SLAS symposia feature focused topical education and a vendor exhibition with networking opportunities in an intimate setting.
SLAS was pleased to welcome cell biologists, microscopy and imaging buffs, and drug hunters to our fifth annual Advanced 3D Human Models and High-Content Analysis Symposium, held at “The Crick” this past week. Attendees got to tour the impressive facility, take a walking tour of the King’s Cross neighborhood, and enjoy treats from the Crick’s in-house kitchen at multiple small receptions throughout the day.
On to the program – we welcomed 22 speakers and more than 20 posters at this year’s event. Highlights included the Keynote address by Prof. Jason Swedlow, FRSE, who addressed a problem he claimed researchers called him about every day: “Help, I’m publishing my paper, and I have no idea where to publish TB worth of imaging data!” Luckily, Swedlow’s group at Dundee has created multiple open-source instrument data formats (OMERO) and repositories for data-sharing (IDR). These now include the first examples of patient imaging data. Researchers and companies alike have benefited from Swedlow’s efforts to “make things just work” from multiple instrument formats to single data standards.
Not to say the whole day revolved around imaging – a fierce contingent of stem cell biologists presented amazing, patient- or safety-inspired models of the heart, lungs, brain, nervous system, intestine, breast, or skin. As lights in the theater dimmed, the audience was treated to high-contrast fluorescence shots of these constructed tissues – calcium gradients flashed, nuclei lit up purple or blue, apoptotic cells shone a dim lime green, and actin / myosin fibrils traced thin blue lines. These phenotypic models of specific disease states were taken further, for example: looking how gene regulation changed based on drug administration or watching recruited immune cells destroy a targeted tumor in real-time.
Throughout the show, multiple groups of people mixed in conversation over a poster, a glass of wine, on a couch in the ample atrium of the Crick. Graduate students mixed with vendor’s technical specialists and pharmaceutical directors with core facility biologists at small universities. We hope that same collaborative spirit persists long enough to welcome these scientists back to our already-scheduled 2020 event. Watch this space and keep an eye out for podcasts and journal articles to emerge from 2019. Thanks from London!
Boston, MA, USA
Did you miss last week’s inaugural SLAS AI in Process Automation Symposium in Boston? Bummer! We hope to see you next year, but until then, here’s a quick recap of all the learning (and fun!) we had this past week.
To kick off the two-day event, our illustrious keynote speaker, Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Ph.D., (University of Toronto) led us on a humorous, dance music-infused tour of his lab’s progress towards open-source cheminformatics platforms, closed-loop automation and the quest to build new materials, the way other groups develop pharmaceuticals. Aspuru-Guzik raised a theme we heard throughout the conference: using AI / ML and robotics as a force multiplier to push ahead solutions to pressing problems like energy storage and precision medicines.
Day one featured speakers in drug discovery, data automation and (a first for SLAS!) a lightning session of short talks in diverse fields. Design-Make-Test-Analyze cycles and Amazon Web Services (AWS) utilities abounded, just about everyone explore how other organizations in the life sciences space handled their automation and deep learning challenges. Attendees learned about virtual models, grooming data on its way into repositories and how to scale up dramatically without increasing headcount. And it wasn’t all just pharma – battery capacitance degradation in cell phones, global instrument monitoring and checking machines’ work also took center stage.
At night, after the servers were shut down and the robots stopped, these AI trailblazers were treated to sliders, lobster rolls and cheese plates while a variety of competitive board games and classic Xbox hits were offered during the onsite reception.
Day two’s discussions shifted to specific impacts in image analysis and screening, followed by chemistry workflows in the afternoon. Counting stem cells was compared to playing the classic “How many jellybeans?” game played in school fundraisers everywhere. Phenotypic screening based on image recognition and feature separation led to amazing AI-powered revelations in drug mechanisms of action, especially at smaller firms. Likewise, the promise of the keynote speaker’s fully closed-loop processes was realized in our chemistry session, where groups from big pharma to plucky academics optimized reactions and assays alike without human intervention.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note our own feedback loops – SLAS got good, actionable topics and interests at our lunchtime roundtables to make next year even better, and we’re still listening to attendees and speakers through our post-event evaluation.
March 8-9, 2018
October 17-19, 2018
Leiden, The Netherlands
Three Days at the 2018 SLAS Advanced 3D Human Models and High-Content Analysis Conference
Leiden, the Netherlands, on a crisp fall morning: a great way to kick off the latest in the SLAS European symposium series, 2018 Advanced 3D Human Models and High-Content Analysis Conference.
