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SLAS2020 Scientific Podium Program

Podium presentations at SLAS2020 were organized into ten educational tracks. Track and session titles and descriptions and names of track chairs and session chairs follow below. Make sure to follow the SLAS2021 website for updates on next year's tracks and program compendium.

Advances in Bioanalytics and Biomarkers Track

Track Chair(s): Andreas Luippold, Ph.D., Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany) and Martin Giera, Ph.D., Leiden University Medical Center (The Netherlands)

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 omics approaches to biomarker analysis. Planned sessions include:

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

    Label-free bioanalytical techniques are an attractive alternative to conventional labelled detection technologies because, by definition, they do not require the use of reporter elements to facilitate measurement. They therefore offer rapid assay development, high sensitivity, and direct detection of analyte binding to target molecules. This session will focus on the recent advancements and application of such techniques to the drug discovery process, including, but not limited to, mass spectrometry and optical biosensors.

  • Session Chair: Gary Siuzdak, Ph.D., Scripps Research (USA)

    The individual Omics sciences, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics, are powerful tools for expanding our knowledge of the complexity of human diseases and for delivering mechanistic and predictive insights informing drug discovery. Beyond biomarker discovery, this research is taking advantage of recent advances in chromatography, mass spectrometry and bioinformatics leading to a transformation in the Omics landscape. This session will focus on opportunities, challenges and recent technological advancements toward identifying biologically active molecules.

  • Session Chair: Paul Tesar, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University (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): Joe McGivern, Ph.D., Amgen (USA) and Melissa Crisp, Ph.D., Eli Lilly (USA)

This track will focus on recent innovations across the assay development and screening field, including the adoption of novel technologies and intelligent informatics approaches, to enable the implementation of effective screening campaigns and hit triage strategies to identify, validate and characterize potential leads. Attendees will hear about the development of robust, physiologically-relevant biochemical, biophysical and cellular assays that are crucial for identifying active ligands that engage their targets directly. There will be an emphasis on recent case studies where cutting-edge assay approaches to improve the success rates of screening have been coupled with next-generation therapeutic modalities and novel mechanisms of action to broaden the scope of target classes that can be drugged. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: James Evans, Ph.D., Phenovista Biosciences (USA)

    In this session, attendees will learn how high-content, high-definition, super-resolution microscopy as well as single-cell & sophisticated analytical workflows can be used to identify and validate targets as well as to profile the effects and elucidate the mechanism-of-action of leads and drug candidates. Attendees will also hear about how these approaches can be used to investigate and understand heterogeneity of engineered cells, primary human cells or stem cell-derived cells and to explore critical differences that might be missed when looking at averages in populations.

  • Session Chair: Amy Quinn, Ph.D., GlaxoSmithKline (USA)

    Biochemical and biophysical assays are fundamental methods that are used widely during drug discovery. Attendees of this session will learn how these methods can be employed effectively to identify and optimize active leads and to demonstrate target engagement using purified proteins to build confidence in understanding the affinity, efficacy & mechanism of action of molecules.

  • Session Chair: Virneliz Fernandez-Vega, B.S., Scripps Research (USA)

    Analysis of highly-dynamic, 3D culture systems over time (4D) is a powerful way to understand the coordination & orchestration of complex biological processes in living human cells, stem cell-derived cultures & tissues. Utilization of sophisticated human culture systems, including organ-on-chip, not only is relevant to human disease but through the power of translation should also accelerate & increase the chances of identifying efficacious & safe drugs with relevance to cancer, immunology & organ physiology.

  • Session Chair: Dane Mohl, Ph.D., Amgen (USA)

    Complex biological processes control the expression, folding, trafficking & degradation of proteins in cells and are implicated in diseases associated with protein misfolding, aggregation and excessive degradation. These processes control the lifecycle of proteins and represent intervention points for novel therapeutics such as siRNA & Protacs. Attendees of this session will learn how to build & utilize assays that measure these processes.

  • Session Chair: Melissa Crisp, Ph.D., Eli Lilly (USA)

    Attendees of this session will learn how the gene-editing power of CRISPR-Cas9 is being harnessed to engineer more-physiologically relevant cellular screening assays and to aid the discovery of next-generation therapeutics for genetically-defined diseases.

