SLAS Europe 2023: Drug discovery and AI in the heart of Europe

Jun 1, 2023 | Event

The European edition of SLAS conference has been placed in Brussels, next to the famous Atomium. Although smaller than the international edition, it provided plenty of interesting posters and presentations. In the scientific content there was less emphasis on automation and more on screening, particularly drug repurposing and organoid research. Interestingly, there was a strong representation of microfluidics topics.

The first scientific session focused on tumor micro-environment. Swiss startup DOPPL showed results from their evaluation of organoids for prediction of clinical toxicity. After that Annika Wittich presented her work on drug repurposing. In this study they successfully identified a molecule (and target) that could be potentially used for the treatment of Leigh syndrome.The afternoon session on Omics, Big data and AI offered 3 interesting talks about integrating multiple data sources to complement drug discovery. Richard Kasprowicz from GSK presented how they integrate image profiling and omics, particularly transcriptomics, in drug discovery. In the next talk Luisa Weiss from University College Dublin presented their work on using biomarkers together with patient data to better predict pre-eclampsia. They also evaluated miRNAs and lipids as biomarkers. In the last talk Juan Manuel Dominguez presented Topazium’s approach to find genes that can be used to better stratify cancer patients. They used the TCGA database. The session was followed by the Data science and AI special interest group in the exhibition area, which was a great opportunity for networking.

In the picture: our CEO, Tilen, being ordered to make a selfie.

The High Content Screening session offered four presentations about different approaches to screening. Particularly interesting talk was from Raphael Tomasi, Okomera, who talked about their microfluidic platform for microtumor formation and drug screening based on patient cells derived from biopsies. The platform can use only a small number of cells and can be used to identify drugs that can be used efficiently in therapy. In the Cell therapies session there was an interesting talk about 2D and 3D CAR T toxicity assays using high content screening, presented by Scott Cribbes, Revvity. Another interesting session was about Advanced disease models, with talks about 3D neurospheres, and microfluidics. The last presentation by Quyen Do from University of Oxford talked about fluid wall microfluidics, which they used to build complex neuronal circuits. This interesting methodology can be used to develop microfluidic chambers by printing oil in water.

The conference was wrapped up by a keynote from Garry Pairaudeau, Exscientia. He presented their approach to discover new drugs with the help of AI. Their approach is based on training many AI models and then only concluding experiments that can improve the models prediction. With this they were able to reach clinical trials for 5 molecules in 9-15 months, with only up to 400 molecules synthesized during the process. Garry also gave us a peak view into their new automation platform, which was truly fascinating.

In the exhibition area there were many opportunities for networking due to well organized breaks and many mingling areas. Next year the conference will return to Barcelona in the beginning of May. See you there!