Research & Innovation 2019 Highlights

This year’s ELRIG Research & Innovation meeting was headlined ‘Innovations to Drive Future Drug Discovery’ and was held at Homerton College, Cambridge, attracting a record number of delegates from across the industry, biotech, academic and technology sectors. A key aim of the meeting was to promote discussion about how the most promising new biology is being identified and seek to explore what new technologies and innovations are emerging to enable this science to be effectively translated into successful therapeutics.

Prof. Steve Jackson of the Gurdon Institute at University of Cambridge opened the conference by describing how basic academic research into DNA damage response pathways in his lab began a journey to discovering PARP inhibitors that have become life-saving medicines approved for treatment of multiple cancers. This inspiring story was followed by parallel sessions themed around ‘where are new drug targets coming from’ and ‘new technologies & ‘innovations to drive future drug discovery’. Key topics covered within these sessions were the future integration of advanced technologies such as AI, cryo-EM, proteomics alongside application of cutting-edge human genetics, functional genomics and case studies of successful academic-industry drug discovery collaborations from both the Milner Institute and Apollo therapeutics.

Day 2 was opened by a keynote presentation from Dr. Harren Jhoti, CEO of Astex Pharmaceuticals, who described how fragment-based drug discovery has been successfully applied to drug discovery in recent years and gave his perspective on the future promise of new technologies in the area. This talk set the scene for subsequent sessions that tackled ‘therapeutic approaches of the future’ and next generation in vitro models for drug efficacy and safety’. Speakers in these sessions looked into the long-term promise of alternative different drug modalities such as protacs, antisense approaches and bioelectronics in addition to the breakthrough cellular technologies that are driving our field towards revolutionary concepts such as patient-on-a-chip.

Our Early Career Professional workgroup hosted an interactive workshop, Careers in Drug Discovery: Networking with Purpose, offering practical advice to delegates embarking in their career in drug discovery, on the importance of networking and how to get the best out of networking opportunities.

Throughout both days, the vibrant Great Hall served as the meeting hub and was filled with both a vendor exhibition and poster session that served as the back-drop for delegates to discuss and debate the topics raised during the meeting; fuelled by a healthy mix of lunch, snacks, coffee, beer, wine and cheese.

Congratulations to Dispendix, who were selected as the Technology Prize winners for their I-dot technology, with the poster prize being awarded to Georgina Suzanne Ferrier Anderson from the University of Cambridge for the poster “Plasma Membrane Profiling of myeloma cells reveals a novel antibody-drug conjugate target.”

The conference directors look forward to welcoming everyone back in Spring 2020, hopefully with the addition of some new faces, when the R&I meeting moves to Oxford from 31 March – 1 April 2020.

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