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SLAS2013 preview: Inside inspiration (part 1)
December 2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


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

ORLANDO, Fla.—They say all it takes is one person to make a difference. That may be a cliché, but that doesn't mean it isn't sometimes true, as evidenced by a whole new subject area—phenotypic drug discovery —that will get major play at SLAS2013, more formally known as the second annual conference 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 always been part of what we're about, but there's a spinoff of that we'll be addressing throughout some of the presentations at the conference, and that's the idea of phenotypic drug discovery," says Steve Hamilton, director of education for SLAS. "That's something one of our members came to us last year about, and he said this is a growing topic that we would want to pay more attention 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 member who 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 since 2005. He founded the Cellular Imaging group at Lilly's corporate center and his current duties include dealing with phenotypic drug discovery strategy, technology, enablement and operations. In his role as chairman of the SLAS phenotypic drug discovery SIG, one of his charges is to help encourage sharing, discussion and debate on the advantages and disadvantages of phenotypic drug discovery, as well as whether and how it complements targeted drug discovery strategies.  
"Phenotypic drug discovery does definitely seem to be an emerging hot topic, so we wanted to make sure we threaded that through our educational program at SLAS2013," says Greg Dummer, CEO of SLAS. "Also, with us having an SIG focused on that topic, this is something we can give significant attention to and cover in more depth, even beyond the conference in Orlando."  
"We carefully wove the idea of high-content analysis and phenotypic drug discovery through the scientific education program so that it won't show up as a track topic of its own, but there are five individual sessions that will follow that phenotypic drug discovery thread, along with three 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—the changing needs of SLAS members and other conference attendees are very much in the forefront in other ways as well.  
"We've really expanded our coverage of bioinformatics this year to make it a full track, and that's an area we'd really like to emphasize as a society and that we're really excited about growing," says SLAS2013 Program Co-Chair Aaron Wheeler. "Informatics is outside my personal area of expertise, but it's very clearly an area in which it's important for SLAS to have a presence."
"With the enlarged informatics program to a full track, that's 24 presentations on scientific informatics, covering things like collaborative discovery, informatics in highly integrated systems and high-performance computing for laboratory data analysis," Hamilton adds.  
Seven educational tracks comprise the scientific program. In addition to the new informatics track, and the high- throughput technologies track of which phenotypic drug discovery is a significant part, the other five tracks 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, Wheeler and Hamilton both point to a special highlight with one of the three keynote speakers, Charles Sabine, an Emmy-award winning television journalist and scientific advocate whose talk is titled "The Pursuit of Hope and Dignity: Why Every Link in the Medical Chain Matters."  
"Charles is a journalist with intimate experience in neurodegenerative disorders and is very well regarded in that arena, though not a scientist or clinician," Wheeler notes. "We've even built a special session of 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 special neurodegenerative disease session that he will co-chair as a kind of roundtable discussion. In the past, we haven't integrated keynote speakers into other sessions, so that will be something special for our closing day."
One of the other keynote speakers, Dr. Mehmet Toner, is a professor of surgery at the Harvard Medical School and professor of biomedical engineering for Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology, and will present "Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of the Circulating Tumor Cell Microchip."  
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 I talk to people outside my field about what they hear about microfluidics and its potential, his is the name most of them will bring up."  
Rounding out the keynote trio is Sir Harold Kroto of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Florida State University, who received 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 he expects that Kroto will, in part, "give us a call to arms for not just better supporting science, but working toward educating the public about having a more scientific viewpoint on life, which I think is something society lacks right now and it good for society as a whole."
In addition to the scientific presentations, there is the exhibit 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 a fun experience to see all the high-tech robotics and other tools being highlighted and demonstrated."  
In addition to the educational side and the exhibits, there are 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 and tablet computers at the conference, and says there will be an online poster gallery for SLAS2013 that "will live on after the conference as well for people who want to view it." Live streaming of two presentations will occur again this year, as was the case last year, with the topics this time being "Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of the Circulating Tumor Cell Microchip" and "HTS and Early Drug Discovery in Industry and Academia. Collaboration: Is the Sum Greater Than the Two Parts?" Also, the career center will be expanded compared to last year, and will also include a specific program on how best to use LinkedIn.  
"I think it's important for people to realize that our conference content is driven by our members and designed by volunteers," Hamilton explains. "This is not created from my head or Greg's or the SLAS staff in general. Every year our program committee is new, and those are the people who bring about the focus of what our conferences are about. It's by the members and for the members, and intentionally designed to keep things fresh."    

A gay ol' time at the Gaylord  
The host venue for SLAS2013 is an experience in itself, amid a plethora of other Orlando attractions  
The Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, where SLAS2013 will be held, isn't just located 1.5 miles from the front gate of Walt Disney World and close to the many other Orlando theme parks and experiences—it's a bit of an experience unto itself.
Most notable in that regard is that the resort features atriums that recreate three Florida environments: the misty Everglades, the "funky and vibrant island revelry of Key West," as Gaylord Palms puts it, and finally 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 menus inspired by European cuisine at Villa de Flora; and Sunset Sam's, a Key West Grill, at which you go aboard a 60-foot sailboat to dine on a fusion of Floridian 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 a two-story-high video wall.  
For non-culinary activities, there is an arcade where visitors 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 fitness center.  
Two pool experiences are offered at the resort. For adults only is the South Beach Pool, described as an "ultra-chic oasis" with tropical palms and poolside cabanas. For the whole family, there is the Cypress Springs Family Fun Water Park, an Everglades-inspired attraction featuring a multilevel tree house, four waterslides, gurgling springs, oversized water tipping bucket and outdoor movie theater.  
And, if you'd like to join in one of the other tried-and-true Florida activities, you can find clubs, balls, fairways and greens 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 Resort and isn't part of the resort, but rather an official golf course partner of Gaylord Palms.    

