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SLAS Education: Moving with the Times and the Targets

The educational priorities of SLAS members are a bit like shifting sands. There was a time when the Zymate 1 transformed the analytical laboratory which led to incredible advances in laboratory automation.  Decades later scientists using cutting edge technology mapped the human genome. Since then, topics like 3D cell culture, gene-editing, personalized medicine and super resolution microscopy have risen to the top of many great minds.

By Scott Atkin

Because SLAS is a member-focused and member-led society, we continually align and refine our educational programs to meet the evolving interests and challenges of the people on the frontlines of basic and applied life sciences discovery and technology. Our members’ voices determine the direction we take with our programs, products, services and events.

Because of our thirst for knowledge and our focus on the cutting edge, our interests tend to morph – sometimes slowly and subtly; sometimes quickly and dramatically. The editorial scope of the journals is one example of how SLAS has responded to this ongoing evolution. Another great example can be found in the educational tracks that anchor our annual SLAS International Conferences and Exhibitions.

Each year, the volunteers who serve on the SLAS Scientific Program Advisory Committee evaluate reams of data coming primarily from member and conference attendee feedback. They apply their own good judgment and experience as practicing scientists to thoughtfully refresh and refine the context within which podium and poster presentations are solicited and organized. Sometimes this process results in a track being retired after its focus becomes commonplace and interest fades (remember peptide synthesizers?); other times this process results in a new track being introduced to capture growing interest in new areas of scientific opportunity (say hello to micro- and nanotechnologies!); and sometimes some things just keep on keeping on (kudos to the Z-Factor!). The number of presentations featured within in each track also shift from year to year, expanding or contracting to accommodate growing or shrinking member/attendee demand.

After much diligence, the SLAS Scientific Program Advisory Committee is launching three new educational tracks at SLAS2018:

Biologics Discovery – This track focuses on biotherapeutic discovery, biorepositories, cell lines, cultures and tissues - technologies, platforms, methods, IPS cells, quality control, reagent authentication, characterization, reproducibility and standardization of biological experimentation and screening biologics

High-Definition Biology – This track comprises the application of microfluidic, optical and molecular tools in disease biology, diagnostics, screening and translational medicine. Presentations emphasize state-of-the-art quantitative approaches in both simple cellular systems and complex tissues to enable multiparametric studies that reveal the interplay of genetics, disease and therapeutic opportunities; and move personalized medicine forward. Topics include the latest specialized engineering and assay technologies, including single-cell and sequencing-based approaches, and cutting-edge application and disease areas including immuno-oncology.

Chemical Biology – This track tackles the challenges of addressing targets with small molecules, including validation of targets using tool molecules and proof of target engagement through appropriate biomarker identification. Additionally, this track showcases advances in library design, keeping libraries current and DNA-encoded libraries. 

These topics have been on the SLAS Scientific Program Advisory Committee’s radar for a few years; the addition has been openly discussed, debated and validated with the membership. Related presentations have been delivered at past conferences, and because they were met with high demand and positive feedback, they’re now being officially integrated into the education program.

The SLAS2018 Program Committee is now accepting podium and poster presentation abstracts for these and seven other tracks: Assay Development and Screening; Automation and High-Throughput Technologies; Advances in Bioanalytics and Biomarkers; Cellular Technologies; Data Analysis and Informatics; Drug Target Strategies; and Micro- and Nanotechnologies.

I sincerely hope you and your colleagues will consider sharing your scientific advancements at SLAS2018. Submit podium abstracts before Aug. 7, 2017. Poster abstracts will be accepted through Jan. 22, 2018. Students interested in applying for SLAS Tony B. Academic Travel Awards must submit podium abstracts by Aug. 7 and poster abstracts by Oct. 30.

May 22, 2017