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On the Road with SLAS CEO

About this Blog

This blog chronicles my travels as CEO of SLAS, a global professional society dedicated to advancing life sciences discovery and technology. In addition to getting to know me better on a personal level, my goal for this blog is to shine a spotlight on SLAS members and their unique stories and experiences. Opinions expressed within this blog are mine (Vicki Loise) and do not represent those of the Society. And yes, our lawyer told me to include that.


October 16, 2017 — California, USA

California, Here I Come!

About the Trip

Miles logged on this trip: 4,305

Planes, trains or automobiles?: Planes and automobiles

Road food: Hand-rolled sushi in Amgen’s cafeteria — swanky!

Entertainment: Hmm, not so much entertainment on this trip. It’s budget and board meeting prep time.

This week I spent a few days traveling through California. In three days, I was able to interact with all three types of SLAS members — academic, tech provider and technology user.

My first stop was in Thousand Oaks where I spent the day at Amgen. Thank you to Peter Grandsard for serving as my host. Peter, by the way, is an outstanding teacher. He has been a short course instructor and during my visit he provided me with an overview of therapeutics discovery and development over breakfast – enjoyed outside in the shaded foothills of southern California. Not a bad way to start a Tuesday.

The highlight of this visit was the tour of Amgen’s RAT Lab. RAT is Amgen’s Research Automation Technology Lab and where they design and create automation solutions for Amgen’s drug discovery process. There are some amazing things going on in this lab. One of the most interesting things I saw while in the RAT Lab was Amgen’s….oops, proprietary stuff. Watch for an announcement once the patent is approved. Thank you Mike Berke, Craig Schultz and Justin Provechy for giving me an early preview of some impressive technology still in its-developmental stage.

Next, I headed north to the Bay area where my first stop was a visit with Cathy Tralau-Stewart who is the director of Catalyst at the UCSF School of Medicine. Cathy and I spent most of our time talking about the launch of SLAS Ignite. Cathy serves on the task force for the SLAS Ignite Academic Theater Presentations and has been a strong supporter of SLAS offering options and resources to spark innovation among our community. The first phase of Ignite includes the opportunity for academics to present research ready for collaboration and a new tool which will allow conference attendees to set up one-on-one meetings with each other.

A little drive south and I was at Arcus Biosciences. Steve Young, Arcus VP of Technology was kind enough to give me the full tour of Arcus’s labs and show off their work in cancer immunotherapies and growth over the past 18 months. It is an impressive and fast-growing company with a constant need for automation.

And my last stop was at the new Labcyte headquarters just outside of San Jose. This was a great opportunity for me to learn about the birth of a technology - Labcyte’s Echo - and its evolution over time. It was also my chance to hear Labcyte’s story and how instrumental SLAS has been to that company’s growth. SLAS podium presentations and journals were critical resources for Labcyte to tap into in the early years – and still are key. We’ll hear about the next chapter of their story at SLAS2018. As as an association CEO, there is nothing more rewarding to learn than that your Society played an instrumental role in a company’s and its products success. Thank you Rich Ellson!

Finally, the wild fires in northern California were raging while I was touring the Golden State. The smoke had drifted as far south as San Jose and the stories and pictures in the news were devastating. Our thoughts are with everyone who was affected by the fires. We know the recovery will be long and difficult and we are here to support our community in any way we can.

Next up, Massachusetts and Maine