  • Session Chair: Julie Conkright-Fincham, Ph.D., Stowers Institute for Medical Research (USA)

    Established and cutting-edge technologies are being employed to build assays for challenging targets and protein-protein interactions. Attendees of this session will learn about sophisticated assay approaches for lead discovery and screening to identify molecules and factors that modulate these targets.


Automation and High-Throughput Technologies

Track Chair(s): Sam Michael, NIH (USA) and Helen Plant, B.Sc., AstraZeneca (UK)

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:

  • Session Chair: Roger Clark, B.Sc., Charles River Laboratories (UK)

    This session focuses on the use of physiologically-relevant models (e.g., patient-derived tumor organoids, spheroids, co-cultures, etc.) for comprehensive screenings (biochemical or genetic) in support of drug discovery.

  • Session Chair: James Pilling, M.Sc., AstraZeneca (UK)

    Approaches using fully automated platform to close the gap on automating high content analysis for high throughput screening using advanced techniques such as AI/ML.

  • Session Chair: Helen Plant, B.Sc., AstraZeneca (UK)

    This session will focus on the design of automated processes that are made possible by coupling components together to realize an entire automated workflow. Topics to include data management, increasing throughput, high level software control and the logistics of pairing automated systems together.

  • Session Chair: Alex Godfrey, Ph.D., National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) (USA)

    This session will feature presentations on advances being made in the development and application of automation technologies within the scope of facilitating or advancing the productivity in chemical synthesis and/or the screening of chemical reactions.

  • Session Chair: Mindy Davis, Ph.D., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) (USA)

    Maximizing the physiological relevance of biochemical and cell-based assays that are amenable to automation is challenging. This session focuses on strategies to optimize biologically relevant assays for high-throughput screening by leveraging assay design principles and automation technologies.

  • Session Chair: Sam Michael, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) (USA)

    This session will focus on instrumentation and automation solutions designed and implemented using open source tools and platforms. Some examples of this are the prevalence of open source microscopy tools and extensible hardware platforms such as 3D printers.


Biologics Discovery

Track Chairs: Rob Howes, Ph.D., AstraZeneca (UK) and Janice Reichert, Ph.D., The Antibody Society (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: Janice Reichert, Ph.D., The Antibody Society/mAbs (USA)

    Antibodies are extremely versatile proteins that may be developed into therapeutics for many diseases. This session will focus on two hotspots of research, particularly in the cancer field: bispecific antibodies that re-direct T cells and antibodies that target checkpoints of the immune system. The process used to design and select such innovative molecules will be illustrated through case studies.

  • Session Chair: David Gilham, Ph.D., Celyad (BEL)

    Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) products have proven successful in the clinic, leading to a substantial increase in research on cellular therapies for cancer. Speakers in this session with discuss the challenges of CAR-T development, and the possibilities for the development of ‘off-the-shelf’ cellular therapies and those that rely on natural killer receptors.

  • Session Chair: Rob Howes, Ph.D., AstraZeneca (UK)

    How will biologics discovery develop in the future? This session is designed to highlight technologies and trends that we think will drive the next wave of biologics discovery. Example areas include improvements in B cell isolation/sequencing, machine learning, improvements in cell therapy technologies and predictive biologics design.


Cellular Technologies

Track Chairs: Jason Ekert, Ph.D., MBA, GlaxoSmithKline (USA) and Nancy Allbritton, M.D., Ph.D., University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (USA)

Attendees will learn from industry and academic leaders about new celluar technologies with a focus on application and translation of complex multi-cellular tissues and organ-like systems. The use of organoids, organ-on-chips, and microphysiologic models for the understanding of normal physiology and creation of disease models will be covered in the sessions. The audience will also learn about applications of these multicellular tissues and constructs in drug assays and toxicology screening. The track will also address the application of genome editing tools and genetic screens such as CRISPR Cas to develop high-fidelity models of normal and diseased human tissues for investigation of their physiologic behaviors and pharmacologic responses. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Nancy Allbritton, M.D., Ph.D., University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (USA)

    This session will focus on the development of organoids and cell co-cultures to replicate normal and disordered phenotypes as well as the application of these technologies to yield novel insights into disease processes and pharmaceutical development. Validation of the faithfulness of these tissues to replicate disease processes will also be considered.

