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Accelerating Excellence in Life Sciences Discovery & Technology: The 2015 SLAS Annual Report

 

By SLAS CEO Gregory F. Dummer, CAE

 

SLAS is a collaborative community that brings together creative visionaries and fearless pioneers whose ingenuity and innovation are reshaping the world and changing the way we think. SLAS members are some of today's most accomplished scholars, scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs. They're creative problem solvers, collaborators and over-achievers. They celebrate their diversity and find a provocative home base in SLAS. I invite you to meet some of them.

 

SLAS members gather at the confluence of life sciences discovery and technology. It's here that sparks fly and great things happen through high-quality education and open-minded collaboration between different scientific disciplines and market sectors.

SLAS fosters this creative combustion with timely educational opportunities for individuals and their organizations to advance their knowledge, their careers and their market shares. From its annual international flagship conference and exhibition to its rigorously peer-reviewed scientific journals, webinars, regional events, information centers, network-building channels and personalized career services, SLAS strives to be the resource of first choice for successful life sciences professionals.

"We are building a completely automated synthetic biology research building. It will be interesting to see what we can do at this next technology step. I could not have progressed on to such an interesting project without SLAS." – SLAS member Stephen R. Hughes, USDA, ARS, NCAUR; and member of the Journal of Laboratory Automation Editorial Board

 

Influential Firsts in 2015

The year began with a mission-focused $1 million commitment to a new SLAS Educational Fund. Established to empower and engage the next generation of scientific leaders, the first major program launched by this fund was the SLAS Graduate Education Fellowship Grant Program for outstanding students pursuing advanced degrees in quantitative biosciences and/or life sciences R&D. Applications for this program's first two-year award of $100,000 were due in October 2015 and 24 very compelling proposals were received from prestigious universities and institutions around the world. One award recipient will be announced in April 2016.

The new SLAS Educational Fund and SLAS Graduate Education Fellowship Grant Program complements the more than $150,000 that the Society allocates annually to underwrite participation at the annual SLAS International Conference and Exhibition by way of the Tony B. Academic Travel Awards, student-focused conference programming, deeply discounted membership rates and journal access, career services and related skills development.

"We want those students with a proven track record of sustained, innovative, creative work with the potential to make a really big impact in the field in the next 10 to 15 years." – SLAS member Susan M. Lunte, Ph.D., University of Kansas; and chair of the SLAS Education Fellowship Grant Review Panel.

Another big first in 2015 was the SLAS Leadership Forum. Presented in conjunction with SLAS2015, this VIP invitation-only event featuring a moderated panel discussion attracted senior life sciences discovery and technology experts to share perspectives on the U.S. Biomedical Research Model. The discussion centered around current and emerging alternatives for funding innovative research; providing new opportunities for young scientists entering the field; and fostering collaborations among industry, academia and government for mutual benefit and for the advancement of life sciences research.

"One of the attributes that I value the most about SLAS is its strategy to be ever evolving. SLAS is not just simply geared toward hosting an annual conference and exhibition. It has established mechanisms to bring scientists together and educate them in novel approaches and mindsets. SLAS is reflective and seeks to understand gaps in our field and address them by building new committees, setting up new educational opportunities and constantly re-assessing its offerings to make sure they bring value and are aligned with current needs." – SLAS member Michele Cleary, Bristol-Myers Squibb; and member of the SLAS Board of Directors

At the grassroots level, the SLAS Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and their online forums at LinkedIn were reorganized to better facilitate ongoing real-time communication among like-minded members throughout the Americas and Europe. In addition to meeting face-to-face at SLAS conferences, SLAS SIG members actively use these 17 different online forums at LinkedIn to explore shared priorities and think collectively about mutual challenges.

