In its inaugural year, ELRIG’s Discovery Technologies 2018 will focus on the latest mass spectrometry (MS) and organ-on-a-chip advances that are set to transform the drug discovery landscape. Taking place in Alderley Park on 22-23 May, the event will feature a panel of top-notch academic and industrial researchers, offering unique insights into how recent technological innovations could accelerate drug discovery.
If you want to keep abreast of these cutting-edge advances, Discovery Technologies 2018 is the place you need to be. Read on to find out why!
Reason #1: Tap into the power of mass spec for early drug discovery
Recent developments in label-free matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) MS have seen the technology’s high-throughput screening (HTS) capabilities expand. This in turn has highlighted MALDI MS as a powerful method for screening tens of thousands of compounds per day using biochemical and enzymatic assays. As such, the technique naturally lends itself to the early phases of drug discovery. Further technological advances have also enabled the use of acoustics for loading samples into MS systems. This is another rapid turnaround method, allowing for similar sample throughputs as those achieved using MALDI MS.
The power of advanced MS technologies also lies in their ability to simultaneously measure many features of a single cell. What does this mean for drug discovery? “We have found being able to study up to thousands of features in cells a great advantage, as many of these features respond differently to a given chemical challenge, giving us a wealth of data,” explains Jonathan Wingfield, Principal Scientist, Discovery Sciences, Astra Zeneca. “This opens up endless possibilities to discover novel targets that are more likely to be translated successfully into new therapies.”
The ability to screen for a large number of cell features at once coupled with the sensitivity of mass spectrometry also means that a smaller number of cells are needed to generate a meaningful volume of data. Therefore, as noted by Jonathan, this level of sensitivity may enable patient-derived cells to be used in more studies. Ultimately, this could help reduce the rate of attrition during clinical trials, resulting in more new treatments making it to the market.
We should also add that the technique directly analyses substrate to product conversion without requiring the use of additional reagents, generating fewer artifacts and increasing confidence in results. You can also reinvest the money you save on reagents in performing more large-scale compound screens, helping you to identify more chemical starting points and potentially increasing your chances of drug discovery success.
“We’re at the edge of a big change as to how MS can be used to expedite drug discovery,” says Jonathan. “And we don’t have to be MS experts to do so, as modern systems are simple to use, making the technology much more accessible to all researchers.”
Reason #2: Find out how advances in organ-on-a-chip technology can improve drug discovery success
Most recently, the limited ability of preclinical cell culture and animal studies to predict a drug’s adverse effects has led researchers to develop new organ-on-a-chip technologies capable of evaluating new drugs and detecting possible side effects. Connecting two or more miniature organ mimics emulates human organ interactions, allowing for accurate pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamic measurements. “Imagine the benefits of this innovative technology, especially when it comes to the discovery of new drug modalities” remarks Dr Emma Sceats, CEO of CN Bio Innovations. “The capacity of animal tests to predict the human response to drugs – especially in examples where the drug entity has been designed to interact with specifically with a human protein or gene sequence – has been broadly questioned. Using new organ-on-a-chip technologies addresses this pain-point, enabling us to generate results we can rely upon to determine the efficacy and safety of new medicines.”
Additional technological breakthroughs have seen an organ-on-a-chip technology used for the first time to test viral infections. More specifically, researchers have tested the response of an artificial liver to hepatitis B and managed to uncover the virus’ mechanism of action. Emma explains that this method holds great promise for an improved understanding of diseases, which could in turn facilitate the development of new, more efficient treatments to the benefit of millions of patients.
The vast potential of organ-on-a-chip technology for reliable drug evaluation has most recently been recognised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency has launched a new project, whereby it will be assessing the ability of the technique to provide organ-drug interaction information and predict the success of drugs before they enter human clinical trials. There’s hope that organ-on-a-chip technology will prove much more efficient than conventional preclinical testing methods in measuring the quality and performance of new therapeutics, ultimately improving the drug discovery process.
“These are all really exciting developments demonstrating that organ-on-a-chip technologies could change the way we assess new drugs and bring new treatments to the market,” comments Emma. “The future lies with plug-and-play organ-on-a-chip devices that can be easily operated by researchers in labs around the world. Such systems are set to become an integral part of the drug discovery workflow, optimising and accelerating it.”
Reason #3: Learn from drug discovery experts
Discovery Technologies 2018 will commence on 22 May with two interactive vendor workshops, that will give you the unique opportunity to learn how the latest technologies can be used to boost drug discovery. Jointly delivered by CN Bio Innovations and Nortis, the first workshop will offer application examples and practical advice around the implementation of organ-on-a-chip technologies in drug discovery programmes. Bruker will provide the second workshop, focusing on the use of label-free MALDI MS in tissue imaging and high-throughput screening applications.
Hurry! Register now to secure one of the very few places left for these inspiring workshops.
On 23 May, the Discovery Technologies 2018 programme will be packed with presentations delivered by world-class researchers, including the plenary keynote, Prof John Wikswo, Professor at Vanderbilt University and founding Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education. Prof Wikswo will discuss how the combination of organ-on-a-chip and mass spectrometric multi-omics methods could advance drug discovery.
Reason #4: Network and explore career opportunities
One of the key benefits of attending Discovery Technologies 2018 is that it will allow you to meet like-minded people and exchange views as to where MS and organ-on-a-chip technologies are headed. Take the chance to mingle with the wider scientific community and make new connections with the most influential academic and industry experts working on these pioneering approaches.
“What has always impressed me about ELRIG is the ethos surrounding their events, trying to bridge the gap between academia and industry,” says Jonathan. “The best science doesn’t happen in isolation, and this is prevalent at ELRIG events, which also serve as early career mentoring platforms for the next generation of scientists.”
At Discovery Technologies 2018, as scientists looking for innovative solutions to drive drug discovery, you’ll be able to discuss your needs, challenges and concerns directly with technology vendors and developers. Vendors, will benefit from using this invaluable feedback to inform their next technological breakthroughs. Additionally, aspiring scientists keen to kick-start a career in drug discovery will be able to learn directly from both subject-knowledge experts and practitioners.
“Discovery Technologies 2018 will bring together everyone who has a stake in the success of mass spec and organ-on-chip technologies – from pharma, biotech, academia, vendors and regulators – providing a unique forum for the sharing of information and best practices which should accelerate technological innovation and adoption” adds Emma. “What a great opportunity to understand how these new technologies can be used in the laboratory to improve processes, generate reliable data and advance research.”
Dive into rapidly evolving drug discovery research areas
Now that you know why you can’t afford to miss Discovery Technologies 2018, it’s time to register to attend the event for free. You can learn more about the event via www.elrig.org or quickly access key information on your mobile by downloading the app.