This could be the longest thank-you letter in history. When we wrote last year’s SLAS Annual Report we were just settling into the quarantine lifestyle and thanked the stars that the SLAS2020 International Conference and Exhibition had taken place as planned. The Professional Team had gone home with their laptops for what we thought would be “at least two weeks, while this thing gets under control.” And here we are a year later...
By Vicki Loise, CMP, CAE
As we recap the efforts of SLAS in 2020, we are still working through a global pandemic, with numerous vaccines in play, some quarantine relief now in sight and our eyes laser-focused on the future. We wouldn’t be where we are today, with more than a dozen vaccines globally (when this report was written) at various stages of distribution among the population. This was possible because of automation and determination.
Our industry’s collective response at the forefront of fighting a global pandemic was the spark that has ignited a new way of working. We’ve seen science and research respond with amazing speed and collaboration across borders as exhibited by extensive data sharing, evidence-based decision making and cooperation among companies and institutions to develop and manufacture diagnostics, testing and vaccines.
What we thought was going to be impossible last year, we’ve now found is very possible and has implications for our work for years to come. But despite what has sometimes felt like an endless workload, way too much time spent sanitizing our hands, houses, cars, and labs, and wondering, and monitoring, and staying away from others, there was a lot of good that came out of 2020.
Once the pandemic was declared, SLAS immediately began considering options and plans to keep our members united, despite the obvious need to cancel, postpone and reimagine our 2020 in-person events and activities.
But SLAS is a flexible and adaptive organization with flexible and adaptive volunteers who, together with the professional team, created new events, switched up the delivery channels for some tried and true programs and developed alternative ways to bring attention to what SLAS does best – educate and collaborate.
To accomplish these goals in 2020, we added to the professional team.
Alexis Hayes joined SLAS as a Marketing Coordinator and focuses primarily on non-event promotions such as webinars and meet-ups, membership and journals.
Joining our Global Events Team, Rebecca Baker became our Sales Manager, Global Events and Karen Cassidy joined us as Exhibits and Sponsorship Coordinator, work that had previously been outsourced. Bringing these positions in-house has allowed us to bring more opportunities to our vendor community and serve this important sector of our community more effectively and efficiently across all SLAS programs.
Marshall Brennan, Ph.D., joined us as SLAS’s Scientific Director, overseeing our education program and peer-reviewed journals.
Members of the professional team leveled themselves up this year to ensure that we continued to bring the best-of-the-best society services to our members. COO Brenda Dreier earned her CAE (Certified Association Executive) designation; Director, Global Events Amy Wilkinson earned a critical Digital Event Strategist certification helping to guide us through the many, many online and hybrid events we’ve conducted this year. She also earned the Cornell Women in Leadership certificate in her spare time.
Like many around the world, our team worked remotely throughout the year, starting on March 13, 2020, and continue to do so.
Our flagship event, the SLAS 2020 International Conference and Exhibition took place in-person under the wire, January 25-29 in San Diego, CA, USA. COVID-19 was just emerging in China and only three airports in the U.S. had started screening passengers. On January 31, the World Health Organization had declared a global health emergency. Despite this lurking threat, the conference was a success. Here are a few highlights.
The 2020 European Sample Management Symposia (originally scheduled for April 2020) became a series of live and on-demand webinars, which are now available on SLAS APPLIED.
The SLAS Europe 2020 Conference & Exhibition in Vienna was postponed to June 2021.
To bridge the gap in providing education to our community, SLAS jumped into action and within three months from concept to launch, created SLAS Transformed: Virtual Science & Collaboration – a fully virtual, two-day mini-conference delivering hot topic research on ‘omics, synthetic biology and genome editing. Wrapping all those topics together was the context of work being done related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four super volunteers stepped up to chair the Transformed Scientific Program Committee and provide guidance on all aspects of event programming: Sammy Datwani, Ph.D., Consultant, SLAS Fellow and Board Member; Zack Gurard-Levin, Ph.D., SAMDI Tech Inc.; Ira Hoffman, CEO, High-Res Biosolutions, SLAS Board Member; and Ash Jogalekar, Ph.D., Strateos.
Sammy Datwani, Ph.D.