CORPUS Congress Centre, the amazing multi-story internal model of the human body, served as a metaphoric backdrop for the three-day event, which brought together instrument vendors, imaging specialists, data scientists, cell biologists and genomics specialists. Conferees reported an energetic, yet intimate, environment, lent by the space and the attendance numbers (just over 130).
Talks were presented every day with major overarching themes: 3D Culture Enabling Technologies, High-Content Screening, and Stem Cells and Organoids. Realistic human-derived tissues and organ models appeared from everywhere in the body; breast cancer “tumoroids” studied ex vivo, realistic fatty liver constructs effecting bile duct organization and lipid deposits, and model guts exhibited novel phenotypes with deleted genes. Kidney, brain, and liver tissues were reconstituted from pluripotent stem cells to screen for drug targets. Overall, it was an amazing entry into the next-generation of biological models poised to take over the discovery field.
Scientists from industry, academia, and tech providers presented more than 30 posters, most in the 3D organoid growth and analysis, microfluidic or machine learning assistance areas.
A highlight of this symposium location was the “High-Content 3D Screening in Action” workshop assembled by Molecular Devices, OcellO, and Mimetas in the neighboring Leiden Bio Science Park. After a brisk, 10-minute walk down leaf-lined brick sidewalks, interested scientists were ushered into the BioPartner Center incubator space for a 60-minute pragmatic dive into the “how” of utilizing fluorescent confocal microscopy and imaging algorithms to discriminate tissue types and culture-specific cell architectures: tubes, spheres, monolayers and specific tissues. Animated discussions about false positives and automation prompted ideas about how best to deploy this in pharmaceuticals and independent labs alike.
Organizers Marc Bickle, Ph.D. (Max Planck Institute) and Leo Price, Ph.D. (OcellO), along with future host Mike Howell, Ph.D. (Francis Crick Institute), hosted several roundtable discussions to determine the future of the field in three areas: data culture and analysis, assay validation, and development of new instrumentation to address this emerging discipline. Attendees met three times and offered enough ideas to populate a “living” white paper by symposium’s end.
Finally, the SLAS 3D/HCA event offered multiple chances for conferees to discuss their science and interests in informal settings, including dinner at the Leiden Faculty Club, with portraits from Dutch masters adorning the walls and pilsner freely flowing. A 90-minute bike tour for 30 brave souls during the Leiden morning commuter hour brought riders across the city to witness the historic architecture and rapid expansion of scientific companies. And, of course, coffee and wine complemented salt licorice and mackerel pâté during poster sessions, which interspersed the main podium program at two-hour intervals.
Boston, MA, USA
Outside, a cold and rainy, overcast Boston – but inside, an intellectual, energetic group traded tales of containers and compliance. The inaugural 2018 Americas Sample Management Symposium at the Omni Parker House hotel was a warm spot for the more than 160 brave attendees from 11 countries, and nearly 20 vendors.
Symposium Chair Sue Holland-Crimmin, Ph.D., and SLAS CEO Vicki Loise opened a packed room. Keynote speaker Tyler Mulvihill (ConsenSys / Viant.io) challenged the audience to think about blockchain disrupting the space: “someday, every object in this room – or in your lab – will have its whole history and value available to anyone.”
Detailed talks about subjects ranging from traditional small molecule characterization and data to clinical biobanking, and the challenges associated with patient data. Two interactive panels – on biological sample management and a point-counterpoint on new compound management technology – provided opportunities for attendees to interact with speakers and bring potential best practices to light.
Vendors brought their best innovations under the Omni’s crystal chandeliers – Titian’s booth highlighted Mosaic, HighResBio and LabCyte full liquid handler demos. Hamilton demoed a movie of their no-touch barcoding. “Snapshot” talks ensured that scientific representatives from vendor companies had a chance to demonstrate how their technology fit within the ongoing discussions. Generous coffee and snack breaks provided ample time to interact and learn about what’s new.
A Labcyte-sponsored reception at Carrie Nation – a Prohibition-era cocktail bar just up the street provided a fun spot for attendees to network and enjoy billiards tables, early-20th century drinks and assorted appetizers. Attendance at the inaugural event proved that the Sample Management community values this forum and each other’s opinions.
September 19-21, 2017
June 6-7, 2017
March 14-15, 2017
November 29-30, 2016
November 3-4, 2016
Santiago de Compostela, Spain