"In the last few years, there has been a sea change in how people think about pre-competitive research, sharing best practices and helping those who someday might be competitors. They want to collaborate to waste less time and money." – SLAS member Michelle Arkin, University of California, San Francisco, SLAS2016 Drug Target Strategies track chair, JBS author and SLAS2018 co-chair

Face-to-Face in 2015

With an eye on the horizon and an ear to the ground, SLAS is a proven leader in identifying, embracing and sharing new trends and rising tides. The immediacy of new ideas comes to life at SLAS conferences where in 2015, nearly 7,000 individual scientists gathered at different venues around the world to talk face-to-face about their most pressing priorities and promising opportunities.

In February, SLAS2015, the flagship SLAS International Conference and Exhibition, put the annual calendar of events into motion by exceeding all expectations during its first-ever visit to Washington, DC. SLAS2015 welcomed high-profile keynote speakers, among them Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; sensationally celebrated the community at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; and delivered a powerhouse line-up of fresh and informative podium and poster presentations from around the world, short courses, special sessions, exhibitor tutorials, career services and an extensive exhibition showcasing advances in science and technology.

From a short-list of 10 impressive finalists, 2015 SLAS Innovation Award winner Jonathan Wingfield of AstraZeneca earned top honors and $10,000 for his presentation on Novel Acoustic Loading of a Mass Spectrometer - Towards Next Generation High Throughput MS Screening. Other individuals and companies were celebrated for their achievements as student poster presenters, promising start-up companies and manufacturers of impressive new products. 56 students from 12 countries earned invitations to share their scientific achievements, including Armin Nourani, the first-ever undergraduate to make a podium presentation at an SLAS conference.

For post-conference on-demand reference by SLAS members, 10 select SLAS2015 podium presentations were recorded and published at SLAS.org, including the 2015 SLAS Innovation Award-winning presentation by Jonathan Wingfield, which was made freely available to the public thanks to the generosity of Labcyte Inc. The SLAS2015 ePoster Gallery and Scientific Abstract Compendium also remain online for SLAS members to study at their convenience.

Adding power and perspective to the SLAS2015 educational menu were program contributions from SLAS Strategic Alliance Partners, related scientific organizations that included the American Chemical Society (ACS), F.I.R.S.T., International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER), Laboratory Production Association (LPA), Laboratory Research Information Group (LRIG) and the Society of Biomolecular Imaging and Informatics (SBI2). SLAS2015 also received greatly appreciated support and involvement from more than 50 sponsors and media partners, including premier sponsor Hamilton Company.

"Being a poster winner is a great way to get feedback on your work from the leading people in the industry who I would not otherwise meet. Winning the poster competition has allowed me to meet people in the SLAS community and expand my network. It also has boosted my confidence. It's great to be recognized for my long hours at the bench." – SLAS member Juwina Wijaya, University of California, Los Angeles, SLAS2015 Tony B. Academic Travel Award winner and SLAS2015 Student Poster Competition winner

SLAS gained traction and new ground in Europe in 2015, mobilizing its members to step up and into new educational leadership opportunities via the SLAS Conference on Compound Management in Industry and Academia in March in Germany; Nordic Chemical Biology Meeting in May in Sweden; Cutting-Edge Technologies for Target Validation Conference in May in Scotland; and the Spanish Drug Discovery Network in November in Spain. SLAS also contributed to the educational programs at the European Laboratory Robotics Interest Group in the UK and MipTec in Switzerland in September.

"My ambition is to see SLAS Europe on solid footing by supporting these events and other activities that are adding value to European bioscience while enhancing the reputation and increasing awareness of SLAS across the European community." – SLAS member Steve Rees, B.Sc., AstraZeneca and SLAS Europe Council member

In Asia, SLAS brought the scientific community together to network and learn via two half-day scientific seminars and the two-day SLAS Asia Conference and Exhibition in China. SLAS also partnered with SAGE Publications, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and the National University of Singapore to conduct author workshops to prepare students for success in publishing their scientific achievements.

