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Collaboration Champions Diez Monedero, Simpson and Tamas-Lhoustau Connect on SLAS Board of Directors

Passion and persistence exemplify the three new leaders joining the SLAS Board of Directors in 2018. Emilio Diez Monedero, Peter Simpson and Severine Tamas-Lhoustau share a base in Europe and an overwhelming desire to share their talents and experience for the good of the Society during their three-year terms on the Board. They join six current members tasked with shaping an organization devoted to professionals who thrive at the intersection of applied and basic life sciences discovery and technology.

Diez Monedero is chief scientific officer at ATLAS Molecular Pharma and a drug discovery consultant based in Madrid, Spain. He has more than 30 years of drug discovery experience and is currently focused in the transition of new ideas from academia to industry by facilitating and driving collaborations between academic laboratories, not-for-profit organizations and small- and medium-sized enterprises. Diez Monedero has served SLAS in numerous volunteer roles as a member of the SLAS Europe Council, SLAS Discovery Editorial Board and SLAS Governance Task Force. He is co-chair of the first 2018 SLAS Europe Conference and Exhibition to be held June 27-29, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. Diez Monedero earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

Simpson is chief scientific officer at Medicines Discovery Catapult in Alderley Park, United Kingdom. With a longstanding commitment to innovation and collaboration in early drug discovery, Simpson has held numerous drug discovery leadership roles throughout his career. Passionate about disruptive, collaborative innovation to secure new medicines for patients, Simpson supports Medicines Discovery Catapult’s mission to act as champion for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). An active SLAS contributor, Simpson currently serves as reviews editor for SLAS Discovery, commissioning insightful reviews from international experts on new drug targets and technology advances. Simpson earned a Ph.D. in cell physiology and pharmacology from the University of Leicester, Leicester, U.K.

Tamas-Lhoustau is co-founder and managing partner at Novoptim, Montigny le Bretonneux, France. She is a seasoned executive with more than 20 years of experience in business development, sales and marketing in drug discovery. Novoptim supports innovative start-up companies with strategic positioning, go-to-market strategy and technology launch assistance in the pharmaceutical and biotech markets. She has a proven track record of helping organizations expand into new markets. Tamas-Lhoustau serves on the SLAS Europe Industry Advisory Committee and SLAS New Product Awards Committee. She earned her M.S. degree in biotechnology from the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Toulouse, Toulouse, France.

Why did you become a member of SLAS?

Diez Monedero: I joined the Society for Biomolecular Screening (SBS) back in 1992 when I become involved in pharmacological screening and was setting up a new facility to incorporate automation and high-throughput screening technologies. SBS was smaller than SLAS is today, but it was the place to be – as SLAS is now -- if you wanted to be aware of the latest developments in assay technologies, building compound collections or laboratory automation in general. Also, it was a place to meet people facing the same challenges and with similar objectives.

Simpson: I first encountered SLAS as the Society for Biomolecular Screening at its 1999 conference in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. At that time, when I was in my first industry role, it provided a fantastic source of discovery information, technology ideas and business connections. Eighteen years later, SLAS continues to deliver valuable education through its journals, conferences and online resources. SLAS helps me stay abreast of the remarkable changes in the field of preclinical drug discovery. This is an exciting dynamic field, and we all need some help to stay on top of everything!

Tamas-Lhoustau: I came across SBS in early 2000 when introduced by Al Kolb who was SBS president at the time. I decided to become a member as I could see the value of this global network for start-up companies and academic labs developing innovative technologies. I have always enjoyed working in the life sciences industry and have a passion for novel technologies. I have worked extensively myself on new drug discovery label-free technologies, screening technologies, biophysical technologies, cell culture technologies, micro-physiological systems, and the like. I thoroughly enjoy the communication with other professionals in the field, the SLAS International Conference and Exhibition, the workshops and particularly connecting people within SLAS with people from outside, across all academic and industrial sectors of drug discovery.

