Change and Innovation in Automation Accelerates Science

By Hansjörg Haas, Ph.D.

February 5, 2021
I am honored to serve as SLAS president this year – thank you for your trust in me. I also want to thank all scientists, technology providers and technology users for your contributions and efforts. You are driving science, fighting COVID-19, initiating vaccine development and acting today for a better tomorrow. Each of us is operating under new circumstances and adapting fluently as challenges continue.

SLAS President

In my more than 25 years in our industry, I have never experienced so much change and innovation in laboratory automation. It is truly amazing to experience how our community has pulled together in accelerating science and automation. These efforts will change our industry forever. Like the tagline of the recently held SLAS2021 Digital, automation has ignited new technology and approaches. These include collaborative robotics, mobile robotics, distributed automation, lab workflow orchestration, the digital lab and industry infrastructure investments toward the lab of the future. A great opportunity remains for our community to keep pushing forward for the greater good.

SLAS, of course, was challenged by the new environment and rose quickly to find new ways to meet the needs of the community. The Board and committees, working hand-in-hand with the professional team, pulled out all the stops and presented new offerings, strengthened virtual opportunities already in place and planned hard for the likelihood of not being able to hold its flagship event, SLAS2021, in person. Mission accomplished, as the recently held SLAS2021 Digital was a great success! Please read to the end of my message for highlights.

SLAS must keep the momentum going and is taking steps to that end. SLAS is developing a strategic plan for 2022-2026, formalizing a growth strategy, sustaining and growing its reputation as the premier society in the laboratory automation and screening space, developing the Society organically to best serve its membership with relevant content and broadening its reach through partnerships with other organizations.

I thank my predecessor, Emilio Diez Monedero, Ph.D., for his stellar leadership in steering the SLAS ship through rough waters. Emilio took office before COVID-19 hit, and his term developed in a much different manner than expected. See his final president’s message, “My Year as SLAS President: A Bit Different than Anticipated!” I look forward to continuing his efforts and working with this talented group of Board members, including new members Manuela Beil-Peter, Jan Lichtenberg, Ph.D., and Jonathan O’Connell, Ph.D. You can read more about them in the SLAS e-zine. In addition to Emilio, thank you to outgoing Board members Peter Simpson, Ph.D., and Severine Tamas-Lhoustau, M.S. Your contributions have been valuable.

It is my honor to help lead SLAS. Our community has much more to accomplish. Based on the resilience I have witnessed to date, we will do so! Please reach out and let us know how we can serve you.

SLAS2021 Highlights

catch up

Thank you to SLAS2021 Digital Program Chairs Amy Kallmerten (Merck) and Louis Scampavia (Scripps Research Florida). Amy and Louis – you and your fantastic Scientific Program Committee formulated an outstanding array of important topics and presenters who adapted wonderfully to a fully digital format. SLAS2021 registrations totaled 3,531. The program included 80-plus scientific talks (including two Science Ignited talks), three short course workshops, three keynote and feature presentations, a live and on-demand virtual exhibition featuring more than 200 life sciences and technology companies, 60 exhibitor tutorials, 98 scientific posters, a variety of career presentations, 14 SLAS Special Interest Group meetings and a number of fun activities.

Personally, I was inspired hearing about the research and new technologies that were presented across so many disciplines. It gives me great confidence in the future of SLAS and the advancements our community is driving in life sciences. The digital nature of the event and recording of the conference presentations allows attendees to continue to listen to talks on their own schedule. Events they may have missed at an in-person event can now be accessed for 30 days. This is a huge benefit of the digital environment and will drive engagement of our Society around the world.

Please join me in congratulating the SLAS2021 award winners noted below.

2021 SLAS Innovation Award Winner

Siyu Chen
Siyu Chen

Siyu (Sisi) Chen, Ph.D., senior research scientist, (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA) was awarded the Society’s highest honor for her scientific presentation, “Defining the Breadth and Specificity of Drug Response in Heterogeneous Immune Cell Populations.”

2021 SLAS Ignite Award

Artificial, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA USA) received the award for its aLab Suite, which orchestrates everything that happens in a lab including robotics, data, automation and people.

SLAS2021 Student Poster Competition Winners

Nikolaj Mandsberg, Ph.D. Cand., Technical University of Denmark
“Gradient Droplet Arrays by Acceleration Dip-Coating”

Choon Leng So, B.S. Pharmacy (Hons.), University of Queensland
“High-Throughput Assessment of Calcium Signaling in MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells Adopting Various Cellular Geometry”

David Sykes, Ph.D., senior scientific officer, The University of Nottingham
“Novel ThermoFRET and BRET-Based Thermostability Assays Applied to GPCRs”

SLAS2021 New Product Award Winners

OrganoTherapeutics (Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg) for human Parkinson's disease patient-specific midbrain organoids

Solentim (Dorset, United Kingdom) for ICON

CELLINK (Boston, MA, United States) for UP.SIGHT by Cytena

2021 SLAS Journal Achievement Award Honorees

Kudos to the SLAS Discovery and SLAS Technology authors and reviewers celebrated for the popularity of their published reports and exceptional volunteer service in 2020. See the full list of honorees.

SLAS Tony B. Academic (Travel) Award Winners

While there was no travel to be awarded this year, 12 students from four countries received SLAS2021 recognition as SLAS Tony B. Academic (Travel) Award winners! See the winners here. Opportunities for the SLAS Europe 2021 Hybrid Conference and Exhibition are available with abstract submission.

SLAS Innovation AveNEW Participants

Fourteen start-up companies earned a place on this special ‘street’ in the Exhibition. See the awardees here.