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SLAS2019 Scientific Podium Program

Podium presentations at SLAS2019 are organized into ten educational tracks. Track and session titles and descriptions and names of track chairs and session chairs are listed below.

The Scientific Program Committee selects speakers based on the innovation, relevance and applicability of research. If your proposed topic does not squarely fit into the focus of one of these tracks, please submit it for committee consideration and, if selected, the committee will slot it into the most relevant track. The committee members use their judgment and experience to select presentations that best address the interests and priorities of today’s life sciences discovery and technology community.

Podium abstracts are assessed in August-September and the podium program is finalized and published by early October.

Advances in Bioanalytics and Biomarkers Track

Track Chair(s): Shaun McLoughlin, Ph.D., AbbVie (USA), and Andreas Luippold, Ph.D., Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany)

The qualitative and quantitative characterization of endogenous and exogenous analytes in biological systems are the basis of drug discovery and development. This track will highlight important developments in bioanalytical technologies, including advances in label free technologies, applications of target and mechanism deconvolution techniques, and approaches to biomarker analysis within in vitro and in vivo models. Planned sessions include:

  • Samdi
    Session Chair: Daniel Bischoff, Ph.D., Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany)

    Label-free bioanalytical techniques, such as mass spectrometry, are an attractive alternative to conventional label-dependent technologies, offering rapid assay development times and reducing the risk of false positives. This session will focus on the development of such techniques toward higher throughput applications, enabling their deployment earlier in hit discovery.

  • Session Chair: Martin Giera, Ph.D., Leiden University Medical Center (Netherlands)

    A key question in modern drug discovery is the discovery of biomarkers to assist in patient diagnosis and stratification in addition to monitoring efficacy and toxicity. While addressing marker translatability at an early stage is ambitious, establishing patho-physiological knowledge within in vivo models is essential for the translation of molecular markers. This session will focus both on the discovery, development and implementation of biomarkers using in vitro systems to strengthen novel therapeutic concepts as well as in vivo models to facilitate their translation to the human situation.

  • Session Chair: Jonathan Lee, PDD4Patients LLC (USA)

    Phenotypic screening has emerged as a complimentary workflow enabling the identification of progression of unique targets into early discovery therapeutic pipelines. The promise of these screens is tempered by challenges involving hit selection and prioritization as well as in target identification and validation. This session will focus on technological advances addressing these issues.


Assay Development and Screening

Track Chair(s): Ralph Garippa, Ph.D., Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (USA) and Deb Nguyen, Ph.D., Cellular Approaches, Inc. (USA)

The evolution of novel and more physiologically relevant assay technologies, combined with evolving strategies for compound, RNAi and CRISPR library screens, seeks to broaden both the scope of target classes that can be addressed and to improve HTS success rates. This track will focus on recent innovations across the field including the application of new instrumentation, engineered cells, and novel assay technologies for compound and genomic screening. The emphasis will be on actual recent case studies where the technology has been developed and implemented in screening campaigns with subsequent triage process to confirm and characterize hits. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Shannon Mumenthaler, Ph.D., University of Southern California (USA)

    Taking advantage of high-content, high-definition imaging, super resolution microscopy, single cell, or sophisticated analytical workflows (including quantitative image analysis and machine learning) to enhance target discovery, lead finding, or clinical translation.

  • Samdi
    Session Chair: Bruce Koch, Ph.D., Stanford University (USA)

    Non-cellular assay development and screening, using well-established formats and next wave methods. Case studies using biochemical, binding, and biophysical screening methods for discovery, including classical targets (e.g., kinase activity) and non-classical targets (e.g., protein-protein interactions, nucleic acids) including classes previously considerered to be "undruggable."

  • Session Chair: Cassiano Carromeu, Ph.D., Stemonix (USA)

    How complex in vitro culture systems including ESCs / iPSCs are being used in conjunction with approaches such as CRISPR gene editing and 3D models in the next wave of phenotypic screens. This can encompass disease-relevant screens, novel target discovery, and enhanced translatable tissue models of efficacy, drug metabolism and toxicity.

  • Session Chair: Jason Ekert, MBA, Ph.D., GlaxoSmithKline (USA)

    Progressing away from 2D assays on plastic and glass, these time-dependent, multi-dimensional approaches (spheroids, acini, organoids,microfluidics, bioprinting) are being used in drug discovery to improve the quality of candidate compounds. Includes new approaches to immune:cancer cell interactions, lineage tracing, and contributions of the microenvironment.