SLAS Fellow and Board Member
Zack Gurard-Levin, Ph.D.
SAMDI Tech Inc.
Ira Hoffman, M.S.
SLAS Board Member
Ash Jogalekar, Ph.D.
Over two days, 14 presenters across six sessions presented to an audience of approximately 150 attendees from nine countries across global time zones. Thirteen exhibitors presented 12 tutorials and participated in a virtual exhibition hall.
It was a valuable experiment and taught us what we needed to know about running future successful virtual conferences.
The remaining SLAS in-person symposia, which are typically held in fall, were cancelled, including the newly designed Building Biology in 3D, which was to be held at Scripps Research in Florida. Each of the 2020 symposia are scheduled to run in the latter half of 2021. The Americas Sample Management symposia will return in September at the La Jolla Torrey Pines Hilton in California, the European Sample Management Symposium will return to Berlin in October and the AI-Powered Drug Discovery Symposium is scheduled for The Francis Crick Institute in London in November.
Joseph De Rutte, M.S., (University of California Los Angeles, CA, USA), earned himself a spot on the podium with his Innovation Award-winning presentation: “High-Throughput Encapsulation and Selection of Cells Based on Antibody Secretion Using Lab-on-a-Particle Technology” at SLAS2020.
Three students leveled up their presence at SLAS2020, earning Student Poster Awards.
Pictured left to right are:
Continuing our commitment to support life sciences entrepreneurs, SLAS expanded Innovation AveNEW to 16 companies at SLAS2020, helping to grow and scale their businesses as well as directly connecting them with purchasing influencers and decision-makers from around the world.
SLAS Ignite, a series of programs to foster scientific innovation through collaboration expanded its educational offerings too, with three panel discussions in the Ignite Theater on the exhibition floor. The Ignite Short Course on Value Propositions in Scientific Innovation was again offered for free to all Innovation AveNEW companies.
SLAS Ignite Academic Collaboration Presentations continued in 2020 with six academic research institutions showcasing their capabilities and latest research to a diverse audience of prospective collaboration partners. Conversely, industry professionals responsible for partnerships and contract relations were able to meet with prospective partners from academia.
Of the 16 Innovation AveNEW participants at SLAS2020, Correlia Biosystems (Berkeley, CA, USA) earned the Ignite Award. Correlia applies advancements in materials science, electrical engineering and biochemistry to accelerate molecular interactions. The company has combined a nanomaterial with a biomolecular “circuit” to eliminate the slow diffusive steps that limit the efficiency of traditional immunoassays.
Two exhibiting companies were recognized with New Product Awards at SLAS2020:
Bioelectronica’s Hypercell is a cell-sorted analysis system designed to decrease drug discovery workflows from three weeks to one day by using machine learning and “anti-microfluidics” made from flexible PCB boards. Bioeclectronica (Reno, NV, USA) was also an Innovation AveNEW participant.
V&P Scientific, Inc. (San Diego, CA, USA) won for their SpinVessel, which mixes particulates without using a stir bar, helping to maintain cell viability and bead integrity, and allowing for longer periods of mixing and the elimination of particulate grinding. V&P Scientific specializes in machining and 3D printing tools for developing drug discovery technologies.
The SLAS Tony B. Academic Travel Awards continued the SLAS commitment to fostering the next generation of scientific thought leaders and members in 2020. Fifty-three students, post-docs and early career professionals from 12 countries earned funded participation at the SLAS2020 International Conference and Exhibition, bringing the total number of Tony B. award recipients to 464 since 2010.
The SLAS Graduate Education Fellowship Grant transforms the SLAS mission into real-world benefit. This important grant helps superb, new ideas move forward along the cutting edge of innovation. In 2020, Ulri Nicole Lee, Ph.D. candidate, (University of Washington, USA) was selected as the 2020 recipient of the SLAS Graduate Education Fellowship Grant. The $100,000 SLAS fellowship grant, awarded over two years, allows Lee to expand her research on the development of a device that uses mist to capture bioaerosols such as Aspergillus fumigatus, a prolific fungus that is harmful to those with preexisting lung conditions, and fluidics to collect the sample for analysis.
