"We are all tasked with finding new drugs that can differentiate our companies and provide real benefit to patients," says John Joslin, research investigator at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), San Diego, CA. "To do so, we need to establish biologically relevant screening assays for our high-throughput screening campaigns. However, increasing the biological relevance leads to more complex biology that requires new methodologies for lead identification and our screening systems must evolve to meet this challenge."
Early on in his scientific training, SLAS member Lorenz Mayr, Ph.D., learned to let the data speak for itself. Be precise about interpretation, but don't over-analyze. Most importantly he learned that it is never OK to be "about right" – you have to be absolutely right before you submit work for publication.
Special issues published by the Journal of Biomolecular Screening (JBS) and the Journal of Laboratory Automation (JALA) represent hallmarks of important achievement by SLAS and its members, especially those whose sweat equity make them such meaningful and memorable successes. Two JALA guest editors share their recent experiences and demonstrate how personal passion fuels the SLAS Spirit of Community.
Recent high school graduate Cynthia Yin is a well-rounded student who has a great mind for science, a gift for music and a mean game of golf. This class valedictorian excels in many areas of life and has a wall of awards to prove it, including an SLAS Tony B. Academic Travel Award. Her greatest accomplishment, however, is seeking opportunity and using it to advance her knowledge.
Compared with trying to discover and develop a novel compound from scratch, repurposing an approved drug saves time and money. It might be for a different indication or to rescue a candidate drug that may have failed in early trials and developing it to treat a different condition. Repurposing also carries less risk to companies and to patients, according to SLAS Drug Repurposing SIG Co-chairs Roger Bosse, Ph.D., senior global product leader for PerkinElmer, Life Sciences & Technology and Mathieu Arcand, Ph.D., co-founder of Biopra.
"Although high-throughput screening has been going on for almost two decades, only now are substantial public datasets emerging and being made available for cross analysis—and they're large enough and well annotated enough to make a difference in our work," says Paul Clemons, Ph.D., director, Computational Chemical Biology Research at the Broad Institute.
Working in a channel that is 60,000 times smaller than a human hair, SLAS member Sumita Pennathur, Ph.D., is doing big work on a nano scale. Can she save the world moving one molecule at a time?
How does one seed a conservative science environment with new technology, particularly one that replaces a tool as basic as the lab coat? By being an active part of the community, listening to the challenges faced by its members and contributing to collaborative efforts.
"I'm passionate about global health, about my own research to develop technologies for use in resource-limited settings, as well as the work that others are doing to improve the lives of people in developing countries," says Peter Lillehoj, Ph.D., of Michigan State University in East Lansing. That passion motivated Lillehoj to serve as guest editor of a 2014 special issue of the Journal of Laboratory Automation (JALA) on New Developments in Global Health Technologies.
A recent Ph.D. has had three interviews in the last month. She shared that she heard back from her second most promising interview at a start-up company: "the people from HR just contacted me. They let me know that they have chosen another person."
Two researchers who are working on projects with implications for different aspects of drug discovery reveal their motivations for using 3D printing in the laboratory. They are inspired not only by the challenge of doing innovative science, but also by the opportunity to make their work accessible to scientists around the world.
SLAS members Anne Marie Quinn and Thomas Hughes carved a place for their company, Montana Molecular, far from the biotech hubs that launched their careers. The company put down roots on Quinn's vision that the tools of science drive progress and the scientists who adopt those tools early have a professional advantage.
One small step: entering a poster contest. One giant leap: exposure to thousands of new contacts to advance research and accelerate careers.
"Advances in precision medicine, outcomes management and genetic classification require high quality biospecimens, yet standard procedures for collecting, storing and handling such samples are lacking," says Katheryn Shea, vice president of Bioservices at Precision Bioservices in Frederick, MD, and immediate past president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER), an SLAS strategic alliance partner. "Inconsistency in these processes can lead to inconsistent, irreproducible results," she warns.
A sense of awe, a gasp or even five minutes of concentrated silence; these are the reactions SLAS member Jody Keck seeks as he works with elementary students to spark an early interest in science and technology. Even for the kids who don't grow up to be scientists, Keck hopes to plant a sense of curiosity and determination to find answers in the face of a challenge.
"There are very few targets that actually come all ready – born by nature – with small molecules bound to them for which you can analyze or form druggable sites. So, you need to develop other approaches to go after these challenging targets."
− James A. Wells, University of California, San Francisco
"The future of therapy is a molecule/cell therapy combination," says Sitta Sittampalam, Ph.D., senior scientific officer and project manager at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and co-chair of the SLAS Stem Cells and 3D Microtissues Special Interest Group. "In 20 years, if you have a failing kidney, you won't just get a pill and hope it works; you will receive an injection of stem cells and a drug that makes those stem cells go to your kidney to rebuild it."
SLAS member Christine Brideau overcomes challenges in her career path by seizing the opportunities that travel along with them.
Speed career coaching can be quite an experience. I enjoyed my two days in the SLAS2014 Member Center having 30-minute one-on-one meetings with scientists to talk about career planning. I was able to meet with around 15 different scientists at all stages of their careers. Now that I have had some time to think about the common themes that arose in our discussions, it is clear that a universal, key issue for those I met was that they just don't know many people with non-academic jobs.
Emilio Diez-Monedero, Ph.D., has experienced more than 30 years of progress in the scientific community and heralds its continuing evolution. He eagerly anticipates serving as a member of the new SLAS Europe Council to expand the Society's value and impact across the continent.