The final countdown

As the weeks and days tick off in preparation for the final SBS Annual Conference and Exhibition, organizers prepare to usher in the first annual SLAS Conference and Exhibition

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ORLANDO, Fla.—Calling the SBS 17th Annual Conference and Exhibition "a catalytic launching pad to our future as a united organization," Michelle Palmer, president of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS), notes that while this is last Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) conference, "we have not taken a 'farewell' approach," adding that in quite the opposite vein, the organizers have invested more time, energy and money into the event than ever before.

"We're very excited about this Orlando meeting," notes Greg Dummer, the CEO of SLAS and formerly the head of the Association for Laboratory Automation (ALA), which merged this year with SBS to form SLAS. "It's my first time in the management seat working with an event aimed at the SBS members, and we've seen exhibitors really respond as well as seeing PerkinElmer come to the table as a premier sponsor. Plus, there is a very high quantity and quality of people coming through the educational arm of the event. I feel this will truly be one of our finest shows and great launching pad into SLAS2012."

Dummer admits that it is hard right now to pin down accurate predictions as to attendance numbers, given that early-bird registration only closed on Jan. 24, just a few days after he spoke with ddn, but he is optimistic. Lead indicators of registration and exhibit floor sales are all "tracking according to historical markers," he says, and he expects registrations to be on par with past years and for the exhibit floor to be sold out.

With the Palm Springs, Calif., meeting of the ALA—LabAutomation2011—just about to start as he spoke with ddn, Dummer noted that it and the Orlando meeting are critical to SLAS in terms of taking a hard look at how to increase vitality for the former ALA and former SBS members and to keep anticipating exhibitor needs as well going into 2012.

In some ways, he says, the SBS meeting is a test bed for some of those changes, given that the exhibit hall hours were reconfigured this year compared to previous years, and the floor design itself was revamped to make it more "friendly and accessible." That has included investments into technology and programming to enhance connectivity and networking, as well as having more food and beverage functions.

"We've also instituted free exhibit hall-only passes, which in previous years cost $200," Dummer adds. "We decided to take a proactive approach for our constituents, who are a very important part of our organization, and make this meeting something that was much more efficient, engaging, enjoyable and educational for them."

The educational part, he points out, is as much a key to the event's success as the exhibitions, and more funds were invested for academic travel awards and travel fees for speakers. He and his team also brought in an innovation that ALA has used in recent years—a flight discount program under which the first 50 registrants get $200 off the cost of their flights. Also, complimentary waivers have been provided for unemployed individuals.

All of those pricing strategies—among others—are something that Dummer says is the third leg of the stool, along with the exhibitors and the educational program.

"As part of our revitalized commitment to young scientists, we have invested in the next generation by allocating $20,000 to bring students from around the world to our Orlando event," says Palmer, referring to the academic travel awards. "Also, because the job outlook is of particular concern for us, we've implemented a significant discount program and added a new group pricing structure in addition to the waiver for unemployed professionals."

She adds that free career counseling by appointment is available to all participants while on-site, which will be useful to the employed, underemployed and unemployed alike.

"The SBS meeting will have the types of sessions and speakers that past SBS participants have come to expect and that they really enjoy," Palmer tells ddn. "That's an important and critical issue as the SBS members are more strongly drug discovery-oriented than the ALA members. The types of talks the SBS members are accustomed to, focusing on the drug discovery field in particular, will still be there, but they will also see hints of other areas that have appealed more strongly to ALA members in the past, such as ADME-Tox and informatics."

She points to Dummer and his team, and the virtual business model they have implemented for SLAS, as critical to the merger's ongoing success and to the future of SLAS.

"I'm really looking forward to the SBS meeting and I encourage everyone to stay tuned for the new 2012 event where we will merge both meetings together," Palmer says. "I don't know exactly what it will look like, but members can expect all the best of both meetings."

Professionally speaking

SBS 2011 Career Connections Program set to help professionals affected by industry's job market

ORLANDO, Fla.—The SLAS will offer Career Connections at SBS 2011, a free feature that SBS members weren't able to enjoy before their merger with the ALA. SLAS touts Career Connections as "one of the select few automated and interactive employment programs that intuitively brings together its online job service programs with its on-site career center."

The program will feature a hands-on session about maximizing the conference experience through effective networking, and Marshall Brown, a career and executive coach, will offer tips and tools to facilitate conference interactions, and provide key strategies for developing business relationships.
"We are pleased to offer Career Connections this year and welcome Marshall Brown & Associates to SBS 2011, where participants will receive free career coaching services simply by reserving their spot through the conference's website," says Michelle Palmer, SLAS' president. "Career advisors will spend one-on-one time with participants to conduct mock interviews, review resumes, provide guidance and strategize market opportunities with both job seekers and hiring managers."

