ELRIG’s Drug Discovery 2017 meeting will soon kick off on 3rd and 4th October in Liverpool, UK (register for free here). Not only will you get the chance to hear from a host of world-class speakers on breakthrough research, but you will also be able to learn from a variety of exhibitors about the latest explosion of innovative technologies, which could revolutionize the field.
One exciting part of the exhibition hall at Drug Discovery 2017 is The Innovation Zone. This lively exhibition gives you the chance to hear from new companies showcasing innovative technologies that you wouldn’t otherwise get to learn about.
Below, ELRIG Chairman Steve Rees explains why he is so excited about the Innovation Zone and what type of novel technologies will be on display. He also provides some fascinating insights into five start-up technology companies that are making significant waves in the field – and could be the key to unlocking your research!
Why is the ELRIG Chairman excited about the Innovation Zone?
“The Innovation Zone gives delegates the opportunity to learn about highly novel, ground-breaking technologies, and how they may be applied to research problems,” says Steve. “It is one of the most vibrant parts of the exhibition, with typically around 20 companies showcasing their products.”
Important advances in drug discovery are powered by innovation and diverse research approaches. Steve points out that some technologies that did not exist five years ago, such as CRISPR gene editing, microfluidics, and machine learning, have already had a major impact on target validation and drug discovery. You can learn more about how technologies such as these have changed drug discovery for the better in the Target Validation and Identification session track on Day Two of the conference.
Steve is thrilled that start-up companies have the opportunity to exhibit at Drug Discovery 2017 alongside the more established life science companies. “By showcasing start-up companies at Drug Discovery 2017, we are providing a platform via which they can introduce their innovative technologies to people who could ultimately be using these innovations in the lab,” says Steve. “This not only helps support them to grow their business, but provides you with first-hand access to up and coming technologies that could change the way you conduct your research” he adds.
What top technologies can you learn about in the Innovation Zone?
Biosimulation tools – Moleculomics Ltd.
Moleculomics, a start-up company based in Swansea, has developed a range of biosimulation tools to predict small molecule and protein interactions, revealing how well a new drug will bind to its target in real life conditions. As these tools run millions of simulations in a short period of time, new drug leads can quickly be identified, along with predictions as to whether that particular drug is likely to cause an adverse reaction in vivo.
“As these tools become embedded in drug discovery, they are expected to improve the design of new molecules through better prediction of target and off-target activity,” says Steve. “This approach will lead to a reduction in the costs associated with drug discovery, along with an increase in quality,” he adds
Organ-on-a-chip platforms – Kirkstall Ltd.
Kirkstall, a Rotherham based biotechnology company, has developed a technology that aims to overcome major problems faced by academic and industry researchers when using traditional in vitro systems and in vivo research. Their technology harnesses the advances in microfluidic platforms and cell biology methods, enabling the creation of ‘organ-on-a-chip’ platforms. These platforms provide three-dimensional human tissue systems configured to replicate the physiology of human organs. This approach allows researchers to study drug action on human organ-like tissues in miniaturised microfluidic assay systems.
“The microfluidic chambers developed by Kirkstall enable the creation of models of organs, including the liver, heart, kidney, lung and gut for safety and efficacy testing of new candidate drugs,” explains Steve. “The use of these systems is predicted to reduce and even replace animal safety studies, while also developing improved models of human disease.”
A crucial aim in drug discovery research is to increase the disease relevance of the cell types used to test drug candidates for efficacy and safety. More recently, researchers have been looking to human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to provide greater physiological relevance than their current animal model. DefiniGEN (based in Cambridge, UK) has harnessed these innovations to produce large quantities of standardised human cells that generate a consistent response in predictive screening assays, an essential component to being able to identify the next drug candidate.
Censo biotechnologies (based at the Roslin Biocentre) is taking this technology even further by utilising hiPSCs in personalised medicine. The company is enabling researchers to understand how different patients’ cells will respond to a drug candidate, ultimately looking to reduce the cost of drug development and helping match the best drug to every patient.
“Both Censo Biotechnologies and DefiniGEN are examples of a number of emerging companies that have created and characterised a wide range of human cell types for use in compound screening,” says Steve.
High content screening technology and cellular imaging – HCS Pharma
High content screening and imaging is enabling the detection of multi-parametric data sets from mammalian cells in culture (learn more in the Advances in Imaging session track on Day One of the conference). HCS Pharma, a French start-up, has created a number of cell-based efficacy and safety assays for use in phenotypic screening. This approach will help discover new targets and lead molecules and will test the safety of molecules throughout lead optimisation. The aim of this technology is to allow researchers to save time and money by testing multiple relevant parameters within the same experiment. “This scientific approach is expected to increase success through compound testing in more relevant assays,” adds Steve.
So, if you want to seize this unique opportunity to learn about these state-of-the-art technologies, then register to attend Drug Discovery 2017 today!