President's Monthly Message

Challenges Create Opportunities: My Time as SLAS President

By Hansjörg Haas, Ph.D.

December 6, 2021

We were at the height of the pandemic when I started serving this community as president. The world was in lockdown, and somehow we all had adapted to digital communication in lieu of in-person contact and interaction.

SLAS President

We faced the challenge of SLAS2021 as the very first full digital international conference and exhibition. The SLAS professional team jumped into the digital environment, applying the knowledge gained during the previous year and its relationships with expert partners. Thanks to the adaptability of the professional team at SLAS, the presenters, vendors and the community as a whole, the show was a success in igniting automation to drive innovation and science at an accelerated pace toward the lab of the future. It felt like science had woken up to automation, utilizing new technologies and approaches like collaborative robotics, mobile robotics, remote automation, distributed automation, lab workflow orchestration, digital twinning and artificial intelligence (AI). Our industry experienced an unprecedented amount of investment with science infrastructures being geared to fully utilize the power of automation, an integrated digital ecosystem and AI to advance science and discovery.

Vaccines were discovered and delivered at unprecedented speed and fortunately automation tools played a significant role in their discovery as well as in accelerated testing to contain the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible. Many of us believed the pandemic to be under control in the summer of 2021 and that we would reunite in person at SLAS Europe in Vienna. Unfortunately, the pandemic carried on longer than expected. However, the spirit of our community stayed strong, connecting and exchanging knowledge via digital means at an all-time high. I want to thank all the contributors who, through your actions, made SLAS an even stronger community. Specifically, I want to highlight the efforts of our new Europe Ambassadors, Christian Parker and Julio Martin, who are introducing SLAS initiatives across Europe. It is this personal engagement that makes our community so special. It particularly came to light this year, when networks and connections became more important than ever.

It was a big year for SLAS in so many areas. For example, we made the decisions to move to open access publishing and a new publisher partner for the two SLAS journals – all while maintaining the usual high level of scientific publishing. We engaged with other organizations like The Pistoia Alliance, and pushed our Innovation AveNEW initiative farther through ELRIG and AseBio. Of course, we continued our support of young and upcoming scientists through the Graduate Education Fellowship Grant. All of the year’s highlights will be reviewed in the next SLAS Annual Report.

Now, we must move forward – yet keep close the lessons learned – and continue to contribute to the betterment of our valuable industry. It is my firm belief that our organization with its mission will play a pivotal role in driving science to better humanity.

Guiding us in that effort is the 2022-2026 strategic plan. Its goal is to sustain and grow SLAS as the premier society in the laboratory automation and screening space, to develop SLAS organically to best serve its membership with relevant content and to broaden its reach through partnerships with other organizations. At its core is a mission to catalyze multi-disciplinary innovations in life sciences through four strong pillars – Global Community, Discovery, Technologies and Applications and Scientific Data Harmonization. Thank you to the strategic plan organizers and participants for your hard work in multi-day/online workshops for developing this meaningful plan to move SLAS into the future. And thank you, in advance, to the many volunteers who will help us realize these plans.

Thank you to professional team members for your support, flexibility and adaptability throughout the year. Mastery of the challenges demonstrated the professional expertise, depth and strength of the team. I want to thank Vicki Loise for her leadership during this unpredictable year, staying calm and steering the ship safely through uncharted waters. I also would like to thank the Executive Team – Tim Spicer, Sue Crimmin and Jan Lichtenberg – for collaboration, support and advice on which I could always depend. You have been reliable partners during this time of uncertainty. Thanks also to the rest of the Board members for your diligence and resilience in positioning this organization for a bright future. I extend special thanks to Michelle Arkin and Sammy Datwani, who along with me, complete their tenure on the SLAS Board this year. It was an honor working with you. And, of course, welcome to Tim Spicer as incoming SLAS president. Tim has worked hand-in-hand with me and is well prepared to take the helm.

Finally, thank you to the SLAS community for making a difference and for the opportunity to serve as the president of this Society. It has been a privilege and pleasure to serve with and for you. Onward!

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