For more information on the private, one-on-one coaching sessions, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis, visit Even without the one-on-one sessions, thought, potential job seekers can submit their resumes online for the opportunity to potentially interview with top companies, browse job boards and network with recruiting professionals representing multiple industries. In addition, companies seeking job candidates may conduct highly confidential and professional in-person interviews, and have a major presence "in a quaint setting that nurtures networking and relationship building," according to SLAS.

"With its vast number of exhibitors, SBS 2011 is a premier venue to search for one's perfect career opportunity—whether he or she is currently searching or just thinking about it—and I am honored to be on site helping those individuals," says Brown. "By participating in a one-on-one career coaching session, job seekers will gain new understanding of what employers want in a candidate, sharpen their networking and interviewing skills, and enhance their resumes."

Looking ahead

Once the SBS conference and exhibition is over, it will be time to think about SLAS2012

SAN DIEGO—Back in its offices in the Chicago metropolitan area, the SLAS is already gearing up for SLAS2012, also known as the First Annual SLAS Conference and Exhibition, which will be held Feb. 4-8, 2012, at the San Diego Convention Center.

The conference will combine element of both the LabAutomation and SBS annual conferences to increase collaboration and prominence for the laboratory science and technology community, targeting science, technology and drug discovery particularly in the areas of assay development and screening, bioanalytical techniques, diagnostics, drug target biology, high-throughput technologies, informatics and micro/nanotechnology.

"We are thrilled that the laboratory automation and screening community has shown enthusiasm and excitement about collaborating for one annual conference—the SLAS Conference and Exhibition," says Michelle Palmer, the SLAS president. "By bringing together the best aspects of both former conferences as well as adding new ones, SLAS2012 will offer participants a well-rounded, first-class scientific program, and provide an exceptional forum to explore new innovations in the laboratory science and technology field."

SLAS is also pleased to announce that it already has secured the first in a series of SLAS2012 keynote speakers: Dr. Peter G. Schultz of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

"Since our inception as SLAS, our mission has been to become the premier international community dedicated to advancing scientific research and discovery through laboratory science and technology," says Greg Dummer, the CEO of SLAS. "The First Annual SLAS Conference and Exhibition brings us one step closer to achieving this goal by uniting the SBS and ALA communities for an event that meaningfully embraces and serves diverse but related scientific interests."

More than 300 multinational exhibitors are expected to display their new technologies at the SLAS Conference and Exhibition.

To keep abreast of the development of the conference, keep checking the SLAS website's area for the show, at

What's new for the 2011 SBS event
ORLANDO, Fla.—With the five-day annual SBS event expected to draw more than 2,000 scientists, innovators, researchers and industry analysts from around the globe—ready to learn about the latest trends and basic and applied research that are transforming the way new pharmaceuticals are developed—the event has been divided into 15 diverse scientific sessions organized into three tracks: Innovations in the Screening Sciences; Translational Research; and Sequenced Genomes: Reducing Opportunities to Practice.

Also fresh for this year's event are keynote presentations from SBS Achievement Award winner Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz of Duke University; SBS Accomplishment Award winner Dr. Brian Shoichet, of the University of California, San Francisco; and Dr. Hugh Rosen of the Scripps Research Institute.

"These powerful SBS 2011 keynote speakers underscore our commitment to enhancing the scientific program by providing firsthand insight into featured topics," says Michelle Palmer of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who is the president of SLAS, which was formed by the merger of SBS and the Association for Laboratory Automation. "The knowledge these industry-leading scientists will provide help SLAS reach new heights of improving the conference's value to participants and exhibitors, and offer glimpses into the future of drug discovery and screening."

At the exhibit hall, attendees can look forward to enhanced exhibit hall hours, "Allowing for a thriving exhibit floor with leading companies from around the world," the SLAS Career Connections offering, which provides a forum for job seekers and employers to connect and career coaches to offer their services free to participants by appointment, and the SLAS New Product Award designation that will recognize as many as three of the best and most promising new products launched on the exhibit floor.

The SIGs to see
ORLANDO, Fla.—Several Special Interest Groups (SIGs) will be held during the conference and exhibition, and SLAS members are encouraged to attend one or more SIG meetings for free at the SBS 2011 event and help contribute to the discussions or suggest topics or challenges a SIG needs to tackle. The following SIGs will meet in Orlando:

Academic Outreach—Fosters greater interaction among academia, government, pharmaceutical research companies and suppliers.

