The key highlights of ELRIG’s Research & Innovation 2018 event

In the middle of April, we were excited to welcome more than 500 delegates from across the drug discovery community to our annual Research & Innovation 2018 conference. Our two-day event provided a lively discussion forum for the latest innovations shaping the fields of neuroscience and oncology, offering delegates the unique opportunity to attend a range of presentations delivered by world-class academic and industry experts from across Europe. Many of the discussions revolved around how new technologies and strategies are helping to improve the discovery and analysis of novel drug targets. Here, we summarise the key highlights from the conference, as we begin to look forward to our other upcoming events later this year.

Technologies facilitating the discovery of novel, more reliable drug targets

Research & Innovation 2018 provided 20 stimulating presentations to choose from, including two plenary keynotes. First to kick-off the meeting was Prof Tony Kouzarides, Professor of Cancer Biology at the University of Cambridge, Deputy Director of the Gurdon Institute and Director of the Milner Therapeutics Institute. Drawing from his extensive experience in oncology research, Prof Kouzarides spoke about how increasing collaboration is helping to translate science into life-saving therapeutics to the benefit of cancer patients around the world.

As Prof Kouzarides put it, “Taking a collaborative approach to drug discovery enables academia and industry to work closely together to drive therapeutic intervention. We’ve already been able to reap the benefits of such an approach. For example, academic research on Chromatin and RNA modifications has been recently used by the pharmaceutical industry to identify new therapeutic targets and successfully perform clinical trials.”

Dr Iain Chessell, VP of the Neuroscience Innovative Medicines and Early Development Unit at AstraZeneca, was the second keynote speaker. He focused on pain and neurodegenerative diseases and highlighted how recent technological advances have made it possible for researchers to better select the right targets, review the predictability of animal models, understand target engagement, and quickly generate efficacy evidence from clinical studies.

Although neuroscience continues to be perceived as a high-risk and high-cost area, Dr Chessell was confident that the potential rewards may offset the overall investment. One illuminating example he gave during his talk described how the synergies observed between nerve growth factor (NGF) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) have led to “the rapid discovery and development of a potential analgesic medicine that could alleviate suffering for numerous patients worldwide.”

In addition to these keynote presentations, we wanted to make sure that we offered opportunities for delegates to hear from a wide range of experts on current trends and innovations. This prompted us to include talks on hot topics such as:

  • How artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to address common drug discovery and development challenges, such as selecting the best therapeutic hypotheses and ensuring the efficient use of biomedical data to improve clinical study design.
  • The use of genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screens in human cancer cell lines for reliable target identification.
  • The implementation of Protein-Targeting Chimeras (PROTACs) to trigger targeted protein degradation, as part of developing new therapeutic modalities.

Further insights into the latest drug discovery products and research projects

As well as the range of talks on offer at Research and Innovation 2018, the exhibition hall was also bustling between sessions, with approximately 30 exhibitors from around Europe showcasing their latest products and technologies. These included a number of newly launched solutions designed to advance and accelerate the drug discovery process.

Peter Djali, Director of Sales, Europe, at Formulatrix, shared his enthusiasm: “We were excited to see a continuous flow of delegates keen to learn about new techniques, instrumentation and workflow improvements for their particular scientific niche.”

Delegates could also view a selection of posters, providing a comprehensive overview of current research projects within industry and academia. We’d particularly like to congratulate Claudia Stellato, a Post-Doctoral Research Scientist at AstraZeneca, who won the poster competition for her exciting research project, entitled ‘TEMPR (targeted endogenous mapping of pharmacological resistance): a CRISPR-based strategy to identify mutations in the MET kinase domain conferring resistance to Savolitinib’.

A unique networking experience

One of our aims with Research & Innovation 2018 was to bring together everyone in the sector, including experts across academia and industry, students, vendors and other important stakeholders, to discuss the latest scientific research and exchange ideas on to put new biological knowledge into practice. According to Mark Wigglesworth, Director of High Throughput Screening at AstraZeneca and also Director of the Research & Innovation Conference, we managed to achieve this goal. Mark notes, “I’m thrilled by the feedback of delegates, who praised our collaborative approach and agreed that we met our objective of putting together a great programme.”

Exhibitors have also provided very positive feedback, with Peter from Formulatrix saying that, “As a company with a strong interest in the underlying science, we have always felt ELRIG meetings manage to perfect the difficult balance of keeping both exhibitors and delegates happy, whilst delivering an excellent scientific programme. Research & Innovation 2018 carried a strong theme for collaboration and, for me, this epitomises the way ELRIG works; bringing suppliers of innovative technologies closer to customers in a friendly environment. Thank you ELRIG for another productive and enjoyable meeting (and a great networking opportunity).”

Looking forward to Drug Discovery 2018

As the Research & Innovation 2018 meeting drew to a close, delegates and exhibitors began to look forward to ELRIG’s Drug Discovery 2018 conference, taking place in October at the ExCeL Arena in London. This year, our flagship event will highlight the latest ground-breaking research and cutting-edge laboratory technology, designed to provide a better understanding of disease biology and identify novel candidate drugs. So, if you don’t want to miss the chance to learn about recent scientific breakthroughs driving drug discovery success, register today!