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Driven and Dedicated: Fletcher, Tralau-Stewart and Young Join SLAS Board of Directors

With a tremendous wealth of life sciences experience spanning the globe, three new leaders join the SLAS Board of Directors with dreams for the Society and a willingness to do the hard work to achieve them. Alan Fletcher, Cathy Tralau-Stewart and Steve Young join the 2017 SLAS Board of Directors for three-year terms of service beginning at SLAS2017. They join six current members to guide the strategic direction for the six-year-old Society.

Fletcher is general manager, Discovery Instruments and Reagents, for PerkinElmer Discovery and Analytical Solutions (Hopkinton, MA). He brings more than 30 years of professional experience in the life sciences industry. With PerkinElmer since 2008, he has held previous positions in the U.S., Europe and Asia with GE Healthcare Life Sciences and Merck & Co. Fletcher earned a B.Sc. in biochemistry from Surrey University in the U.K. and a Ph.D. in biochemical pharmacology from the University of London.

Tralau-Stewart is associate director, Catalyst Accelerator Program and associate professor therapeutics at the University of California, San Francisco Clinical & Translational Science Institute (San Francisco, CA). She possesses more than 30 years of drug discovery experience across both industry and academia. In her current role since 2014, previous experience includes leadership positions with Imperial College London and GlaxoSmithKline. Tralau-Stewart earned a degree in biology/pharmacology from University of W. Midlands and a Ph.D. in clinical sciences from University College London.

Young is vice president, technology, at Arcus Biosciences (Hayward, CA). Young brings nearly 25 years of experience in science, technology and leadership to the SLAS Board. Prior to joining Arcus, Young held positions in the U.S. and Europe with Flexus Biosciences (FLX Bio), Amgen, Tularik, Roche UK and GlaxoSmithKline. Young earned a B.Sc. and Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Bristol and a diploma in business administration from the Open University.

 

Why did you become members of SLAS?

Fletcher: I joined the society in the mid 90s after being asked to establish high-throughput screening (HTS) at the Merck UK Neuroscience facility. The attraction of being able to access a network of like-minded scientists willing to share their experiences and leverage their collective knowledge is essential when you are starting off in the industry.

Tralau-Stewart: I am a relatively recent member of SLAS, having been involved in the conference for the last four years. It has become more obvious that SLAS has a growing role in the developing and important academic-industry space. Becoming a member opens up access to an expanding number of useful resources in the lab technologies space. I should have joined earlier!

Young: I joined the Society for Biomolecular Screening (SBS) at the start of my industrial career and continued my association through SLAS. My job in the early days was to develop and automate assays for HTS. The Society was, and remains, the preeminent place to meet technical experts and get exposure to rapidly evolving new screening technologies. The SLAS International Conference and Exhibition also is a big draw for the learning and networking opportunities that they afford me.

 

Why have you chosen to increase your involvement over the years, and what have you found most beneficial from your membership?

Fletcher: Having benefited significantly from the Society in my early membership years I jumped at the opportunity to return the favor through my initial role as an instructor in the Introduction to Automation Short Course in 1999. This was followed by two successive board tenures and a role as president-elect for SBS prior to the SLAS merger. The Society plays a pivotal role in bridging technology and science and enables me to stay current on new scientific and technology developments, which assists in my day job as a technology provider at PerkinElmer.

Tralau-Stewart: SLAS is becoming one of few societies that genuinely works to bring academia and industry together. I see this as crucial in translating innovation into reality for patient benefit. Being involved in SLAS is one way in which I contribute to this discussion.

Young: The Society has remained relevant to me and my drug discovery colleagues throughout the years even as the specializations it serves have evolved and expanded. Active participation has provided an opportunity to share the vocation I love with others as well as to build a great network of friends and experts.

 

How have your work backgrounds and life experiences in general prepared you to step into your new roles as board members?

Fletcher: The combination of my scientific background, my past experience on a non-profit board and my business experience from strategy and general management roles at PerkinElmer hopefully provide me with a good blend of skills to support the Society in driving its mission and enables me to make a significant contribution during my time on the Board.

Tralau-Stewart: By background, I am a drug discovery pharmacologist with 20 years of experience in industry and the last 10 years in translating academic drug discovery into industry standard clinical projects. My aim is to enable the effective translation of academic research into novel products that deliver for unmet medical needs. I have experience in both industry and academia in the U.K. and U.S. I currently run the University of California, San Francisco Catalyst accelerator. Developing academic-industry partnerships to advance all types of technologies (therapeutic, diagnostic, devices, digital) is essential to this process. I hope that I can use this experience to the benefit of the SLAS Board and specifically to move forward how SLAS supports the development of academic industry partnerships.

Young: I have been privileged to spend a lot of time developing assays and assembling automated assay platforms, both for small molecule drug discovery and in the context of genomic screening. The opportunity to set strategic direction in these arenas at Roche, Amgen, Flexus and now Arcus has taught me a great deal and given me a tremendous passion for sharing the potential of assay technologies, automation and screening.

 

As newly elected board members, how do you see yourselves contributing to the SLAS purpose of advancing life sciences discovery and technology via education, knowledge exchange and global community building?

Fletcher: I believe that the founding principle of the Society is to provide a unique forum for the sharing of knowledge and experience. Having spent many years in both industry and on the commercial side of life sciences, I have come to understand the strategy and techniques needed to disseminate information rapidly and effectively to a global audience to enable the Society to expand its education to members in all countries around the world.