—Advances drug discovery and development by promoting the discussion and dissemination of principles, topics and ideas for the integration of higher throughput technologies with methods for determining toxicity, pharmacokinetics and metabolism.

Automation Quality Control
—Provides a forum for discussion of topics relating to optimizing performance of laboratory instrumentation.

Data and Image Analysis—Dedicated to sharing best practices, experiences and expertise, and to encouraging collaboration and actively addresses issues in the area of information technology and strategies.

Drug Repositioning—A broad-based initiative allowing its members to proactively address the specific challenges pertaining to their respective fields of expertise (technical, operational, legal, etc.) in relation to needs and benefits of repurposing drugs.

Microplate Standards
—Recommends, develops and maintains standards to facilitate automated processing of microplates.

Sample Management—Provides a forum for discussing sample library management issues in the modern drug-discovery high-throughput screening laboratory.

Screen Design and Assay Technology—Shares current best practices and experiences in the design of screens for high- and ultra high-throughput screening programs.

Stem Cells—Promotes the discussion and dissemination of information on new enabling technologies related to the use of stem cells and primary cells in drug discovery.

You might never leave the convention center

With the Orlando–Kissemmee area being such a conference draw, there is plenty to enjoy at the facility where you'll attend the SBS show

ORLANDO, Fla.—While you may want to explore the world outside of the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, where the SBS 17th Annual Conference and Exhibition is being held, you won't need to, most likely. Built in the style of a turn-of-the-century Florida mansion, Gaylord Palms bills itself as "a destination unto itself, with sunlit atriums and more than four acres of indoor gardens that recreate three unique regions of Florida, such as the "gently rising mists" of the Everglades, the "funky and vibrant island revelry" of Key West and the "old-world charm" of St. Augustine. Even the 1,406 guest rooms each reflect one of the three Florida themes.

For meals, visitors can enjoy the Sora Sushi Bar, Villa de Flora and Sunset Sam's Fish Camp, which are geared toward casual dining, and the fine-dining-oriented Old Hickory Steakhouse. Two bars and lounges are at Gaylord Palms—Cantina del Sol Poolside Bar & Grille and Auggie's Jammin' Bar—and other dining and drinking options include Java Coast and a Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Shoppe, as well as in-room and group dining options.

Shopping at Gaylord Palms includes Palm Coast, with a collection of upscale clothing and merchandise that is "uniquely Florida," Duval Street Traders, which is said to be reminiscent of an open-air market in the fashion of the Key West lifestyle, and Flaglers, which is billed

as "whimsical, eclectic, fun and funky." Also, there is a PGA Tour Shop, a Disney Gateway store and Marketplace News and Sundries. Finally, Splash Zone is aimed at providing one-stop shopping for outdoor fun in the Orlando area, and Details offers a selection of watches, cosmetics, handbags, lingerie, bath and body, fragrances, footwear, swimwear and apparel.

For more physical or outdoor recreation, Gaylord Palm offers the Coquina Dunes Recreation Park, which features a bocce court, croquet lawn, sand volleyball court and executive putting course to practice up—before hitting the tees at the nearby Celebration Golf Club. Also, there is the Clearwater Cove water activities playground with a 120,000-gallon family pool, octopus waterslide, sand play area, waterfall and more, and the South Beach Pool adult-only luxury pool, which "embodies a retro art-deco façade and mirrors Miami's trendy South Beach," according to the resort.

If you need to relax after all that, the resort also features the Relâche Spa, or if you need even more activity, there is a 4,000 square-foot fitness center.

Finally, if you brought your kids and have decided that it's time to hand them off to someone else for a few hours, the resort offers its Kids Nite Out childcare services, an in-room childcare service that customizes the experience based on the age of the child and provides certified and insured staff members that bring with them age-appropriate books, games and other toys. There is a four-hour childcare minimum, and reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.

Making spectacles of themselves

Excess can indeed be fun, and Orlando is a city where you can find lots of excess, much of it still family-friendly

ORLANDO, Fla.—OK, let's be honest here: The only fundamental differences between Las Vegas, Nev., and Orlando, Fla., is that the former has gambling, regional access to legal brothels and allows smoking in many indoor areas, while the latter encourages people to bring the kids and go outside a lot more. Both places are big into abandoning subtlety, presenting lots of flashing lights and noises, and generally making the art of spectacle into the business of making money.

As such, finding over-the-top venues is not hard. We'll just focus here on three that struck us as some of the best examples of "extreme Orlando," aside from the massive amusement parks that dot the landscape.