Celebrating 20 Years of Scientific Innovation in 2015

The Journal of Biomolecular Screening (JBS) and Journal of Laboratory Automation (JALA) began their 20th year of publication in 2015 with more than 23,000 pages of peer-reviewed scientific content in their online archives. In 2014, those pages were accessed 1,673,098 times by scientists from 172 countries; 444,679 papers were downloaded and total citations surpassed 15,000.

The value of JALA and JBS as central resources for life sciences discovery and technology achievements was further evidenced by five well received and highly regarded special issues in 2015. JBS launched with a special issue on Novel Therapeutic Approaches for Neglected Infectious Diseases, which was made publicly available online for free thanks to generous support from the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). Following that, a special issue on Therapeutic Antibody Discovery and Development rounded out the JBS editorial calendar year.

JALA welcomed the new year with a two-part special issue focused on Microengineered Cell- and Tissue-Based Assays for Drug Screening and Toxicology Applications; followed by an issue on New Developments in Biosensing Technologies; and through a unique collaboration, published a third issue of New Developments in Global Health and In Vitro Diagnostic Technology Reviews from the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences.

"Participating as a special issue guest editor was an opportunity to see what was beyond what we do in the early stages of drug discovery in the lab and learn how a journal is put together. It's hard to believe it was a year in the making." – SLAS member Joseph G. McGivern, Ph.D., Amgen and guest editor of the JBS Special Issue on Therapeutic Antibody Discovery and Development

New Dimensions On-Demand at SLAS.org in 2015

The SLAS Webinar series continued to build its platform in 2015, presenting six live, one-hour scientific presentations addressing topics related to gene editing, mass spectrometry, synthetic biology, circulating tumor cells and biomolecular data exchange. By year end, more than 50 recorded SLAS Webinars were available for on-demand viewing and archival reference by SLAS members.

The MarketPlace at SLAS.org experienced a complete overhaul in 2015. The new, responsive design of this online life sciences R&D products and services directory became cleaner, faster, easier-to-read and mobile-friendly. This time-saving resource now provides SLAS members and life sciences professionals in general with immediate access to helpful information about hundreds of technology companies, products and services; and is searchable by keyword, category, company name, personal contact name and/or geography.

SLAS.org continued to thrive in service of SLAS members throughout 2015, offering a panoply of resources ranging from the high profile SLAS LabAutopedia wiki and SLAS Career Connections programs to information, news and announcements about membership, conferences and events, journal news, awards and grants. SLAS.org also served as a convenient first stop portal for more than 20,000 friends, fans and followers of SLAS on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

While the weekly SLAS Point-to-Point and monthly SLAS Euro Point-to-Point e-news briefs kept SLAS members informed of Society news and announcements, the SLAS Electronic Laboratory Neighborhood e-zine brought the community to life with real stories by and about real people. From Singapore to Seattle to Stockholm, eager post-docs, seasoned Nobel Laureates, and those who worked diligently at benchtops and in classrooms shared their ideas, hopes and fears in this friendly and informative neighborhood. The top five most popular SLAS ELN stories in 2015 included:

Microfluidic Diagnostics at the Point of Care: The Power of Paper

The New Future of Phenotypic Drug Discovery

Flow Cytometry Powers High-Throughput Screening Advances

Labware Leachables: Unrecognized Contaminants Skew Research Results

Drug Repurposing: Helping Companies Expand Treatment Options for Patients and Recoup Investments

 

 

"SLAS represents a diverse membership. If I have a question that's more related to commercial products, someone such as former SLAS Board Member Frank Fan is so approachable and his opinion is invaluable. And I can't say how many times I have called SLAS Past President Dan Sipes to get his opinion on technology. He also shares with us the products he is evaluating. I feel that there's real insight, access and information that is practical from SLAS members. I have learned so much from them on all levels." – SLAS member Robyn Rourick, Genentech and former SLAS Treasurer

 

Membership and Leadership in 2015

Where SLAS Members Live and Work

SLAS ended 2015 on a high note with 27,514 members and stakeholders in 115 countries.

