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SBS builds on its success
March 2010
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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PHOENIX—High-tech tools are certainly a huge part of drug discovery and development, but this year, the Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) is taking the content of the SBS 16th Annual Conference & Exhibition somewhat away from the traditionally heavy technology focus and bringing in some of the broader scientific issues involved with drug discovery.

The 2010 meeting, to be held at the Phoenix Convention Center April 11 to 15, is designed to build upon the refinements made to the format in recent years, according to conference program co-chairmen Keith Moore and Keith Wood.

Specifically, they say, the 2010 meeting will be organized around six mini-symposia, each lasting one-and-a-half days and covering key areas of relevance from technological, functional and therapeutic perspectives.

Three of the sessions will run in parallel on April 12-13 and the other three on April 14-15. This structure will provide for 15 presentations to cover each topic in greater depth, Moore and Wood note, allowing time to address the crucial issues and recent scientific developments in an integrated and coherent manner, drawing on contributions from a range of disciplines.

"This format does depart from the collection of independent half-day sessions traditionally offered at the conference," Wood says, "but it also builds on the success of the 2009 annual conference in Lille, France, which was organized around four thematic tracks. That worked well and was well received. One track in particular, structured as a mini-symposium on the GPCR target family, met with strong success."

The 2010 annual conference will extend this model by offering multiple mini-symposia covering the core SBS disciplines, an emerging target class and lead discovery in selected therapeutic areas.

For core capabilities in lead discovery, presentations will be organized into two non-concurrent sessions. The first is Critical Reagents, which will focus on the design of synthetic and natural product libraries, sample storage, compound quality control and distribution and bioreagent preparation for lead discovery. The second, Assays and Automation, will cover best practices in automation and miniaturization, novel screening technologies for hit discovery and lead optimization. Between the two tracks, the aim is to cover the latest developments in the evaluation and deployment of new approaches, technologies and products to enable novel research paradigms, or enhance the quality and cost efficiency of lead discovery.

The Epigenetics session does the duty of highlighting the emerging target class most of interest to SBS this year. Epigenetic targets represent a new and emerging protein class with significant potential roles in the pathogenesis and therefore the treatment of human disease, Moore and Wood say.

The other three sessions cover lead discovery in specific therapeutic areas—an important consideration in programming for the conference, Moore and Wood maintain, because "orthogonal to the technology, discipline and functional alignment of lead discovery is the coordinated application of these approaches to focused therapeutic areas. Working closely with disease experts, scientists within the core platforms develop approaches and capabilities tailored to the specific requirements and challenges of lead discovery and optimization in a specific therapeutic area."

These three sessions will cover the integration of recent scientific and technological advances to identify targets, leads (both small molecule and biopharmaceutical), and clinical candidates in the areas of immunoinflammation, oncology and neurosciences.

"By presenting a marriage of scientific insight and technological achievements, these mini-symposia will offer various perspectives relevant to their respective fields ranging from target biology to lead optimization," Wood says.

Oncology will address identification of valid and tractable targets, through the design and prosecution of in vitro assays, to the selection of appropriate molecules for progression toward the clinic, he says. Immunoinflammation will highlight breakthrough areas of new science, focusing on innate immunity, adaptive immunity and inflammation and its resolution. Neurosciences will address target classes that mediate cellular signaling pathways, ion channels, membrane transporters and G-protein coupled receptors, focusing on unique technologies for improving lead identification.  

"For each of these mini-symposia, we seek to provide better understanding of the critical challenges unique to these specific research areas," Wood says. "Broader awareness of these issues can go a long way to improve interactions between researchers and scientists from different disciplines and institutions."

Focusing on therapeutic areas as an organizing principle is also important, Wood notes, because many larger companies have organized around therapeutic areas. This, he says, has allowed for better integration of the chemical, engineering, computational and biological disciplines needed for lead discovery.

Another reason is that smaller companies have to focus their limited resources to an individual disease or therapeutic areas. "Often, they have a specific technology or core intellectual property suited to a particular area," Wood points out. "Similarly, academic and non-for-profit organizations frequently have a core expertise in one or a small number of disease areas."

The six-track approach this year isn't the only thing new on the table. This conference will also herald, for the first time, the addition of a new SBS Special Interest Group (SIG) on drug repositioning. Roger BossÈ of PerkinElmer, Canada, will chair the meeting of the new SBS SIG, which is part of a broad-based SBS initiative that offers members opportunities to proactively address specific challenges—technical, operational and legal, for example—in relation to needs and benefits of repurposing drugs. The new SIG grew out of an SBS executive forum on drug repositioning held during the 2009 SBS conference in France.