ICEBAR Orlando
Plenty of people go to a bar and want their drink on the rocks, but here the patrons are served the same way, in a bar that seems to be the progeny of unnatural congress between an ice rink and a nightclub. Featured as one of the top 10 "Extreme Barhopping" bars on Travel Channel and on the "America's Best" show on the Food Network, ICEBAR combines 50 tons of ice, a constant 27-degree temperature, state-of-the-art lighting, elaborate ice carvings and music to create a stylized winter wonderland.

Your admission price buys you 45 minutes in the bar and gives you access to a thermal cape, fresh gloves, and the opportunity to purchase what the bar calls its "world famous Penguin Pizz." I can't for the life of me find anywhere that tells me what's in the drink, and the word "pizz" evokes interesting thoughts, but with one of the other signature drinks being the Yellow Snow—along with such names as Chips Chilly Willy and Arctic Breeze—we're all afraid to find out. All drinks, whether more sedate ones or the signature ones, are served in glasses made of actual ice.

After you have your Arctic experience, you'll head to the bar's warming hut, called the Fire Lounge. The bar opens at 7:15 p.m. and there are six ICEBAR lounge entry times, the last being at 11 p.m. Advance purchase through the website at or via telephone at (407) 426-7555 is recommended.

Arabian Nights—The Show
Move over Medieval Times (which also has a location in Orlando, by the way). Arabian Nights brings much the same vibe of a extravagant show, vibrant theme and dinner theater but puts an Arabian spin on it, with performances at 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m. or both. Guests enter through the Palace of Horses, and then begin their experience in the Great Hall with a performance by a belly dancer, who will eventually try to entice one or more people up on stage with her. Those who don't want to focus on this pre-show can take advantage of a cash bar or the gift shop. Once the show begins, guests will watch 20 skilled equestrians perform various feats on horseback in a series of 22 acts.

Despite the Arabian Nights moniker, the dining fare is distinctly non-Middle Eastern, so don't go expecting any ethnic flair. Choices are sirloin steak, grilled chicken breast, Black Angus chopped steak with brown gravy, vegetarian lasagna, pork tenderloin with Marsala sauce and children's chicken tenders with macaroni and cheese. All meals are served with a house salad, dinner rolls and unlimited Bud Light beer and Pepsi-Cola products. Other drinks, including wine, are available for purchase before and during the show. Dessert is as much a cultural dichotomy as all the rest, with a choice of Oreo fudge brownie or New York style cheesecake with strawberry sauce. If you need a Kosher meal, that can be arranged a day or more in advance.

There also exists a VIP reservation option if you want to tack on $15 extra per adult and $12 extra per child. That status will net you seating in one of the first three rows and allow you to get a private showcase of the different breeds of horses featured in the show, including the ability to pet them—guests under 18 can even sit on one of the large draft horses for a photo opportunity.
For more information or to make reservations, visit the website at or call them at (407) 239-9223 or (800) 553-6116.

Downtown Disney
Did you really think we were going to ignore Disney entirely? If we did, Uncle Walt's frozen head would psychically dispatch an army of robots to … wait, we've said too much already! In any case, Downtown Disney gives you plenty of opportunities to spend money, but unlike the two options we've already mentioned, you can get your pomp, circumstance and consumerism on without having to pay an admission price just to get in.

A shopping and entertainment zone that takes up 120 acres in the Disney World Resort part of Orlando, Downtown Disney gives you the chance to do such things as eat at the Rainforest Cafe, stroll past full-size Lego figures outside the Lego Imagination store and buy chocolate at Ghiradelli's—and get free samples of those sweets, too, as it happens. There is also DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park for those who want to see the arcade concept kicked up several notches, or you can lay down some money to attend the Cirque du Soleil show "La Nouba," in which you will see the kinds of trapeze artists, jugglers, acrobats and phantasmagorical costumes for which the Cirque du Soleil folks have become famous—and this show was created specifically for Downtown Disney.

The experience is divided into three sections—Downtown Disney West Side, Downtown Disney Marketplace and Pleasure Island. Downtown Disney West Side showcases restaurants, a 24-screen AMC Pleasure Island movie theater, and various shops. The "La Nouba" show and DisneyQuest both make their home here. Downtown Disney Marketplace gives you a chance to, among other things, visit the largest Disney character store in the world or to dine at a lakeside restaurant. Pleasure Island, which was once home almost exclusively to a number of themed bars and nightclubs, is being transformed through 2011 to have less focus on the alcohol and more on shopping and dining. The Raglan Road Irish Pub & Bar, Fuego by Sosa Cigars, Paradiso 37, Curl by Sammy Duval, Orlando Harley-Davidson, and various outdoor food and beverage locations remain open during the transition.

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