  • Session Chair: Deok-Ho Kim, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (USA)

    Organs-on-chips and micro-physiological systems are moving from the design, biofabrication and characterization phase to industrialization. This session will highlight drug discovery applications of MPS models in the target validation, efficacy and safety/ bio-metabolism areas.

  • Session Chair: Alejandro Amador, Ph.D., GlaxoSmithKline (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.


Data Analysis and Informatics

Track Chairs: Yohann Potier, Ph.D., Voyager Therapeutics (USA) and Nicola Richmond, Ph.D. GlaxoSmithKline, (UK)

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 continue to grow exponentially, so does the demand for tools which 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: Umesh Katpally, Ph.D., Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (USA)

    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: Marti Head, Ph.D., Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA)

    This session will focus on creating a data culture in the organization to enable data sharing, integration, availability and associated tools inside each organization and across the industry. The complexity and volume of data associated with scientific discovery 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, data repurposing and adoption of data standard to enable risk sharing and data governance while maintaining high standards for data quality and privacy.

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

    As technology advances, the sophistication of lab-based instruments continues to rise, and with it, so do the complexity and dimensionality of the data these instruments generate. Coupling instruments with automation leads to a high-dimensional data explosion making effective data-driven decision-making a challenge. To prevent data interpretation being the bottleneck in an otherwise efficient process, the industry has an ever-increasing need of high-end, automated data-analytics pipelines with which to convert biological and chemical data into actionable insights. There are a plethora of AI and machine learning methods ripe for exploitation in the field but to leverage these methods and secure interest from scientists, careful attention must be paid to experimental design, data/meta-data capture and method selection to ensure explainability, deployability and impact.


Drug Target Strategies 


This track is generously sponsored by MSD. 

Track Chairs: Margaret Scott, Ph.D., Genentech (USA) and Tim Wigle, Ph.D., Ribon Therapeutics (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 & methodologies that enable them to advance chemical matter for clinically relevant pharmacologies. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Robert Blake, Ph.D., Genentech (USA)

    Controling the degradation of proteins either directly with small molecule degraders or via altering the cellular mechanisms that control protein stability is emerging as a major focus of drug discovery. Strategies being employed to regulate protein homeostasis will be presented.

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

    As our understanding of the complexity surrounding RNA regulation increases it is becoming evident that exploiting this is a promising therapeutic strategy. This session examines RNA-focused drug discovery including small molecules binding directly to RNA and targeting the enzymes that modify it.

  • Session Chair: Tim Wigle, Ph.D., Ribon Therapeutics (USA)

    As drug discovery efforts become increasingly focused on novel or classically undruggable targets, a full array of assays and technologies need to be deployed to validate and characterize small molecule leads. This session will focus on advanced and cellular biophysical methods that are enabling these targets to be exploited for drug discovery.


Micro- and Nanotechnologies

Track Chairs: Amar Basu, Ph.D., Bioelectronica Corporation (USA) and Elodie Sollier, Ph.D., Benkei (France)

Freeman Dyson famously said "when we make a new tool, we see a new cosmos". Micro and nano-scale tools have accelerated the pace of scientific discovery, particularly in next generation sequencing, single cell analysis, analytical chemistry, and high throughput screening.  These tools leverage unique physics at small length scales, the ability to interact and encapsulate biological systems at similar length scales, and the ability to massively parallelize assays.  Attendees will be given a broad overview of such emerging tools and their applications from both industry and academic leaders.  This year's track will highlight advances in single cell and high throughput technologies, miniaturization of analytical instruments, and robust fabrication technologies needed for commercialization. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: Alex Shalek, Ph.D., MIT (USA)

    This session will focus on the use of microdevices for high-throughput biological experimentation. Single and multiphase microdevices utilize pL-uL containers as chemical reactors, and afford precise control over the volume and chemical content of each reaction vessel. Importantly, bespoke structures enable downstream processing using a range of active or passive components. Session topics include but are not limited to: fluid and particle/cell handling in microfluidic devices, the physics and modeling of single and multiphase flow, detection techniques, cellular and biomolecular assays, nanomaterial fabrication, and other novel applications of microdevices in chemistry and biology.