  • Session Chair: Bryan Davies, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin (USA)

    How is the power of NGS and other genomic platfiorms being leveraged in high-throughput screening? This session will explore pooled CRISPR-Cas9 or shRNA screens, single-cell RNAseq, cellular barcoding, native gene expression in cells, next-generation sequencing, and/or using DNA-encoded libraries.

  • Session Chair: Bridget Wagner, Ph.D., Broad Institute (USA)

    Both time-tested and new cutting-edge assays are advancing disease-relevant targets and compounds from high-throughput screening through optimization. Examples may include biochemical and biophysical measures, multiplexed cell-based readouts like CyTOF, FACS, and other modalities to discriminate on-target and off-target activities.


Automation and High-Throughput Technologies

Track Chair(s): Louis Scampavia, Ph.D., Scripps Research and Sam Michael, National Institutes of Health (USA)


This track focuses on the innovative use of biological or chemistry applications, tools, technologies, and techniques as they pertain to automated high throughput screening, the advancement of laboratory processes or improvement of the quality and impact of experimental laboratory data. Emphasis is placed on advancements in chemically and biologically relevant technologies using engineering, analytical, informatics, and application to cutting edge automation-assisted research. Planned sessions include:


Biologics Discovery

Track Chairs: Wade Blair, Ph.D., ViiV Healthcare (USA) and Jonah Rainey, Ph.D., MabVax Therapeutics (USA)

The success of biologic therapeutics, such as monoclonal antibodies, T-cell receptors, cellular therapies and other signaling molecules, in the clinic has put greater emphasis on earlier stage efforts to increase efficiency, productivity and innovation. This track will emphasize innovative solutions to increase the breadth, depth and impact of early stage efforts to fuel the biologics pipeline. In particular, how automation and screening can play a key role in the progression of new therapeutics as well as the impact of novel assays, microfluidics and high content screening campaigns for biologics discovery. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Jonah Rainey, Ph.D., MabVax Therapeutics (USA)

    Historically it has been difficult to develop biologics for complex targets, such as membrane proteins, HLA:peptide complexes and many infectious disease targets. However, advances in B- and T-cell cloning techniques, employment of novel immunoglobulin-like binding domains and antibody libraries with enhanced diversity or enriched for target-specific properties address these challenges. Ultimately these advances may enable new classes of biologic therapeutics and/or expanded the applications of existing therapeutic approaches.

  • Session Chair: Veronique Lecault, Abcellera (Canada)

    Emerging technologies combining miniaturization, next-generation sequencing and automation enable biologics discovery in a massively parallel fashion and accelerate the identification of lead candidates for therapeutic development.

  • Session Chair: Steve Rust, Ph.D., MedImmune (UK)

    This session highlights phenotypic and other novel screens and methods to deorphanize hits. Learn to harness the power of target agnostic and activity driven approaches. Gain a better understanding of MoA through target identification and mapping of downstream processes.


Cellular Technologies

Track Chairs: Gregory Davis, Ph.D., MilliporeSigma (USA) and Luke Gilbert, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco (USA)

Novel approaches for specific and efficient manipulation of human cells are driving the next revolution in biology, in much the same way that recombinant DNA technology fueled life science research for the past forty years. Methodologies such as RNAi and CRISPR have enabled basic research to determine gene function and identify new drug targets within broad biological contexts at ever increasing speed. Further, precision editing of genes coupled with continued innovation in the understanding and diversity of cell types promises the creation of more relevant models for phenotypic screening. This track will focus on emergent cellular technologies, including the development of genome editing tools, application of these tools to create accurate cellular models, and functional screens used to make sense of the genetic complexity underlying disease and development. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Gregory Davis, Ph.D., MilliporeSigma (USA)

    Nature has provided a wealth of molecular systems that can be repurposed to modify genomes directly and alter gene expression. This session will focus on cutting-edge tools, such as CRISPR, that have enhanced our ability to dissect genomes, at single cell or whole-genome scales.

  • Session Chair: Luke Gilbert, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco (USA)

    The application of genome engineering technologies to cell-based models has enabled rapid, detailed interrogation of gene activity, a critical step in understanding how gene dysfunction leads to disease. This session will highlight advances in functional genomic technologies and provide experimental paradigms for successful genetic screens.

  • Session Chair: Xiaoxia Cui, Ph.D., Washington University (USA)

    The outcomes of a phenotypic screen are only as useful as the fidelity of the cellular model. This session will focus on the development of faithful and robust pre-clinical models that can be deployed in screening assays.


