SLAS2021 Digital International Conference and Exhibition Brings More than 3,500 Researchers and Laboratory Technology Providers Together Virtually

For Immediate Release

Image alt text.

Oak Brook, IL – The Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) wrapped up its SLAS2021 Digital International Conference and Exhibition on Thursday, January 28, after three days of scientific presentations and a fully virtual exhibition, plus a day of topical workshops. Registration for the virtual conference totaled 3,531 from 50 countries; registration remains open for access to the content on-demand through February 28 and is free to SLAS members.

SLAS2021 Digital centered around more than 80 presentations across ten tracks of scientific content in life sciences discovery, technology and AI. The virtual exhibition featured more than 200 companies from around the world and provided video chat and text networking capabilities, product tutorials, and exhibitor-attendee focus groups. Over 70 new products were launched at the conference, and three were honored with the SLAS New Product Award:

  • cytena, a CELLINK company (Boston, MA, USA) was selected for UP.SIGHT, an automation system designed to minimize labor-intensive processes and maximize efficiency within cell line development;
  • OrganoTherapeutics (Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg) submitted their human-specific mini-brains that are used in the discovery and development of effective drug candidates targeting Parkinson’s disease; and
  • the ICON system by Solentim (Wimborne, UK) was chosen for the world’s first benchtop system for characterizing high-productivity clones to aid in the discovery of new cell-based therapies.

Other awards bestowed at SLAS2021 Digital include:

SLAS Innovation Award for best scientific presentation: Siyu (Sisi) Chen, Ph.D., Caltech (Los Angeles, CA, USA)

SLAS Ignite Award for most promising startup company within the Innovation AveNEW exhibition area: Artificial, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA, USA)

SLAS Student Poster Awards: Nikolaj Mandsberg, Ph.D. Cand., (Technical University of Denmark); Choon Leng So, B.S. Pharmacy, University of Queensland (Australia), and David Sykes, Ph.D., The University of Nottingham (UK)

Featured plenary speaker Scott Gottlieb, M.D., former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017-2019) participated in a moderated question-and-answer session with SLAS CEO Vicki Loise, CMP, CAE. The conversation highlighted Gottlieb’s experience and outlook on COVID-19 and vaccine development, the use of laboratory automation in research to hasten the pace of scientific research and his insights on drug discovery. “Where things went fast [in getting a COVID-19 vaccine into use] was in two places: one, coming up with the vaccine constructs and in bringing the vaccine constructs into clinical development...This really was the advent of fully synthetic vaccines,” Gottlieb explained. There were no shortcuts taken on actual clinical development, he said, which is what really matters for patients in terms of asking the question: ‘Is the vaccine safe and effective?’ Very large clinical trials and huge outcome studies were done. We saved time by not spending months or a year working on formulations that didn’t need to be kept ice-cold.

Two keynote speakers and two Science Ignited! speakers brought big-picture thinking to the SLAS2021 Digital experience. Deborah Slipetz, Ph.D., co-founder of imagine@Merck, introduced attendees to the Merck’s unique “intrapreneurial” program that encourages, empowers and trains employees to participate in innovative idea generation to solve problems at all levels within Merck. Closing keynote speaker Atul Butte, M.D., Ph.D., University of California Health System, enlightened the participants on the expansive and eye-opening potential of data sciences to enable a healthcare system driven by true precision medicine.

James Collins, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shared his excitement for and experience with synthetic biology, synthetic gene networks, programmable cells and deep learning to create diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to fight pathogens. Jimmy Wu of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health opened participants’ eyes to collaborative research opportunities with the NASA space program. His talk on “Automation and Tissue Chips Platforms for Augmenting Human Health in Space Flight” described the goals for breakthrough scientific discovery on how human tissues respond to space flight and the ability for maintaining human health and performance.


SLAS (Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening) is an international professional society of academic, industry and government life sciences researchers and developers and providers of laboratory automation technology. The SLAS mission is to bring together researchers in academia, industry and government to advance life sciences discovery and technology via education, knowledge exchange and global community building.


Contact Information

Jill Hronek

Director of Marketing Communications

Telephone: +1.630.256.7527, ext. 103