The final SLAS Visiting Graduate Researcher Grant was awarded to Thi Mui Pham of the University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands, who began her visiting researcher position at the University of Oxford Nuffield Department of Medicine in the UK during less than ideal “visiting” circumstances. Pham worked with Ben Cooper, Ph.D., Head of the Epidemic Modelling and Policy Evaluation Unit (EMPAU) to integrate antibiograms with epidemiological data to analyze pathogen transmissions within hospitals. Antibiograms are overall profiles of antimicrobial susceptibility testing results that show how susceptible strains of bacteria are to a variety of antibiotics. Cooper and Pham also planned to assess whether such data can aid in reconstructing who-infected-whom in intensive care units.
The SLAS journals published more than 1,800 pages of relevant and exciting content, including two open access issues, webinars and podcasts related to COVID-19. In 2020, SLAS Discovery reverted its current tagline “Advancing Life Sciences R&D”, which was adopted in 2017 when the journal was rebranded, back to Advancing the Science of Drug Discovery, its original tagline when SLAS Discovery was known as the Journal of Biomolecular Sciences (JBS).
“SLAS Discovery is a key source for articles on finding chemical and biological tools, innovation in target validation, and novel assay methods to help advance drug discovery,” said SLAS Discovery Editor-in-Chief Bob Campbell, Ph.D., (Eli Lilly and Co.). “To encompass these related drug discovery fields, it was agreed upon by the groups that the original tagline, ‘Advancing the Science of Drug Discovery,’ was more appropriate and inclusive of the scope of topics published in today’s evolution of SLAS Discovery.”
SLAS Discovery published five regular issues, three special issues and two special collections, including the December 2020 special collection on Drug Discovery Targeting COVID-19. Its 2019 impact factor stands at 2.195, up from 2.192 in 2018. SLAS Discovery also welcomed new Associate Editor Timothy Spicer, Ph.D. (Scripps Research, USA) to its highly qualified editorial team.
SLAS Technology (Translating Life Sciences Innovation) published six issues of which two were special issues. SLAS Technology earned a 2019 impact factor of 2.174, up from 2.048 in 2018. Through the collaborative effort of the Knowledge Content and Delivery Council, the conference program committees and oversight of the SLAS Scientific Director, an intentional and integrated content strategy permeates SLAS’s educational programming and publishing. Cross-channel promotions between journals, webinars, conference content and podcasts enable the SLAS community to stay on top of cutting-edge scientific topics.
Several journal-related workshops and webinars were added to SLAS APPLIED online learning platform:
The 2020 Journal Achievement Awards recognized both the science of the journal and the people who bring it all together: the Readers Choice Awards, reflecting popularity among readers throughout 2020; the Authors Choice Awards, reflecting popularity among authors (citations) throughout 2020; and Reviewer Excellence Awards, reflecting review quality, timeliness and volunteer service in 2020.
To expand SLAS’s impact and effectiveness across Europe, we launched a search for and named two ambassadors who will serve as champions of SLAS throughout Europe. SLAS Fellows Christian Parker, Ph.D., Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (Switzerland) and Julio Martin, Ph.D. (Madrid), a leader in pharmaceutical R&D, science and innovation will:
We look forward to reporting on their activities in the coming year.
SLAS inducted eight new Fellow Members into its ranks of super volunteers. These individuals have shown consistent and proactive engagement, involvement and participation across multiple areas of SLAS.
Members of the SLAS Board of Directors serve three-year terms of service, and SLAS is grateful to those who completed their tenure in 2020:
Joining the SLAS Board of Directors for 2020-2022 are:
Sue Crimmin, Ph.D.
Collegeville, PA, USA
Beverly, MA, USA
Tim Spicer, Ph.D.
Jupiter, FL, USA
The SLAS podcast New Matter: Inside the Minds of SLAS Scientists launched in March 2020 and Education Manager Liz Frank, along with former and current Scientific Directors Michael Tarselli, Ph.D., and now Marshall Brennan, Ph.D., produced 55 episodes, containing entertaining and illuminating conversations with SLAS award winners, leaders and a variety of movers and shakers in the life sciences research and automation industries. The podcast was downloaded nearly 2000 times in 2020. Give it a listen!