  • Session Chair: Daniel Austin, Ph.D., Brigham Young (USA)

    The separation and analysis of complex mixtures is a cornerstone of screening technology. Miniaturization of chemical separations and spectrometry methods leverages the unique physics at the microscale to improve speed, resolution, cost, sample requirements, and/or the scalability of the technique. This year's track will track will focus on recent advances in the miniaturization of mass spectrometry and analytical separation methods.

  • Session Chair: Élodie Sollier, Ph.D., Benkei (France)

    The commercialization of microfluidic and nanofluidic devices promises new tools for high throughput, high efficiency and integrated biological and chemical experimentation. This session will address important insights and lessons learned from commercializing novel microfluidic and nanofluidic systems in the life science and clinical market. Of particular interest, will be contributions describing integrated systems for cellular analysis, point-of-care use, bio-analytical systems, sample preparation, novel sensors and separation devices. Issues addressing system integration, materials selection, production processes, operational costs, reagent storage and operational lifetime will be of significant interest.


Molecular Libraries

Track Chairs: Andrew Alt, Ph.D., University of Michigan (USA) and Guy Breitenbucher, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco (USA)

The Molecular Libraries track will focus on the science of developing and leveraging small molecule libraries for hit identification and target validation. The track will cover the breadth of strategies for library utility, covering traditional small molecule libraries, DNA-encoded libraries and fragment collections. Additionally, we will explore the outer fringes of the small molecule world, including looking at the use of macromolecules, natural products and macrocycles. The focus will be on how to build and use libraries to deliver leads for your programs. Planned sessions include:

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

    This session will focus on the design of small molecule screening libraries, including both traditional diversity-based libraries and "specialty libraries" such as covalent inhibitor libraries, target-focused libraries, drug repurposing libraries, natural products, etc.

  • Session Chair: Martin Matzuk, M.D., Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine (USA)

    This session will focus on the utility of DNA-encoded libraries for hit identification. Specific attention will be paid to strategies for selection (including evolutionary approaches), eliminating non-specific binders, managing challenging targets such as DNA-binding proteins and membrane proteins. We will also look at data analysis and selecting hits to make off-DNA, elucidating the real hit from the chemical recipe and engage in discussion on library scale and diversity.

  • Session Chair: Gerard Rosse, Ph.D., Dart Neuroscience (USA)

    This session will focus on the computational design of intellegent small molecule screening libraries including modern AI based approches to chemical informatics and AI approaches to virtual library screening.


Precision Medicine Technologies

Track Chairs: Kristen Brennand, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine (USA) and John Joslin, Ph.D., Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) (USA)

The Precision Medicine Technologies track includes molecular, biochemical, bioengineering, and bioinformatic strategies in disease biology, diagnostics, screening and translational medicine. The session will emphasize the application of state-of-the-art, quantitative, high-throughput and high-resolution approaches to both cellular models and complex tissues. These strategies enable multiparametric computational analyses to reveal the complex interplay of genetics, cell types, and drugs to advance precision medicine. Topics include improvements in stem cell-based disease modeling, bioengineering, molecular and cellular assays, and bioinformatic approaches. Planned sessions include:

  • Session Chair: John Joslin, The Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (USA)

    This session will incorporate advances in stem cell-based disease modeling, and CRISPR-engineering approaches to build and/or resolve the complexity of disease models.

  • Session Chair: Kevin Eggan, Ph.D., Harvard University (USA)

    This session will address high content analysis of single cells, emphasizing clinical application of technologies that span high-resolution and high-throughput approaches.

  • Session Chair: Kelly Frazer, Ph.D., University of California San Diego (USA)

    This session will focus on tackling big data associated challenges to assessing multi-omic, imaging, and electronic health record datasets to enable new strategies for precision diagnosis and treatment.


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