Also of note during the conference is a series of career coaching-related activities called Kick Start Your Career. This will include free one-on-one career counseling for full-conference attendees and a series of presentations designed to support attendees at all career stages, from students starting out to seasoned veterans. The presentations are expected to cover essentials of job hunting, essentials of career development, and translational skills and trends in the life sciences.



Credit where it's due

SBS to bestow trio of awards during 2010 conference in April

DANBURY, Conn.—The Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) has announced its award winners for the SBS 16th Annual Conference & Exhibition, to be honored during the show in Phoenix. They are Drs. Lubert Stryer, Kevan Shokat and Stephen W. Fesik.
Stryer, a physician and a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, as well as chairman of the scientific advisory board for Affymetrix Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., will receive the SBS 2010 Award for Achievement in Biomolecular Sciences & Lead Discovery.

Shokat, a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco, is getting the SBS 2010 Accomplishment Award in Biomolecular Sciences & Lead Discovery.

Fesik, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Department of Pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, will receive the SBS Technology Innovation Award.



New director, new board members
DANBURY, Conn.—In late January, longtime executive director Christine Giordano announced that she would step down from her leadership role at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS), having served as director since the organization's creation in 1994. To replace her, the SBS board of directors appointed Dr. Al Kolb as the new executive director. Formerly the president of KeyTech Solutions, a consulting firm, Kolb is one of the founding SBS members and has previously served in a governance role.
"Al has an appreciation of SBS' history, combined with a deep understanding of current trends and challenges in drug discovery. His leadership and insights will be essential to SBS' continued success," says Dr. Robert Ames, chairman of the SBS board of directors.
Shortly after this announcement, SBS also announced the election of two new board members, Dr. Melvin Reichman and Dr. Sue Holland-Crimmin, along with the re-election of Dr. John Wang. Each will serve a three-year term on the SBS board.
The new SBS board members will be introduced at the 2010 SBS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Phoenix, Ariz.



JBS award debuts

PHOENIX—SBS will present the first JBS Academic Excellence Award to graduate students at the 2010 conference in Phoenix. In partnership with SBS' Academic Outreach and Awards Committees and the society's peer-reviewed Journal of Biomolecular Screening, this award will be presented to graduate students whose academic work contributes to biomolecular sciences/quantitative biology.

Three award finalists will be invited to present in a special session at the 2010 conference. Each presenter will have 15 minutes to present their work, followed by five minutes of question-and-answer by a panel of SBS member judges. The award will be based upon scientific merit, experimental approach/innovation, presentation, and grasp of the subject matter. The three finalists will receive free registration to attend the Annual Conference & Exhibition, and the winner will receive an award of $1,500 for best presentation.



Getting together at the show

PHOENIX—SBS reminds those who plan to attend its 2010 conference that professional collaboration is a critical element in successfully bringing new drugs to market, and they plan to offer a variety of unique opportunities for drug-discovery professionals from around the world to build and enhance their peer networks.

A new member reception will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center on Monday, April 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., by invitation only. The SBS Welcome/Networking Reception—offering a night of a Mexican Rodeo, Mariachi music, dancing, games, and food—will be held at Corona Ranch the same night, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and is free to all registered conference attendees.


On Wednesday, April 14, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., SBS presents its "Meet the Author"
Poster Dessert and Closing Reception in the exhibition hall, at which you can ask questions, debate the issues, and delve more deeply into topics and technologies that catch your interest, with the poster authors whose presentations most intrigue you.



Products debuting in Arizona at the 2010 SBS conference

Zoom Microplate Washer HT

Titertek's Zoom Microplate Washer HT is the fastest washer for high-throughput applications. The same washer can be easily set for vigorous multiplex/array wash, thorough ELISA wash and gentle wash of loosely adherent cells without additional modifications or upgrades. The built-in 60-plate stacker and optional two-reagent dispense module make Zoom Microplate Washer HT a prefect choice for walk-away automation of liquid handling.
For more information, contact Titertek Instruments Inc.
www.titertek.com, inquiry@titertek.com or (256) 859-8600
Visit us at SBS booth #400