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

Diez Monedero: SLAS is a professional society that I always find very relevant to my job in drug discovery. Unlike other societies that are very focused on specific scientific areas, SLAS combines science and technology, academic research and the pharma industry, and laboratory scientists with technology providers. I find this mix very useful to accelerate the progression of technologies and to facilitate the resolution of scientific challenges. Years ago, I decided that I wanted to actively participate in the Society and contribute to its development. Since then, I have served in different roles such as the SBS Board, SLAS Europe Council, JBS (now SLAS Discovery) Editorial Board, SLAS International Conference and Exhibition, etc. 

Simpson: I published several articles in the two Society journals, and after discussions with the editor of SLAS Discovery (formerly Journal of Biological Screening), Bob Campbell, six years ago I joined the editorial board as the first-ever reviews editor. I have remained on the editorial board since then and have had the pleasure of increasing the number and quality of review and perspective articles in SLAS Discovery. I think these serve as a great learning resource for new researchers and those wishing to broaden their knowledge or expand into new branches of preclinical discovery.

I am delighted now to join the SLAS Board in 2018. In my day job as chief scientific officer of Medicines Discovery Catapult, I try to increase access for innovative small companies to state-of-the-art technology, discovery and development expertise, as well as to networks of collaborative-minded scientists who want to build bold new partnerships. I see this role with SLAS as a fantastic opportunity to further represent the voice of smaller life sciences businesses. I will work to ensure SLAS pushes forward collaboration and knowledge-exchange opportunities that match the diverse needs of academia, government organizations, SMEs, large biotechs and pharma.

Tamas-Lhoustau: I have served on the New Product Award Committee for the SLAS International Conference and Exhibition for many years and joined the SLAS Europe Industry Advisory Committee two years ago. I have attended all annual conferences over the last decade and have always enjoyed the interaction with other colleagues in the field. I have used the last couple of years to continuously grow my network in the SLAS community, across all parts of Europe and many parts of the U.S., Canada and Israel. I believe I can give much back to the SLAS community by taking an even more active role in the Society.

The most beneficial part of my SLAS membership is access to the excellent network of drug discovery professionals across all parts of the world, both in academia and in industry. I am not aware of any organization which has the same global outreach, breadth and depth of knowledge and professional attitude of its members.

How have your work background and life experiences in general prepared you to step into this new role as an SLAS Board member?

Diez Monedero: My professional background is made up of academic research early in my career, followed by many years in the pharma industry. I have worked both in the U.S. and Europe, always in a very international environment. In recent years, I have been involved in the interface between academia and industry, and currently I am collaborating on multiple initiatives within this space, with for-profit and non-for-profit organizations. I believe I could help move SLAS to a future likely to be more international and with more and more diffuse boundaries between the academic sector and industry. 

Simpson: Throughout my career, I have been committed to helping turn drug discovery into a team sport, simplifying the challenges of companies working with universities and with each other. I spent two decades working in a variety of leadership roles in pharma (Merck and AstraZeneca). I set up a new model for open innovation for early drug discovery at AstraZeneca that has become a key part of the company’s journey to a more porous and collaborative approach to drug discovery. Through collaborations I led with other pharma and research institutions, I have seen the industry move from closed to open doors. I then built collaborative programs across multiple universities with industry and public sector partners, while director of the N8 Research Partnership of eight major U.K. universities. In Medicines Discovery Catapult, I continue to build new syndicate-based approaches whereby organizations can contribute to ambitious problem-solving discovery collaborations. SLAS shares and embraces the goal of building new interest groups and networks of researchers, and as an organization it is a fantastic ambassador for openness, sharing and knowledge exchange.

Tamas-Lhoustau: I am trained as a biotechnology engineer from INSA Toulouse (France) and I have many years of working experience in the technology sector. I have worked as an application scientist, key account manager, branch office manager, international marketing director for Biacore, (now part of GE Healthcare) across European countries, such as France, U.K., Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and Spain. Since 2006, I have been running my own consulting company, Novoptim (Versailles, France), together with my business partner Ramin Chaybani.

