SLAS 2023: Ultra high-throughput drug discovery, organoids-on-chip and cell lines

Mar 29, 2023 | Event

Another SLAS 2023 conference wrapped up at the dawn of March in San Diego. It was packed with interesting talks, posters and exhibitors. Here we’ll showcase some of the most interesting talks, posters and products. 

The centre of the stage are of course robots. SLAS was full of them and it’s always fascinating to watch them roll around, grab plates, drop liquids or simply cap the flasks at unprecedented speeds. Right next to it are scanners – high-content screening systems, plate readers, and all sorts of other instruments that provide meaningful readouts. High-throughput proteomics is expanding as well, this year we’ve seen a significant number of suppliers and users. There were also some data companies, mostly providing platforms for image management. But there were also some areas that were particularly interesting and show the direction into which the drug discovery will likely traverse.

One of the most fascinating talks was from Craig Schulz, Terray Therapeutics. They developed a fully-automated ultra high-throughput drug screening platform, including synthesis on the go, liquid handling, acquisition and data processing. They screen 70 million compounds per minute. Hits are then re-synthesised at rates of thousands per week and further screened in biochemical or phenotypic assays. Although there are certain limitations with the types of assays that can be performed in the primary screening, this is certainly a very powerful platform.

In the exhibition area we could see some emerging trends in the product ranges. Particularly interesting were organoid-on-chip systems, which are microfluidic systems in the format of a multiwell plate. They work as perfusion chambers that can be used for cultivating organoids. Sebastiaan Trietsch, Mimetas, presented one such plate, which they use for modelling gut-on-a-chip. Leaving biological aspects aside, the format is particularly interesting for automation, since it uses the typical 96 or 384-well plate layout.

A similar solution was presented by eNUVIO in the exhibition area. Their plates feature microfluidic devices that can be used for growth of neuron cultures, muscular tissue or other 2D or 3D types of cell culture. For example, the OMEGA plate has two chambers separated by narrow 10 micron channels, which are big enough for axons, but too small for neuron bodies to pass. This can be used to simulate the compartmentalization of the neuron culture with axons spanning through compartments with different conditions/treatments. 

In the exhibition area we also visited Volition, Tissuse, Sun Bioscience, InSphero, Inventia Life sciences, and Alveolix

Tessara Therapeutics presented the brain organoids intended for drug discovery. They are based on stem cells which are implanted into a chemically relevant extracellular matrix (ECM), which promotes differentiation towards neural cells. It also stimulates excretion of natural ECM. The organoids are created in 3 weeks. The company offers models for normal and developmental brain, as well as Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury.

Specialist cell lines seem to be a trend lately, with multiple offerings in the exhibition area. Mentioning a few –, Fujifilm Wako Cellular Dynamics, BrainXell, Definigen, Stem Pharm, AcCELLerate, Trailhead, Express Cells, and others.

Overall, SLAS was a very interesting conference with many good discussions and products. It’s also a great community which nourishes collaboration through many special interest groups and spin-off events. There’s upcoming SLAS Europe between 22nd and 26th May, which we’ll be attending as well. Feel free to get in touch to meet with CEO Tilen Kranjc.