Rounding up the key highlights of ELRIG Drug Discovery 2017

At the beginning of October, ELRIG Drug Discovery 2017 brought together over twelve hundred delegates from across the drug discovery community, making this our largest meeting yet. Hosted at the ACC Liverpool on the iconic banks of the River Mersey, UK, delegates heard a range of talks from thought-leaders across Europe, working at the forefront of cutting-edge research. Delegates also got the chance to learn about the latest technological innovations, where they could share ideas and initiate collaborations with researchers working across a diverse range of sectors.

Below we’ve rounded up our key highlights from this year’s Drug Discovery meeting as we begin to look forward to Drug Discovery 2018 (sign up here to keep up-to-date with future announcements).



Tapping into future career opportunities

Drug Discovery 2017 was the place to be if you were considering changing career directions, or just weighing up your options. Both academics and industrial scientists could learn about career development grant schemes on offer at the BPS and Royal Society via breakfast workshops (read our workshops blog to learn more). They could also find out from other delegates about future job opportunities.

On top of this, academics thinking of making a move into industry, like our previous author Dr Brierley did, were able to find out which companies and roles matched their interests and skillsets by chatting to the many industry representatives down in the bustling exhibition hall.

“It was great to hear so many of these conversations taking place throughout the meeting” says ELRIG Chairman Steve Rees. “At the beginning of the meeting I encouraged delegates to see something new in the exhibition hall, hear something new in the presentations and meet somebody new in the networking events and I really believe this was the case,” he adds.

Hearing from thought-leaders on pertinent issues and trends

Drug Discovery 2017 featured two eminent plenary keynote talks.  The first kicked off the meeting and was delivered by Steve Rees (who as well as being ELRIG chairman is also Vice-President of Discovery Biology at AstraZeneca).

Steve spoke about how we can better turn science into medicine, harnessing the technologies and partnerships open to us.  He finished his talk with an empowering quote “Being open for collaboration, creating an environment where science thrives and challenging continual thinking, will enable us to change the way we treat disease and transform lives.” A statement we’re sure stuck with many delegates throughout the meeting.

The second plenary keynote talk was from Dr Nessa Carey, former International Director at PraxisUnico, Visiting Professor at Imperial College, and life science author. Dr Carey offered delegates plenty of food for thought relating to pertinent issues in drug discovery today.  Right from the start Dr Carey highlighted the importance of understanding the biology of disease to truly make drug discovery research efforts successful.

“We’re at the stage now where we already have effective drugs for targets in more prevalent diseases. So, the question is, where will the next generation of drugs come from?” she asked. “We have some great compounds for great targets, but they don’t work because we don’t fully understand the biology of the diseases, which is particularly true in cases such as Alzheimer’s and obesity,” she added.

The meeting was also jam-packed with top-quality talks on the hottest topics in the field (full of juicy, not yet published data), delivered by researchers right at the forefront of drug discovery.

Such talks included keynote speaker Professor Petra Kluger of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology, who spoke about her research career developing 3D human tissue models and how we can look to industries outside of life sciences to enhance research.  Professor Kluger pointed to the automotive industry in particular, having harnessed 3D printing technology to print living 3D human tissues in the lab using extremely innovative ‘bio-inks’.

Experiencing innovative technologies

The exhibition hall was jam-packed with exhibitors from across Europe keen to present their latest technologies to delegates including a number of new product launches. Automation played a key role in the exhibition hall this year, with many of the technologies on offer designed to help free up researchers time in the laboratory. This year’s technology prize went to Labcyte for their Acoustic Liquid Handling & Automation technology.

ELRIG chairman, Steve Rees presents Labcyte with the Drug Discovery 2017 technology prize.

The atmosphere was buzzing, with delegates being able to grab a coffee and read all about current research projects within industry and academia from the large number of posters on display. They were also able to let loose and have a bit of competitive fun on a ‘lights out’ game on one of the stands, leading to screams of excitement being heard across the hall!

The media and innovation zones also saw their fair share of delegates eager to keep up with the ever-evolving field that is drug discovery.

As the meeting drew to a close, delegates and exhibitors began to look to next year’s meeting, taking place at the ExCeL Centre in London, which promises to be even bigger and better than this year. So, if you don’t want to miss next year’s free to attend Drug Discovery meeting then get in quick and sign up to register your interest now!

Register your interest in Drug Discovery 2018