We support start-up companies and academic and technology transfer offices in most European countries and my specialty is in developing strong, sustainable business models for innovation, market entry strategy and marketing and sales activities. I think I can connect SLAS to new market segments such as biotech clusters and start-up companies mostly across Europe but also in the U.S., Canada and Israel.

As a newly elected Board member, how do you see yourself contributing to the SLAS mission to advance life sciences discovery and technology via education, knowledge exchange and global community building?

Diez Monedero: Education and exchange of information are two key aspects of our Society. In today’s world, there are no boundaries to knowledge, and therefore our vision should be that of a global community where information about scientific and technological advances occur everywhere. Although SLAS is already an international society, there is much to do before we can say that we are a truly global organization. One of my objectives on the Board is to facilitate the development of the Society in that direction. Hopefully, my background and experience will be useful for this purpose. 

Simpson: First, it is great to have three new Board members who are based in Europe. I hope that together with the rest of the Board we can help SLAS deliver new and exciting impact in that region. Second, through my involvement in open innovation programs across large pharma, universities and SMEs, I can help make SLAS increasingly reflective of, and responsive to, all its constituent communities. I hope I personally exemplify the benefits of the flow of talent across aspects of this sector (from my university days into big pharma, back to academia, and now in the SME/public sector interface), and I’ll do my best to help different parts of the drug discovery world better understand and interact with the other parts.

Tamas-Lhoustau: I see several areas where I will contribute to the SLAS purpose of advancing life sciences discovery and technology through education. I will continue to help SLAS scout for new technologies and fast dissemination of that innovation at the SLAS International Conference and Exhibition, via activities like the SLAS New Product Awards Committee. I will connect the Society to European biotech clusters to create a closer link with innovation and start-up companies. I also will help the Society to organize workshops and conferences across the world, but with a focus on the European region.

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

Diez Monedero: Excitement about new responsibilities are usually associated with challenges. My challenge here is how can I contribute to make SLAS as visible and impactful in Europe and the rest of the world as it is in the U.S. today. More specifically for me in 2018 is to ensure that the 2018 SLAS Europe Conference and Exhibition in Brussels is a great success!

Simpson: I think we are at a pivotal moment in drug discovery, seeing the transition from a dominance of monolithic pharma to a nimbler community of smaller innovation-focused companies. These are typically capable of delivering some but not all aspects of a discovery and development program and therefore need reliable partners and collaborators. I hope to help SLAS play a leading role in exemplifying and supporting this collaborative and more transparent approach, which could reverse the decline in new molecular entities and in the level of new jobs and investment that could ultimately threaten the viability of the sector.

Tamas-Lhoustau: The most exciting part for me is about connecting people who share the same passion for innovation, technology and drug discovery. That energizes me every day and I think that SLAS can benefit from my dedication and passion in that area.

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

Diez Monedero: SLAS could play an important role in helping to strengthen the channels of communication between the drug discovery academic community and industry, both small biotechs and large corporations. Also, I believe that we should aim to create a truly global SLAS community reaching out beyond the U.S. and Europe.

Simpson: I think that in the next few years we can see a vigorous growth in the profile of SLAS across Europe, through journal reach and high impact meetings and conferences. We can also consider novel and ambitious ways that the online as well as physical reach of SLAS – as a trusted ‘honest broker’ for knowledge exchange – can be extended throughout the life sciences and technology sector and around the world.

Tamas-Lhoustau: I believe that drug discovery technologies are changing quickly. We will be moving from conventional small molecule drug discovery to a much wider range of activities and technologies toward research and development of small molecules (chemicals) and large molecules (biologics), new therapeutic modalities (e.g., antisense oligonucleotides and modified RNA) all the way toward the new and exciting concepts of cell and gene therapy, eventually even genome editing. I am very passionate to join SLAS on that journey and to help the Society find the latest trends, best technologies and the most relevant approaches, including identifying key opinion leaders.