SLAS brought volumes of online education to its APPLIED online education platform, in an effort to bridge the gap of in-person learning opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the 118 sessions from SLAS2020 International Conference and Exhibition that were added to the APPLIED online learning platform, there are 19 Solutions Spotlight+ vendor presentations (and 60 more exhibitor tutorials were added in early 2021).
SLAS launched 20 webinars in 2020 on topics ranging from High-Content Imaging to Detangling Variegated Data, to Getting Started with Organoids and many topics in between. We also introduced our first multi-program course -- Pharmacological Target Engagement, Validation, and In Vivo Translation. Likewise, SLAS partnered with One Nucleus on a three-webinar series – Turn Your Lab Automation Plans Into Action.
All webinars are accessible in the SLAS APPLIED Online Learning Center.
As they are every year, our members were at the heart of everything we did in 2020, but even more so because we knew we wouldn’t be able to see them and unite them, in the ways we always had. We knew our members were working extraordinary hours under extraordinary circumstances, with so many pivoting their existing research and company’s plans to focus on the global good and reducing the impact of the pandemic.
We looked closely at what membership in SLAS really meant and aimed to provide activities and connections that would be meaningful in a virtual world. Whether or not you had a chance to engage with SLAS at the level that you intended, we introduced a few new things that helped bring some groups of people closer together, even if for an hour of light-hearted “semi-scientific” discourse.
We conducted five Zoom-based Member Meet-Ups between July and December on topics ranging from CRISPR and Gene Editing to the Science of Beer Making to Tips for Presenting Science in a Virtual Setting. These casual conversations were designed to bring our diverse membership just a little bit closer together when we couldn’t be.
We redesigned and relaunched the SLAS website – https://slas.org – to streamline the content, navigation and interaction with SLAS online resources. The way many people found time to clean closets and remodel their home spaces during the pandemic, we cleaned our online attic too, reorganizing our online presence to reflect the boldness and energy of the Society.
Perhaps our most exciting and successful change was the addition of the Lab Membership type. We ended 2020 with 52 labs bringing a total of 364 members from eight countries to SLAS. Labs come from academia and industry, including multiple lab memberships from some multi-national pharma companies. We are thrilled to have these groups join SLAS as a group and participate in all we have to offer!
We introduced the Networking Subscription to allow community members who wanted access to the SLAS CONNECTED platform to stay connected with the SLAS community online. No event or APPLIED discounts were available for the Networking member.
Our Special Interest Groups (SIGs) became an important place to network and connect on critical issues. All SIGs are open to all and have discussion communities in SLAS CONNECTED, our online networking platform. A few changes happened here too.
Fun fact: The SIGs that met via Zoom during the SLAS2021 Digital Conference & Exhibition had a record number of attendees, more than any in-person conference gatherings to date. Watch for SIG-sponsored Science Circles (online interactive discussions) in 2021.
Here’s where the SLAS membership calls home.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit scientific organization, SLAS provides world-class education and collaboration opportunities to its stakeholders – its members who pay dues, participate and contribute their expertise and enthusiasm to the Society. On their behalf, SLAS carefully manages its resources to ensure organizational stability, operational excellence and sound investments in growth and development.
|Conferences & Exhibitions||$4,678,970||$2,670,807|
|Education (Short courses, webinars and symposia)||$315,828||$650,548|
|Awards and Grants
This does NOT include the fellowship or visiting researcher awards which is not funded by operations.
|General and Administrative||$1,040,420|
The operating rev/exp does not include investment gains/losses. Those are reflected in the fund balances and not part of ops.
Where the Money Came From
Where the Money Went
At the end of 2020, SLAS had net assets of $8,573,393 of which $6,702,682 were designated as reserves by the SLAS Board of Directors.
You, our members and SLAS community, kept us going this year, literally and figuratively. What so many of you contributed to this year, as you do every year, kept the world focused on the possible! You showed that not only did our work have potential, it brought critical successes to every corner of the world.
We look forward to being together again in person, to laugh, bump elbows, share science, marvel at new automation and new “toys” available for us to propel discoveries. We’ll talk about what’s next. Because that’s what SLAS does – we look forward, we try new things, we invent ways to change the world for the better.
May 1, 2021