Exclusive Interview with Conference Directors for Drug Discovery 2015, Peter Simpson, Del Tresize and Roberto Solari

Drug Discovery 2015 is ELRIG UK’s largest annual event. This two day meeting, divided into eight scientific tracks, brings together over 1500 delegates and 100 world-class speakers from academia and industry to discuss critical areas in drug discovery. This year’s 9th Annual Drug Discovery conference will be held on September 2nd & 3rd at its new venue –Telford International Conference Centre. The meeting will highlight the latest scientific breakthroughs, explore innovative technologies and approaches that can be used to overcome drug development challenges, and bring together industry leaders who will discuss future opportunities for novel therapeutic discovery.

ELRIG’s Liz Quinn spoke to Conference Directors Peter Simpson (N8 Research Partnership), Del Trezise (Essen Biosciences) and Roberto Solari (Imperial College London) about their hopes for the event.

LQ: ELRIG’s Drug Discovery Conference is back – what is new to the event this year?

PS: Every year we look to push the conference into new research areas that previous attendees, and those coming to DD for the first time, will find stimulating and useful.  For example, we have introduced a new track on advances in metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, which are critical areas for public health around the world. And for the first time we have introduced a track covering the rapidly developing field of cell & gene therapies.

We have had some great plenary speakers in recent years, and I am delighted that this year we have secured David Thomas from Montreal, a world-renowned expert in protein trafficking disorders. This year we have added a second plenary keynote presentation to the schedule, which will be given by Tracy Hussell, head of the unique Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research which brings major Pharma and academic experts together to address inflammatory diseases.

To ensure that the core scientific areas remain well addressed – we have brought back very popular scientific tracks that cover assay development, chemistry innovation, target validation, phenotypic discovery, oncology drug targets, and more.

LQ: “Innovations in assay development and screening” is the focus of one of your sessions. What are the latest developments in this area?

RS: Assay development and screening is so fast moving that there is always something new and exciting to see. I am looking forward to hearing how people are thinking about validating targets, building creative physiologically relevant assays, and screening high quality well curated compound collections.

LQ: In particular, tell us more about the renaissance in the use of phenotypic cell-based assays.

RS: Phenotypic assays were historically the mainstay of drug discovery, but they lost favour with the emergence of higher throughput molecular screening approaches. However, there can be real advantages in screening a target in its native physiological context and I am excited to learn about the potential of novel platforms that enable high-throughput cell based screens.

LQ: You have added two new sessions to the agenda (Cell & Gene Therapy and New Biologic Drugs & Technologies). Explain more.

RS: These approaches have been with us for some time now and antibodies have already made a major impact to healthcare. They definitely deserve a place in any drug discovery conference, and cell and gene therapy is perhaps the most exciting developing area of human therapeutics. I think delegates will definitely want to hear the breaking news.

LQ: What can we expect to see on the agenda in the poster presentations?

DT: As with previous ELRIG DD meetings we anticipate poster submissions on a wide range of drug discovery topics, some directly aligned with the thematic sessions and others not. With a couple of awards for young scientists on offer and the opportunity for selected poster authors to present their work in the platform poster taster session there’s many attractive reasons for researchers to present their work. The buzz at last years poster sessions was fantastic – we hope to re-create this at this year event.

LQ: How is platform technology shaping this sector?

DT: The pace and breadth of development of new technologies continues to amaze  – I expect the impact of engineered primary- and stem cell-derived cells as drug discovery tools and therapeutics to strongly feature at this year’s meeting, alongside advances in vivo and cell imaging and deep gene sequencing. The vendor exhibition, where technology companies present their latest solutions, is a fantastic place to catch up with this field.

LQ: And finally, why should delegates attend ‘Drug Discovery 2015’?

PS: The ‘Drug Discovery’ event has a proud record of bringing together researchers from academia, SMEs and multinational pharma in an informal environment – this makes sharing of knowledge, and making new contacts extremely easy. The programme contains great international speakers, a wide array of posters, informal workshop forums, and an extensive tradeshow. Amazingly, Drug Discovery 2015 remains free for all to attend. I am confident that in our new home of Telford, Drug Discovery 2015 will be a fascinating event that everyone with an active interest in the future developments in drug discovery will enjoy.