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

Diez Monedero: SLAS is a place where science and technology go hand in hand. Not only will you have access to a very large community of scientists and technologists interested in life sciences, but you will benefit from an excellent educational program (SLAS International Conference and Exhibition, webinars, journals, etc.). SLAS is also a great place to grow your professional network!

Simpson: All those companies and technologies you need to know about are part of SLAS. There are not many drug discovery events in the world at which you will learn more than at the SLAS International Conference and Exhibition. The journals are highly relevant, and the online educational opportunities are there to help you develop as a researcher.

Tamas-Lhoustau: The pace of innovation in drug discovery has never been as high as today. Joining a large multinational group of professionals to advance the science and technology of drug discovery is instrumental for every professional to stay tuned to the latest news and trends, and to identify the most recent developments. As a member of SLAS, one can attend the SLAS International Conference and Exhibition, various workshops, online tools and additional sources of information, such as the SLAS journals, to be fully informed in that space. 

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

Diez Monedero: It is a very good summary of the Society’s mission to advance life sciences discovery and technology via education, knowledge exchange and global community building.

Simpson: I see it as an invitation for researchers to be active members of SLAS. Volunteers working to organize meetings and publish the journals, or to deliver posters, talks, webinars and papers, are the life blood of this organization. Come and be active in SLAS, be visible and meet like-minded folks to bounce around ideas and collaborate.

Tamas-Lhoustau: It demonstrates that drug discovery and life sciences research are transforming at an unprecedented pace, toward new technologies and toward new players. New technologies for target discovery (such as CRISPR/Cas), new technologies for drug delivery (such as micro- and nanoinhalers), new therapeutic modalities (such as ASO and modRNA), new therapeutic concepts (such as cell and gene therapy) will transform the complete value chain for pharmaceutical R&D. I strongly believe that significant parts of the value chain will be performed in academia, in start-up companies, at large research hospitals, etc.

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

Diez Monedero: Family and friends take the largest part of my time outside work. I like traveling and attending cultural events with my wife, or spending time in the mountains near home or in the south Atlantic coast of Spain.

Simpson: I am fortunate to live close to the vibrant city of Manchester, full of theater, arts and culture, and on the doorstep of one of the world’s most visited national parks, the Peak District National Park – a great place for walking and photography, with great pubs and coffee shops as a reward for those chilly winter walks. Also, I have two teenage children who keep me on my toes.

Tamas-Lhoustau: I am passionate about sports (running, swimming, skiing, hiking), cooking (French cuisine and international), traveling (around the world) and my family. I am married and have two grown children, and I enjoy my very strong network of friends and family. I also enjoy the rich culture offered in Paris and throughout France.

Is there anything else you would like the SLAS ELN readership to know about you?

Diez Monedero: I am looking forward to working with other members of the Board to achieve the objectives that we are setting for the evolution of the Society. I am glad to have the opportunity of working with new people, with different backgrounds and expertise. I am sure it will be very rewarding.

Simpson: It is both my job, and my passion, to help discovery organizations build collaborations and find solutions to bottlenecks in their discovery programs. A key reason I joined SLAS in the first place in 1999 was to meet new connections across the industry, and the reason I took my current position in Medicines Discovery Catapult was the unique opportunity to help connect this highly fragmented industry and bring innovation to invigorate success. I am very happy to try to help anyone, through my role within Catapult or my role with SLAS - feel free to ask!

Tamas-Lhoustau: I have always enjoyed greatly working with people and for people. I want to help people to connect on the same objectives, on the same interests, to form strong teams and to achieve strong performance together. I want to help SLAS become an even stronger organization, moving toward new business markets, new geographic regions, new life sciences technologies.

January 29, 2018