Chirascan circular dichroism spectrometers
Chirascan sets new standards in CD spectroscopy incorporating innovative optical design features to maximize light throughput. Chirascan-Plus DMS is the most advanced product in the range and is an optimized solution for biotherapeutic drug development, formulation testing and other pharmaceutical applications. Structural, thermodynamic and aggregation data is obtained simultaneously in one hour with as little as 50 ug of protein.
For more information, contact Applied Photophysics
www.photophysics.com, (800) 543-4130 (U.S.) or +44 (0) 1372 386537
Visit us at SBS Booth #542

Automated electrophysiology system
The next-generation IonWorks High-Throughput Automated Electrophysiology System adds compound and records from all wells in a 384-well plate simultaneously to enable study of both voltage- and ligand-gated channels. With the highest throughput available at an affordable price-per-data-point, the system allows you to leverage direct electrophysiological assays for screening large, directed compound libraries as well as hit-to-lead and lead optimization studies.
For more information, contact Molecular Devices
www.moleculardevices.com, info@moldev.com or (800) 635-5577
Visit us at SBS Booth #801
 
FLEXICore Assembler
ChemBridge's FLEXICore Assembler is a library design and synthesis program, enabling end-users to design novel compounds using unique poly-functional templates and more than 20,000 chemical building blocks and reagents. Costs are very competitive and based on the level of scale, complexity, and exclusivity required. FLEXICore represents chemistry without limits; your design capabilities matched with ChemBridge's 16 years of chemical synthesis expertise to enhance your drug discovery.
For more information, contact ChemBridge Corp.
www.chembridge.com, (858) 451-7400 or (800) 964-6143
Visit us at SBS Booth #613

Biologically targeted libraries
BioFocus launches new helix mimetic library plus three new kinase libraries. Due for launch in April, these biologically targeted libraries contain novel, drug-like compounds.  Our new helix mimetic library is based on a novel structure that interacts with helical recognition motifs such as proteins and ion channels while the three new SoftFocus kinase libraries are predicted to access a range of binding modes.  
For more information, contact BioFocus
www.biofocus.com or (617) 413 1953
Visit us at SBS Booth #835  

Automation system enables walk-away, high-throughput, real-time PCR
Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. has announced the availability of the CFX automation system for walk-away, high-throughput, qPCR on its CFX96 and CFX384 real-time PCR detection systems. The CFX automation system is equipped with a benchtop plate handler with the capacity to load up to 20 384-well plates or 7,680 samples at a time on the CFX384 system, facilitating workflow automation and the generation and rapid analysis of data.
For more information, contact Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc.
www.bio-rad.com/amplification/ or (800) 424-6723
Visit us at SBS booth #616

Flexible automation of plate-based workflows

The Agilent Direct Drive Robot (DDR) advances target identification and high-throughput screening for drug discovery research and can also be used in genomics applications, including DNA extraction and PCR sample preparation. State-of-the-art direct drive technology reduces the number of moving parts, resulting in a robotic arm that has increased reliability and speed, moving smoothly with precision and accuracy. Innovative one-person, one-touch teaching makes the DDR extremely easy to configure to your application, minimizing setup personnel and time.
For more information, contact Agilent Automation Solutions
www.agilent.com/chem/ddr_campaign or (408) 553-2424        
Visit us at SBS booth #717

Conductive 384 tips ensure precision with capacitance liquid level detection capability
Hamilton Robotics introduces conductive CO-RE tips for 384-channel dispensing on the company's MICROLAB STAR liquid handling platform. Manufactured by Hamilton in both the United States and Switzerland, these new disposable tips are packaged in unique nested tip racks that provide higher packing and storing density and reduced space requirements. Twenty nestable tip racks sit on one tray, providing system access to 7,680 tips, for longer unattended runs.
For more information, contact Hamilton Robotics
www.hamiltonrobotics.com or (800) 648-5950
Visit us at SBS booth #311

Line of bioorthogonal reagents for chemoselective labeling of biomolecules
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has announced a new line of Staudinger Ligation Reagents for in vivo and in vitro labeling of biomolecules. The Staudinger chemistry relies on an azide-phosphine conjugation that works well in live-cell labeling and mass spectrometry applications, and it is particularly useful in the study of protein glycosylation. The high degree of chemoselectivity eliminates off-target ligations with other biomolecules.
For more information, contact Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.
www.thermo.com/pierce or (815) 968-0747
Visit us at SBS booth #401

