A tremendous benefit of working with Formaspace’s customers is that we get exposure to such a wide range of industries, all of which have their unique needs and interesting problems that need to be solved. One of the most fascinating industries for us is the field of laboratory life science research and development, which is advancing at an incredible rate thanks to major scientific initiatives like the Human Genome Project. We hope to learn more about this at the annual conference of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2014 (SLAS) which meets next week in San Diego.
In most industries, there is a seminal event which changes everything — whether it’s the invention of the internal combustion gasoline engine, the invention of the computer microprocessor or even the invention of the Internet. In the life science industry, scientists widely consider the Human Genome Project to have been one of these seminal events. It’s been the major catalyst in the laboratory automation and drug discovery revolution that has occurred over the past twenty years. In particular, the Human Genome Project helped spur the development of High Throughput Screening (HTS) technology in drug discovery development.
HTS and its associated software for laboratory research have enabled laboratory screening of compound libraries with assay development of unique targets that now number in the billions. To put the exponential growth and maturation of drug discovery automation technology in perspective, consider the history of the microtiter plate (MTP), also known as a multiwell plate, which started out as a mere 8×12 array back in 1951. These early plate management systems stand in sharp contrast to today’s advanced High Throughput Screening laboratory automation systems, which are both incredibly fast and reliable.
Today one single moderately priced machine at a university laboratory can process over a million custom plates in just a few months time. The results of all this testing have enabled scientific researchers to functionalize the workings of the human genome and discover connections between compound libraries and their mechanisms of action (MoA) for metabolic diseases. This, in turn, has resulted in significant progress in identifying useful drug compounds to control infectious diseases, inflammation and cancer/oncology, among others, as well as to help identify the human toxicity/side effects also present in the compound libraries.
Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2014
Who are the people responsible for the massive increase in the number of compound libraries tested in drug discovery?
Well, you can meet many of the research and development professionals who make it happen at the annual convention of one of the industry’s leading professional trade groups: the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) which is holding their annual 2014 convention in San Diego. SLAS members include over 18,000 professionals in the laboratory automation and life science research and development arenas. SLAS serves a broad array of scientific and technical disciplines and areas of interest, including:
- Drug Target Biology
- Bioanalytical Techniques
- Scientific Informatics
- Laboratory Automation and High Throughput Technologies
- Assay Development and Screening
- Drug Discovery
- Molecular Diagnostics and Biomarkers
- Micro-Nano Technology
One of the Questions We Have to Ask is ‘What Do We Do With All This Information?’
The answer, according to Dr. Eric J. Topol, keynote speaker at SLAS 2014, is we have entered the era of Personalized Medicine.
The speaker at next Monday’s SLAS 2014 opening keynote presentation has been thinking a lot about how to harness the massive amount of information brought about by laboratory automation so it can provide maximum impact for the health care of individual patients. Eric J. Topol, MD — the keynote speaker at SLAS 2014 — has achieved a level of fame beyond traditional scientific circles — not unlike NASA’s ‘Mohawk Guy’ Bobak Ferdowsi — by appearing in the Rock Stars of Science advertising campaign. It doesn’t hurt Topos’s reputation either that he was instrumental in the invention of some of the Pharma industry’s blockbuster drugs, including t-PA, Plavix, Angiomax, and ReoPro.
In Dr. Topol’s SLAS keynote, titled Convergence of the Digital Era and Medicine (based in part on his book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine), he argues we now have the ability to digitize a human being in ways we thought impossible only a few years ago. Further, this is occurring in a period of super-convergence, where digital communication technology (smartphones, pervasive wireless connectivity, and social networking) is upending the traditional top-down approach to the practice of medicine. The result, according to Topol, is that “these new tools set up the ability to render health care ‘unplugged’ and enable direct transmission of key data and information to the patient, which will be transformative and likely represent the biggest shakeup in the history of the medicine.” Topol’s keynote at SLAS 2014 will be webcast at no charge; you can register here. For a preview, here is an archive presentation of Dr. Topol’s talk at TedMED2009:
What is the Next Frontier? How About the Way the Brain Works?
Discoveries stemming from the BRAIN Initiative have the potential to equal or surpass those of the Human Genome Project
Because the proposed BRAIN Initiative (short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) is comparable in scope to the Human Genome Project, many experts predict it will drive another revolution in drug discovery. Just as High Throughput Screening technology has leveraged discoveries made by the Human Genome project to provide researchers with tools to quickly identify bioactive compounds in the DNA, RNA, protein or other relevant biological targets in compound libraries, it is expected that the BRAIN initiative will spur new discoveries and technologies for brain disorders, including traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. The BRAIN Initiative has moved to the funding opportunities phase. We’ll be looking at the BRAIN initiative in more detail in a future article.
Are You in the Business of Laboratory Automation and Screening or Drug Discovery?
If you are, we hope you’ll make contact with us. We’ve worked with some of the largest enterprise-level customers in the scientific research laboratory and pharmaceutical industries to build their custom laboratory equipment, including wet labs, lab benches, storage systems and much more. Talk to one of our laboratory design and furniture experts today and we can help you renovate your current facility to make it more efficient or help you plan a new research laboratory from the ground up.