Global aspirations  
With a growing presence in Asia, SLAS looks toward Europe  
ST. CHARLES, Ill.—One of the founding tenets when the Society for Biomolecular Sciences and the Association for Laboratory Automation merged 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, notes SLAS CEO Greg Dummer. SLAS2013 will serve as a springboard to making a big leap in that direction.  
"One of the things on the horizon is—now that we have stakes in the ground in Asia—is to be global in nature, and we've had a presence in Shanghai for a few years now," Dummer says. "Going to Orlando, we will be announcing SLAS' expansion plans for Europe. It's part of our vision and strategic plans to have feet in the U.S., Asia and pan-Europe, so that will be big news coming out of Orlando."  
Going forth from Orlando, and playing into its growing role in Asia, SLAS recently announced the Third 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 in Chinese and English at  
The conference, which will be presented in English, is themed "Drug Discovery Science and Laboratory Technology." The keynote address, "Nano-flares for the Analysis of Circulating Cancer Cells," will be presented by Dr. Chad A. Mirkin, of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.  
Mirkin is the director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and Northwestern's George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, as well as being a professor of chemical and biological engineering, professor of biomedical engineering, professor of materials science and engineering and professor of medicine. He is a world-renowned nanoscience expert, according to SLAS, who is known for his development of spherical nucleic acid nanoparticle conjugates, nanoparticle-based biodetection schemes, the invention of Dip-Pen Nanolithography and contributions to supramolecular chemistry. He is the author of more than 500 manuscripts and 444 patents worldwide, and the founder of four companies that are commercializing nanotechnology applications in the life-science and semiconductor industries.  
On June 6 and 7, 26 speakers will make scientific presentations relating to five educational tracks at the Shanghai event: Screening for Novel Biological Mechanisms and Disease Targets; Translational Medicine Basic Research; Assay Development and Screening; Exploring Biological Systems Using Micro/Nano Technology; and Drug Discovery Science   Also, a special closing session will showcase presentations by four of the SLAS Innovation Award finalists from SLAS2013 in Orlando.

SLAS to honor four young scientists at SLAS2013
ORLANDO, Fla.—The SLAS Young Scientist Awards Program will honor achievement by four students at SLAS2013. Undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral students from around the world competed for these awards by authoring poster presentations that received top honors at 2012 events presented by allied scientific organizations, including the Institute of Food Technologists, European Laboratory Robotics Interest Group and MipTec.  
"Continued advancement of the laboratory science and technology field depends on new technologies, new ideas and new thought leaders," says SLAS President Dave Dorsett regarding the awards. "The SLAS Young Scientist Awards Program is one more example of how SLAS is working to reach out and develop the next generation of talent. Other examples include the SLAS Tony B. Academic Travel Awards program, SLAS Student Poster Competition, SLAS Career Connections program, SLAS Student Internship program and deeply discounted student memberships."   The SLAS Young Scientist Awards Program honorees are:  
Alexander Daschner and Kamran Honarnejad of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases at Ludwig-Maximilians- Universität in Munich, Germany, for "A Novel Multifactorial Drug Candidate for Alzheimer's Disease: High-Throughput Screening, Identification and Efficacy Characterization"
Aurore Lejeune of the Molecular Pharmacology Department, Cancer Research Technology Development Laboratory, at Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College London, England, for "A Novel Cell-Based Screening Approach for the Identification of FOXA 1 Pathway Inhibitors for the Treatment of Tamoxifen-Resistant Breast Cancer"
Lin Lu of the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, Hawaii, for "Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopic Technique with a Functionalized Microwire Sensor for Rapid Detection of Foodborne Pathogens"  
One award-winning student from each allied organization receives a $500 cash prize, round-trip airfare to SLAS2013, shared hotel accommodations and full conference registration. In addition, SLAS Young Scientist Award winners are invited to enter their work in the SLAS2013 Student Poster Competition.    

Exhibitors compete for SLAS New Product Award  
As many as three exhibiting companies will be honored by the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening with SLAS New Product Award (NPA) Designations for presenting new products that are judged to be exceptional at SLAS2013.
Each year, a panel of SLAS judges scrutinizes new products and services on display at the SLAS Exhibition and awards the SLAS NPA Designations. 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 annual SLAS conference and exhibition. Every new product is of interest to SLAS members," says SLAS President Dave Dorsett. "But some new technologies always stand out for being exceptionally innovative and inspiring. It's these game changers that are celebrated with SLAS New Product Award Designations."   

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

Entrepreneurial companies to be showcased on SLAS Innovation AveNEW  
ORLANDO, Fla.—Eight entrepreneurial start-up companies offering "inventive new products and services" have been named to SLAS Innovation AveNEW at SLAS2013, which is a special section located in Aisle 300 of the SLAS2013 exhibition.
SLAS Innovation AveNEW showcases a juried collection of startup companies that offer creative new solutions to the laboratory science and technology community. Up-and-coming companies from around the world compete for positions on SLAS Innovation AveNEW, and those whose applications are accepted receive complimentary exhibit space and accessories, travel and lodging for one company representative, the opportunity to make a presentation at the Late Night with LRIG Rapid Fire Innovation session at SLAS2013, and promotional visibility. At SLAS2013 in Orlando, SLAS Innovation AveNEW will present what it calls "eight promising new companies from three different countries," 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 new ways to build better mousetraps. Whether their labs are in college campuses, government agencies or corporate office buildings, SLAS provides a unique intersection for their multidisciplinary innovation," says SLAS President Dave Dorsett. "By presenting a highly regarded forum for the introduction of new technologies, 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)
    Code: E121229



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