments that will employ human iPS cells, drugs and biologics as substrates for therapies in acute and chronic diseases. In this session, presentations will represent the recent advances in the generation, standardization, characterization and the mechanistic behavior of stem cells and their applications in regenerative medicine.
Presentations include:
  • “Progress and Challenges in Translational iPS Cell Research” by Ilyas Singec of NCATS
  • “Angiopellosis as an Alternative Mechanism of Cell Extravasation” by Ke Cheng of North Carolina State University/University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
  • “Modeling Developmental Brain Disorders Using Patient-Derived Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” by Hongjun Song of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • “Standardized Generation of Patient-Specific and Gene-Corrected Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines for Disease Modeling and Drug Screening” by Lise Munsie of CCRM

SLAS2017 Awards
SLAS2017 will host and recognize several award winners from different aspects of the sciety’s program and mission spectrum. A summary of awards appears below. Watch this page for additional information on the awards and application processes as they are announced.
Tony B. Academic Travel Award
Students, graduate students, post-doctoral associates, and junior faculty (less than four years in first academic appointment) are eligible to apply for this prestigious travel award. The applicant must be the primary author of a submitted abstract and must present their research in either a poster or podium presentation at the conference. Those selected receive complimentary travel, lodging and registration to participate in SLAS2017.
2017 SLAS Innovation Award
The SLAS Innovation Award is a $10,000 cash prize recognizing one exceptional podium presentation delivered at SLAS2017. This award recognizes exceedingly innovative science or research, and the potential for contributing to life sciences R&D technology.
SLAS New Product Award
All SLAS2017 exhibitors who will be presenting new products at the event are encouraged to participate in this competition. The product entry must be less than one year old in its current form (since the previous SLAS annual conference) to be considered.
Student Poster Competition
The SLAS Academic Poster Award recognizes the innovative research by students, graduate students, post-doctoral associates, and junior faculty (less than four years in first academic appointment) who are chosen to present a poster during SLAS2017.

About the exhibits
General Information
The SLAS2017 Exhibition will feature several hundred leading multinational providers of life-science discovery and technology products and services. The SLAS2017 Exhibition is structured to facilitate friendly, professional interaction among providers and product/technology users. This approach enables attendees to gain valuable insight into state-of-the-art technologies—and access to product developers and product experts—in a low-pressure, high-value environment, according to SLAS.
Highlights of the SLAS2017 Exhibition include:
  • A showcase of new life-sciences discovery and technology products and services from more than 300 leading product and service providers
  • The SLAS New Product Award Designation that recognizes up to three new and especially innovative products and services being showcased in the exhibition
  • Innovation AveNEW, a dedicated area of the exhibition floor that hosts a collection of emerging and startup companies offering promising new laboratory technologies
  • The SLAS Member Center, where you can meet other attendees, SLAS leaders and professional team members, representatives of SLAS technical journals, and watch live interviews by The Lab Man.
SLAS2017 Exhibition Hours
Monday, Feb. 6
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(Reception 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
Tuesday, Feb. 7
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(Reception 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
Wednesday, Feb. 8
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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