Label-free format detection platform up to 384 wells
ForteBio markets a novel, label-free, 96- or 384-well format detection platform that includes instrument hardware, biosensors and data analysis software to measure affinity, kinetics and concentration in crude or purified samples. This real-time dip and read method allows greater throughput and cost-effectiveness in many applications compared to existing methods such as SPR, ELISA and HPLC.
For more information, contact ForteBio
www.fortebio.com, info@fortebio.com or (650) 322-1360
Visit us at SBS booth # 601



Getting your just deserts

Phoenix is more than just a city surrounded by cacti; it offers a wide range of natural beauty, commercial entertainment and culture

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Aside from the natural and rugged beauty of the desert terrain in which it sits, the Greater Phoenix area is also a metropolitan area ranked as the fifth largest in the country, with a population of more than 1.4 million people. Known as the Valley of the Sun, it boasts an average high temperature of 85 degrees and more than 325 days of sunshine per year.

The convention center is located in downtown Phoenix at Copper Square, with easy access to many attractions and destinations. The state of Arizona itself offers many things to enjoy as well, if you can make the time. We'll stick mostly to Phoenix, though, as we give you a quick tour and a tiny slice of what's in store.

Explore nature
Located just minutes east of Phoenix's airport, Sky Harbor, Papago Park offers visitors a variety of activities and attractions, including hiking trails that are said to be both relatively easy and great for families with young children. You might take a hike to the Hole-In-The-Rock for views of downtown Phoenix, or catch catfish and trout at the fishing lagoon in the park. Also here is the tomb of Gov. George Wiley Paul Hunt, a white pyramid that is visible from almost any point in the park—Hunt set a national record by being elected to the first, second, third, sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th term as Arizona's governor. If you want to make the experience a day trip, just add in visits to the nearby Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden.

Get historical
The Arizona Capitol Museum "brings history to life every day through exhibitions, special events, and tours," offering more than 20 exhibits that tell Arizona's story from territorial days to the present. If you don't mind a bit of a drive, you can head 178 miles to Williams, Ariz., and get on a historic train that will take you all the way to Grand Canyon National Park.

Shop 'til you drop
Minutes from Sky Harbor, and located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Center is, according to its owners, "an open-air oasis of dining, shopping, ponds and gardens in a unique urban setting. Go to any major city's downtown area and you'll find one spot that seems to give the whole place its power. Its electricity. In Phoenix, that place is Arizona Center." Arizona Center also offers beautiful gardens to enjoy in addition to retailers, specialty shops, dining and movies.

Be an urbanite or urban cowboy

On the one hand, Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix offers residents, workers, Airzona State University students and tourists a park with unique urban design, sustainable construction and a landmark public sculpture by artist Janet Echelman. Plenty of shaded, grassy areas invite picnics, reading or naps, and a water feature with dancing water and colored lights is " irresistible to kids on hot nights," the city claims.

On the other hand, bring up memories of the Wild West with a horseback ride. Nestled in the foothills of South Mountain Park in Phoenix—a historic desert mountain preserve ranking second to the Grand Canyon in terms of visitors each year—Ponderosa Stables and South Mountain Stables have provided horseback riding to the public for more 20 years, over 40 miles of trails covering 18,500 acres.



Good eats

PHOENIX—There's plenty of food to eat in the Phoenix area, and no, it's not all
Mexican, Southwest and Native American cuisine—though certainly, things like enchiladas, tamales and Indian fry bread are something you should consider taking a bite out of while you're there.

But what are some of the stars of Phoenix cuisine, specifically?

Kai
This restaurant, overlooking South Mountain just south of Phoenix, located in the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa on the Gila River Indian Reservation, is Arizona's only recipient of the Forbes Five Star Award and the AAA Five Diamond Award. Chef Michael O'Dowd is said to "make the meal an experience, in part by using ingredients from the Gila River Indian Community."

Durant's Fine Foods
Not simply a steakhouse, but one of Phoenix's legendary restaurants, it is said to be "Famous for perfect martinis, great steaks, stone crab in season, fresh fish and scrumptious desserts" and was noted by Gourmet Magazine as a place worth eating. It is also noted as a throwback to the old-style glamour of downtown.

The Wrigley Mansion
With its owners saying, "The Wrigley is proof that the traditions of elegance and hospitality still exist," you might want to see if the place lives up to its reputation by visiting Geordie's Restaurant & Lounge there, which offers "comfortable food in an elegant atmosphere where everyone is welcome." The mansion also features an award-winning Sunday champagne brunch. Built in 1932 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., The mansion sits atop a 100-foot knoll with commanding views of the mountains and the city below.

 
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