Tralau-Stewart: Education is a key role of SLAS, whether this relates to students or the continuing education of all involved scientists. In the academic-industry space, scientists of all backgrounds stand to gain significantly by understanding the different viewpoints, approaches, terminologies and skill sets. Developing this common understanding will enable effective technology translation and I will be looking for ways that I can contribute to the development of this common understanding within our growing academic-industry community and the general public.

Young: The strong educational mission of the Society has tremendous appeal to me. Everyone benefits from sharing their scientific and technical experience with others and I am looking forward to increased opportunities to do this. I am enthusiastic about contributing to the organization of the SLAS International Conference and associated short courses. I have a particular affinity for SLAS Webinars for the convenient access they give to expert material and hope we can further expand their reach and audience.

What is most exciting to you about taking on this new responsibility?

Fletcher: My daily responsibilities over the past few years have prevented me from having the time to be more than a passive member of the Society so I am excited about the opportunity to get more hands on and work with the SLAS leadership to contribute to the continued success of the organization.

Tralau-Stewart: I am excited to be involved in the development of the future strategy of SLAS. In particular, I hope that I can contribute to the academic/industry and U.K./U.S. discussions. I believe that SLAS can further develop its footprint and contribute to how we develop all types of innovative life sciences technologies to ultimately benefit patients and healthcare.

Young: As I write this, I am especially looking forward to SLAS2017 in Washington, DC in February. I am thrilled both for the opportunity to connect with the other Board members and for the time I hope to spend in the Exhibition, renewing acquaintances, checking out new technology and reconsidering the landscape from the perspective of my new role.

 

Where do you see SLAS making the greatest impact in the next two years? The next five years?

Fletcher: I believe there is an ideal opportunity to expand the reach of the Society to Europe and Asia Pacific and to provide an interface between academia and industry for the sharing of novel workflow concepts, especially in the area of translational medicine. The increasing trends for platform technologies to translate from research to clinical and the requirement to provide more clinically relevant data in a pre-clinical environment requires a different approach to drug discovery and I believe the Society is perfectly placed to bring together the innovators who can make this change happen.

Tralau-Stewart: I believe that SLAS can make a real impact in uniting both academic and industry scientific researchers in conversation about effectively reducing innovation into practice. I hope that over the next five years SLAS can expand both its academic and industry recognition and become one of the foremost discussion arenas for technology translation.

Young: In addition to expanding our reach in Europe and more broadly, the SLAS and its precursor societies have always been at the forefront of generating and analyzing large data sets. I think the next two to five years will see enormous advances in our ability to perform and leverage large data set statistics and meta-analyses and I think that the SLAS is the perfect vehicle to advance this field.

 

What would you tell someone who is considering becoming a member of SLAS?

Fletcher: This is the only society that brings together multidisciplined scientists from both research and commercial backgrounds in a forum of collective knowledge sharing. It provides a unique opportunity to network with some of the best minds in the industry and to keep abreast of the latest technology applications and advancements.

Tralau-Stewart: SLAS is an excellent environment in which to access the forefront of technology translation and innovation from all vantages. There is no other society or conference or journal that encompasses this particular niche of the life sciences ecosystem.

Young: Just do it – you won’t regret it! Go one step further and sign up for the next SLAS conference. The benefits for your professional development and the expansion of your network of like-minded technologists and researchers will exceed expectations.

 

What does the Society’s tagline – Come Transform Research – mean to you?

Fletcher: It represents the foundations on which the society is built. The ability to bring together science and technology in an innovative and rapid manner to facilitate the advancement of drug development and the discovery of novel disease cures.

Tralau-Stewart: Research by its nature has to be continually moving forward and transforming to develop technologies that improve how we address unmet medical need. ‘Come Transform Research’ encompasses the need to keep moving forward and developing new approaches to therapeutics and diagnostics that deliver improvements to patients.

Young: Efficiency, effectiveness, reproducibility and robustness. In other words, it conveys to me the opportunity to combine integrated robotic laboratory systems with automated computational data processing and presentation systems and mix in rigorous analysis to take traditional research to the next level; more data, more reliably, faster and with an enhanced human interface.

 

When not involved in work or SLAS activities, how do you like to spend your time?

Fletcher: I am married with two college aged boys (19 and 22) who have fortunately inherited my passion for sports. I am a keen golfer and have recently joined our local course in Acton, MA, in the hope of hitting the fairways on a more regular basis in 2017. Being born in the U.K. I am a lifelong supporter of the Queens Park Rangers and use every opportunity when in Europe to indulge my passion and attend a game. My wife and I also are enjoying our empty nest status and have used the opportunity to travel, including spending the majority of 2016 living in Shanghai (courtesy of my job) and exploring Asia Pacific.

Tralau-StewartI am actively involved in the Californian and U.K. life sciences ecosystems, supporting academic projects and biotech start-ups in advisory roles. I love exploring the California beaches and travel with my family in Europe and U.S. whenever possible.

Young: Traveling or spending time in the mountains with my wife, riding my bicycle or performing never-ending repairs on my Jeep Wrangler.

 

Is there anything else you would like SLAS members to know about you?

Fletcher: Having now worked and lived on three continents over the past 15 years, I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with the Board and the Society.

Tralau-Stewart: I believe in the power of multidisciplinary teams of scientists working together to change the world for the better. Partnership is a key component of this. I look forward to working with the SLAS Board to support these approaches and to meeting many of you.

Young: I’m based in coastal California but I love and miss real winters so I try to get out to the Sierras and the northern states at every opportunity during the cold months. I don’t do as much scientific reading as I would like on a routine basis and sitting by the fire on a snowy evening is where I try and catch up…!

January 30, 2017