ELRIG Drug Discovery 2019: Inspiring Talks,
Cutting-Edge Science and Rewarding Collaborations

Over 1300 academics and industry professionals came together to attend ELRIG’s Drug Discovery 2019 conference in early November this year. With an overarching goal of advancing the field of drug discovery, the conference, held at ACC in Liverpool, featured over 40 world-class speakers and hosted 8 topic-specific sessions.

Through engaging presentations by thought leaders and innovative technologies presented by exhibitors, delegates had an immersive experience, learning and meeting potential collaborators in the field of drug discovery.

Below, we bring you some of the highlights from the buzzing conference floor:

Fascinating scientific talks that inspire action

Keeping with this year’s theme, ‘Looking Back to the Future’, the plenary keynotes and presentation sessions reviewed the progress made in the field of drug discovery so far and discussed future challenges.

In his keynote address, Dr Mene Pangalos, Executive VP, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca, explored the idea of coupling dynamic multi-omics technologies with data science and artificial intelligence to address new drug discovery challenges.

On the second day, Dr Fiona Marshall, VP Neuroscience, Head of Discovery Research UK, MSD, addressed treatment challenges for age-related dementias and neurodegeneration in her keynote address. The talk summarized a combination of genetic modulation, biomarker research and imaging techniques to tackle ageing disorders. On the same vein of translational research, Dr Melanie Lee, CEO of LifeArc, discussed how data analytics and genomics could aid patient-specific targeting of medicines.

“The highlight of the meeting was the three keynote presentations from Mene Pangalos, Fiona Marshall and Melanie Lee who described the fantastic progress and ongoing challenges, to deliver new medicines,” says Dr Steve Rees ELRIG Chairman and VP, Discovery Biology, AstraZeneca. “Lots of reasons to be optimistic for the future as new technologies and new therapeutic modalities increase our ability to treat disease.”

Gaining breadth and depth of knowledge in drug discovery

While the keynote addresses provided delegates with an overview of the trends in drug discovery, the eight topic-specific tracks enabled an in-depth discussion on key areas. The sessions included presentations from renowned academics and industry specialists alike, spanning across hot topics such as cellular models of disease, biomarker strategies and artificial intelligence, among others.

The wide range of scientific tracks ensured that the delegates gained immense value not only in topics of their own interest but also in parallel research topics in drug discovery, fostering interdisciplinary research.

Furthermore, by bringing academics and industry professionals together, the show also offered a great platform for fostering new collaborations. As Professor Gary Stephens, Director of Pharmacology, The University of Reading explained, “As an academic speaking at my first ELRIG meeting, I found the opportunity to discuss industry-academic partnerships stimulating and rewarding. I aim to instigate research collaborations arising directly from the meeting”.

Staying up-to-date with the latest technologies

The exhibition hall, occupying over 100 exhibiting companies from around the world, showcased the latest path-breaking technologies in drug discovery. One exhibitor booth after another, delegates enjoyed numerous opportunities to level-up current methods, alleviate challenges, or even pick up quick tricks to get better results and save time.

The Innovation Zone featured a diverse range of up-and-coming technologies keen to move the field of drug discovery forward, all while helping researchers get success with experiments.

Another way to stay updated with the fast-moving world of drug discovery is through the work of peers. The poster sessions facilitated a welcoming environment to learn and appreciate the research of fellow delegates and even strike up a few conversations for collaborations.

Getting trained on CRISPR and Organoids

A dedicated training zone hosted by CamBioScience held free-to-attend training workshops and lectures focusing on two influential topics in drug discovery – cerebral organoids and CRISPR. The training zone offered delegates a chance to learn about these techniques and generate ideas to bring them into their own research.

Lectures by cerebral organoid expert, Dr Madeline Lancaster (University of Cambridge) and CRISPR experts, Dr Oliver Baker (King’s College London) and Dr Ben Davies (University of Oxford) offered a wealth of knowledge, further adding to the learning experience at the conference.

“One of the major developments in drug discovery is the novel breakthrough technology that generates patient-like cellular models,” says Dr Robert Vries, CEO, Hubrecht Organoid Technology. “The ELRIG Drug Discovery 2019 was a key European meeting to attend for those involved in drug discovery in academia and industry.”

Preparing for the next big career step

ELRIG provides a strong platform for career advancement, especially for early-career professionals (ECPs) starting out in the field. The speed networking session titled, ‘Network like a Boss’ gave ECPs a chance to step outside inner circles and meet with experts in different industries such as pharma, biotech, CROs, and not-for-profit. Working as an exercise on learning how to network in a supportive environment, this session also helped expand contacts and open new doors for participating delegates.

In another career-related session, industry hiring managers and recruiters offered training on how to write a compelling CV. Answering the question, ‘what makes an industry-appropriate CV?’ these experts presented invaluable advice to post-docs, postgraduates, and early career researchers, preparing them for the next big career step.

“With rich scientific content and high-quality networking, it was certainly the most entertaining event in Europe this year,” says Thomas Edmonds, Laboratory Manager, Servier and member of the ELRIG general committee. “Can’t wait for Drug Discovery 2020 at ExCeL London!”

Make the most of this opportunity to learn, collaborate and attend for free next year. Register your interest in ELRIG’s 2020 event programme to be the first to know.