Valued Volunteer Leadership

SLAS is a membership organization that's driven by the vision and energy of some members for the benefit of all members. It is member knowledge that fills the pages of its journals and the agendas of its conferences and webinars; and it is member time and talent that get those jobs done.

At the heart of SLAS's success is its commitment to a healthy rotation of thoughtful volunteer leaders and decision makers from throughout the community. Members of advisory committees, task forces and editorial boards as well as members of the SLAS Board of Directors and Councils serve for limited terms to ensure new and different voices continue to be heard.

Members of the SLAS Board of Directors serve three-year terms of service, and those who completed their tenure in 2015 were:

Josh Bittker
The Broad Institute
Cambridge, MA

Rich Ellson
Labcyte Inc.
Sunnyvale, CA

Dean Ho
University of California
Los Angeles, CA

Joining the SLAS Board of Directors for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are:

Peter Grandsard
Amgen
Thousand Oaks, CA
USA

Ian Shuttler
Tecan
Mannedorf
Switzerland

Sabeth Verpoorte
University of Groningen
Groningen
The Netherlands

Members of the SLAS Americas Council also serve three-year terms, and those who completed their tenure in 2015 were:

Ellen Berg, BioSeek, DiscoveRx, South San Francisco, CA, USA
John Thomas Bradshaw, ARTEL, Westbrook, ME, USA

As a result of the first-ever vote of the membership, joining the SLAS Americas Council for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are:

Neal Cosby, Promega, Sunnyvale, CA, USA
Andrea Weston, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Wallingford, CT, USA

Members of the SLAS Europe Council serve three-year terms as well, and those who completed their tenure in 2015 were:

Ian Shuttler, Tecan, Switzerland
Joerg Trappe, Novartis, Switzerland

As a result of the second annual vote of the membership, joining the SLAS Europe Council for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are:

Philip Gribbon, Fraunhofer, Germany
Christian Parker, Novartis, Switzerland

In 2015 SLAS re-engineered its strategy for opportunities in the Asia Pacific region by diversifying and extending its educational reach and impact beyond China, and increasing focus and activity in Singapore, Japan and South Korea. With the adoption of these new plans and priorities, the roles of the SLAS Asia Council and Shanghai professional team were retired. These Council members completed distinguished service in 2015:

Jonathan Connick, Merck, Shanghai, China
Bin Li, Vice Chair, AbbVie China R&D Center, Shanghai, China
Shuyi Si, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China
Bing Xie, Cisbio Bioassays, Shanghai, China
Ying Yang, LBD Life Sciences, Shanghai, China
Lixin Zhang, Chair, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Mike Zhang, BD Biosciences, Shanghai, China

Behind-the-Scenes in 2015

As a virtual organization, the SLAS technology infrastructure is to a large degree the engine that drives the many programs, products, services and events upon which SLAS members rely. With a commitment to continuous quality improvement, efficiency and expense management, a new voice over IP telephone system was installed; a new event registration services partner was selected; and the functionality of the membership database was further enhanced to improve member services, performance and reporting.

Steady Stewardship
SLAS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit scientific organization whose mission is squarely focused on education. Its stakeholders are its members who pay dues; participate; and contribute to its many different programs, products, services and events. On their behalf, SLAS is committed to carefully and conservatively managing its resources to ensure organizational stability, operational excellence, and sound investments in growth and development to benefit members as well as the organization.

This past year, SLAS maintained careful attention to detail and careful expense management, enabling it to achieve better than budgeted 2014-15 year-end results with appreciable net returns in its operating and reserve funds.

2014-2015 Revenue

Where the Money Came From

2014-2015 Expenses

Where the Money Went

What We're Worth

At June 30, 2015, SLAS had net assets of $7,090,000 of which $6,022,000 were designated as reserves by the SLAS Board of Directors.

December 28, 2015