Data Analysis and Informatics

Track Chairs: Amy Kallmerten, Ph.D., Merck (USA) and Yohann Potier, Ph.D., Novartis (USA)

The world is rapidly transforming. Data is ambient and exists in volumes far exceeding the quantities imagined by the pioneers of our fields. As data volume and complexity continues to grow exponentially, as does the demand for tools that can rise to the occasion. Gone are the days of my data and your data. Looking at a single or even multiple sets of the same kind of data will not yield the breakthroughs it once did but alongside these new challenges are new opportunities for technology to empower discovery. This session will focus on the rapidly evolving role of digital technology and scientific information management including the strategy and culture, as well as the hardware and software of the modern digital research lab. Emphasis will be placed on turning data into knowledge and knowledge into insight with additional consideration for translational science, decision-support and the meaning of automation in the digital age. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Nicola Richmond, Ph.D., GlaxoSmithKline (UK)

    For centuries laboratories have been operating on more or less the same model and while automation and informatics have allowed both scale up and speed up, they have not fundamentally changed the underlying operating model. Recent innovations in digitization and analytics have provided a more seamless interaction between data and human. Lower barriers to data access, synthesis, analysis or manufacturing enhance innovation and allow for a shorter path from idea to implementation, ultimately lowering cost of discovery and maintenance, independently of available human resource. Automation, collaboration tools and digital assistants are ripe for exploitation by the community to support full digital workflows and facilitate an overhaul of the laboratory operational model in research and development. The so-called “Lab of the Future” can leverage available technologies, data and machine learning/artificial intelligence to transform the discovery workflow and go far beyond the simple digitization of information.

  • Session Chair: Amy Kallmerten, Merck

    This session will focus on enabling science through data sharing, integration, availability and associated tools as well as process and ethical challenges. The complexity of scientific discovery and its associated costs amplify the need for greater collaboration, cooperation and data sharing among stakeholders. Available data repositories have been widely used by the community but ontology issues, format incompatibility and increasingly stringent regulation have made progress slow. A recent cultural shift in the industry is putting renewed focus on data sharing and data repurposing to enable risk sharing and data governance while maintaining high standards for data quality and privacy.

  • Session Chair: Paul Clemons, Ph.D., Broad Institute (USA)

    In recent years, due to the convergence of technologies like machine learning, real-time analytics, commodity sensors, and ubiquitous wireless communications we have witnessed a significant transformation in consumer markets. In some settings, these advances have also started to take root in life-sciences laboratories, particularly those with large-scale production values such as sequencing centers or high-throughput screening laboratories. Much more challenging has been the adoption of standards or practices that enable facile post-hoc integration and interpretation of data. The reasons for these challenges are manifold, but important among them are discipline-specific vocabularies and shorthand, a natural tension between adhering to standards and needing to be viewed as innovative, and the wide range of technological or computational sophistication of biology laboratories.


Drug Target Strategies

Track Chairs: Peter Hodder, Ph.D., Amgen (USA) and Margaret Porter Scott, Ph.D., Genentech (USA)

Creating the next generation of small molecule drugs calls for novel drug target strategies. This track will provide assay and screening scientists with cutting edge information on technologies and methodologies, which enable them to advance chemical matter for clinically relevant pharmacologies. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Mei-Chu Lo, Ph.D., Amgen (USA)

    Protein degradation has emerged as a powerful approach for small molecules to modulate previously "hard to drug" targets. Applications of molecules and technologies that enable targeting of proteins to the degradome will be presented.

  • Session Chair: Margaret Scott, Ph.D., Genentech (USA)

    Hit validation in novel target space requires new methods that provide information beyond binding or modulation of activity. This session will focus on the newest generation of biophysical technologies that elucidate target binding sites, kinetics and/or protein conformation.

  • Session Chair: Bill Hahn, M.D., Ph.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (USA)

    Advances in genomics and proteomics have introduced new platforms to researchers engaged in early-stage drug discovery. Applications of these technologies for drug target validation as well as MOA studies of small molecules will be presented.


High-Definition Biotechnology

Track Chairs: Tony Dickherber, Ph.D., National Cancer Institute/NIH (USA) and Kristen Brennand, Ph.D., Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine (USA)

The High Definition Biotechnology track focuses on the application of microfluidic, optical, and molecular tools in disease biology, diagnostics, screening and translational medicine. The session will emphasize state-of-the-art, quantitative, high-throughput and high-resolution approaches in both simple cellular systems and complex tissues. These approaches enable multiparametric studies that reveal the interplay of genetics, disease and therapeutic opportunities and move personalized medicine ahead. Topics include the latest specialized engineering and assay technologies, including single-cell and sequencing-based approaches, new imaging modalities and cutting-edge application and disease areas including oncology and neurology. Planned sessions include:

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