If the pharmaceutical workplace model were a shapely wedge of clay ready to be retooled, contract organizations might be the hands that create its next form. How will science professionals cope with the transition of their roles and the transfer of technology to these core components of a decentralized model?
It's about the tools. Underwater discovery has been fascinating explorers for years but the risks to personal safety, costs to dive and time commitments so high it hindered progress. Enter SLAS2012 Keynote Speaker Bob Ballard and his amazing team of scientists, technologists and plain old big thinkers. Add a remotely operated vehicle or two and incredibly powerful Internet capabilities and the game is completely different. It is played on man's terms and much of it happens above water.
Epigenetics. You can hardly glance at the scientific literature – and even mainstream media – without seeing something about epigenetics pop up. A simple Google search turns up more than 3 million entries. It has been heralded by most as "so much larger than the genome space." But, what does epigenetics mean to SLAS members involved in laboratory science and technology?
"Drug toxicity is one of the most common reasons why promising compounds fail. We need to know which ones are safe and effective much earlier on in the process. This is an unprecedented opportunity to speed development of effective therapies, while saving time and money." – Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director, National Institutes of Health (NIH News, September 16, 2011)
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) calls the process of translating basic research into a viable product the "Valley of Death." They define it as the period of transition when a developing technology is seen as promising, but is too new to validate its commercial potential and unable to attract the necessary funding for its continued development.
She compares her job to a stage performance: Capturing the audience, inspiring their imaginations, putting in a bit of sparkle so they will share her vision. Like a performer, she will travel thousands of miles and entertain many audiences before the year is over. Like a great actor, she will smile through life's challenges, including removing her shoes through one more airport security check.
It's fair to say that currently, the majority of SLAS's 15,000+ members are working in drug discovery and/or drug development in pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, academia and government. However, a growing percentage of the membership is made up of scientists and laboratory automation specialists who are forging careers in other industries—notably, clinical diagnostics, food and agricultural sciences, forensics and security sciences, petrochemical and energy and even consumer products.
Kamlesh Patel, Ph.D., is currently the department manager for the Advance Systems Engineering and Deployment group at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, CA. At LabAutomation2011, he won the SLAS Innovation Award for his outstanding podium presentation, "Preparation of Nucleic Acid Libraries for Ultra High-Throughput Sequencing with a Digital Microfluidic Hub." He serves SLAS2012 as both a session and track chair.
"Today the most exciting work in life sciences, engineering, and management is happening in the biosciences industry. To translate new discoveries into applications that improve the human condition, industry demands a new kind of professional - scientifically proficient and managerially savvy." – Keck Graduate Institute
Different angles. Varying approaches. Deep-thinking. Exploring any and all possibilities. The selection of valuable chemotypes from the expanse of known chemical space is a primary activity for all pharmaceutical institutions. Many strategies have been used to accomplish this task.
Let's remember and celebrate a very special person – James N. Little.
The world is in the midst of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011), a global "celebration of the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind." An initiative of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the year-long celebration involves chemical societies, academies and institutions worldwide and is aimed at promoting international scientific collaboration. In support of IYC 2011, close to 100 countries registered more than 600 events and 1,200 activities.
SLAS is committed to being a member-driven scientific society. The strength of its active grassroots network is what gives SLAS such a meaningful grip on strategic direction and priorities. Everything from conference programs and events to journal content and newsletters uses the needs and wants of the SLAS scientific community as the compass that guides focus and development.
"Genomics has certainly been overhyped – and so far failed to deliver on its promises. Many intelligent people have relegated the idea to the dusty corner shared by hopes for cold fusion, world peace and World Series rings for the Chicago Cubs," writes the author of a recent Forbes article, "Gene Machine." But while some people pooh-pooh the potential payoffs of genomic sequencing, others are working hard to help make them happen – but in so doing, have identified some formidable obstacles.
Drug discovery takes a long time. Most readers of the SLAS Electronic Laboratory Neighborhood would agree with the statement above. No surprises there. But, those working in the ion channel field might also add – we’re moving faster than we did just a few years back.
Robert M. Campbell, Ph.D., is senior research advisor at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, IN, where he heads the Cancer Cell Growth and Epigenetics Group. He recently spent two-and-a-half years in Singapore, directing an oncology research group for Lilly. Campbell serves SLAS as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biomolecular Screening, a position he has enjoyed for three years.
Defining translational medicine isn't easy. According to some experts, the term has almost as many definitions as practitioners. "It reminds me of the story about the blind men and elephant; people tend to define translation as their part of drug development," Edward Spack of SRI International joked in the "Career Advice" section of Science magazine several years ago. "Speak to anybody from any company or academic institution and they'll have a new focus on it and a host of names," observed Trevor Mundel of Novartis in the same article. Indeed, the field is so huge, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) now has an entire journal devoted to translational medicine.
In May 2011, SLAS sent a delegation of guest speakers to address laboratory science and technology issues as part of the Pharma+Bio educational program presented at the 2011 ChemTECH World Expo in Mumbai, India. This important annual event traditionally focuses on pharmaceutical manufacturing topics. SLAS was invited to participate in 2011 to assist the ChemTECH Foundation in expanding its scope to include pharmaceutical research and development.
Andy Zaayenga is vice president of business development at HighRes Biosolutions, a company focused on the design and construction of innovative robotic systems and laboratory devices used by pharmaceutical and biotech companies and academic research laboratories. Prior to joining HighRes Biosolutions in December 2009, Zaayenga held senior management positions at SmarterLab, Tecan REMP, TekCel (Hamilton Storage Technologies) and Zymark (Caliper Life Sciences). He has been involved in laboratory automation since 1989. Zaayenga currently serves SLAS as secretary and also is active in the Laboratory Robotics Interest Group (LRIG) and the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) among others.
Much has happened in the field of stem cell research. In fact, we’ve recently moved past the honeymoon stage, during which, in our unbridled enthusiasm, we felt as though stem cells could solve everything from early stage drug-discovery mistakes to full-blown disease states. Now we’re in the stage where it’s obvious that stem cells have tremendous promise in a number of different areas, but we also recognize that it will take much more time and work before that promise can be fully realized.