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September 2014
An Interview with Professor Sabine Bahn
06 Aug 2014

At the recent Biomarkers: From Discovery to Clinical Diagnostics meeting in Cambridge, UK, our guest blogger, Charlie Haynes, caught up with Professor Sabine Bahn, to discuss current challenges and future directions of schizophrenia diagnosis.

CH: Who are you and what do you do?

SB:
I'm Sabine Bahn and I am Professor of Neuro Technology at the University of Cambridge. I'm working on psychiatric disorders, so my lab is trying to develop blood tests that can diagnose psychiatric disorders as well as develop new drugs. We are particularly interested in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, previously called manic depression, and are in the process of refining our test that we developed to diagnose schizophrenia.

CH: What's wrong with the existing ways of diagnosis?

SB:
At the moment the diagnosis is still based on a clinical interview - and hasn't been changed for a 100 years. Questions like 'do you hear voices', 'do you think people are out to get you' and so forth are all questions that depend on the patient giving you an honest answer. This is a major limitation; so many patients go undiagnosed for many years.

CH: What have you been able to do?

SB:
I and my colleague Professor Chris Loam at the Institute of Biotechnology have received funds from both the university and venture capital, and started a company. Over years we developed intellectual property, partnered with a diagnostics company and were able to launch the first blood test for schizophrenia. It's no longer on the market however as it is currently being updated and refined. Then a larger, listed company Myriad Genetics bought our company, this previous diagnostics company and mine. It's a Russian doll phenomenon.

CH: How did you start using this test?

SB:
Initially it was just blood samples from patients of five clinical centres across Europe. We searched for clinical markers and tested it out on around 500 schizophrenia and 300 controls. At this stage though we didn't include bipolar, a differential diagnosis (which we are hoping to move towards), including only schizophrenia. When launched, it was used in 32 clinics across the US, but this was throughout partners - not through my own company itself. It's hard to take the test out of the lab and need to take a proved test out of the lab.

CH: What are the biomarkers you are looking for?

SB:
We look principally at blood serology. We initially used mass spectroscopy to look at the whole protein content of serum - the fluid component of blood without cells. We looked at proteins that are more or less abundant in the disease states. We then transferred these biomarkers to a multiplex ELISA platform which is more conventional - assay based platform. The company we had partnered with - now Myriad developed a multiplexed ELISA platform that you could put several of these ELISAs together using less blood.

In the significantly changing proteins, many relate to metabolic changes that you also see in diabetes- unsurprising, seeing as there is a predisposition of diabetes for these with schizophrenia and other similar mental disorders.

We also see inflammatory markers, and also some growth factors and hormonal changes - these are the main classes of proteins that are deregulated. This was in patients that we collected blood from before treatment, so they were drug naive.

CH: Are these biomarkers quite specific to schizophrenia or is it hard to tell the difference between schizophrenia and other diseases?

SB: This is essentially what we work on! Some markers are shared in common, as those with a family history of schizophrenia will often develop other psychiatric disorders, and true schizophrenia doesn't lead exclusively to schizophrenia. For instance children of schizophrenics often suffer from depression. But there does seem to be some markers that are specific for a given disease, and this is what we need to focus on if we want to have a differential diagnostic approach.

CH: Obviously there's a great utility in this early diagnostics - is there a potential for personalising a treatment for a patient as a result of this?

SB:
We are also working on this, although unfortunately we aren't quite as advanced as we are in the diagnostics. We have some biomarkers which we can use to predict if a patient will respond to a certain drug - or if they are more likely to respond to one or another drug in depression for instance. This is however preliminary though we have some encouraging data. It's something we need to work on and something where we desperately need clinical samples, as it's not often patients prescriptions will be altered in an academically useful way - logistically it's hard to get access to good samples - we need more. It's something we are very interested in. We are also interested in prognostic markers, presymptomatic/prodomal schizophrenia, there is a strong clinical need as the earlier we diagnose a patient, the greater the chance we can prevent the disease from progressing with intervention, which in a sense allows us to personalise the treatment as we get the earlier diagnosis.

CH: At what point are we going to be able to see this on the market again? When will we see this in the clinic?

SB:
Myriad has a real interest in this and is taking this forward for development. What we have done in the lab is really the foundation - basic discovery which needs to be tested in the real world and this is what they are going to undertake. I have no direct control over Myriad but I hope certainly over the next 2 years we may see a first product on the market. But, we need to validate it, it has to work and the decision is with Myriad. They need to make sure they will get some sort of financial returns. It is important to be cautious, as there is no similar product on the market so we are entering a space where there is an unserved area. We can't say our test is better than abc etc, and this being new is a hurdle to overcome and something that doctors and psychiatrists will have to get to grips with. This is why we think that GPs may be more likely to take up such a test - and this would be a better point. The first calling point being in primary care and a GP, rather than a psychiatrist.

CH: Is this an easy technique to perform?

SB:
The lab testing is done at central lab, so all the health care provider needs to do is take the blood, spin it down and send it. It's not very easy and straightforward to do, requiring central standardisation and set up - hence the central lab. But from the doctors perspective it's quite simple. A week or so after they send the sample they receive a report which gives an indication of how likely they are to get schizophrenia, and how likely they may be in responding to a specific treatment. But it isn't something that is necessarily going to be done immediately in the GP office. We are hopeful it will have a huge impact on patient care.

Posted By: Charlie Haynes

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Metabolic Profiling to be Highlighted at Metabomeeting 2014
30 Jul 2014

Are you profiling small-molecule metabolites?  If you are, then you shouldn’t miss the upcoming Metabomeeting 2014 at the Royal Institution in London from 10-12 September 2014.  Agenda topics include: applied metabolomics; data analysis and integration with systems biology; and, metabolite identification.  The area of applied metabolomics will be further separated into the following applications: drug discovery and pharma; human disease; human health and nutrition; microbial, invertebrate and environmental applications; and, plants.  

A robust roster of leading scientists and principal investigators from around the world who are performing research in metabolic profiling will present their findings during the conference.  Some presentations will be very specific and narrowly focused, giving you insights into criteria such as genotype-specific and production system-based segregation of metabolomic variables, while other presentations will take a broader approach such as Dr. Jeremy Everett’s presentation on the origins of pharmacometabonomics and its success as a complementary approach to pharmacogenomics in personalised or precision medicine.  A lot of ground will be covered during this meeting, but quality won’t be sacrificed for quantity.  Some presentations are short case studies while others are much longer examinations of trends and results.  The outcome is a strong agenda that offers numerous insights at all levels.

An exhibition of key instrument vendors accompanies the meeting, providing the opportunity to examine various tools used to perform metabolic research.  In addition, several networking events are planned during the meeting that will enable easy interaction with your colleagues and other attendees to discuss each day’s presentations.
The meeting will be held at the prestigious Royal Institution of Great Britain that was established in 1799 with the purpose of ‘diffusing science for the common purposes of life’. Over 200 years on, the Royal Institution is now an independent charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science.  The institution is located in central London in posh Mayfair, providing easy accessibility to all that London has to offer (besides this exciting conference!).

Click here to register.

Enjoy London

When Samuel Johnson stated that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, he probably had no idea that his words would continue to resonate throughout the years and be as true today as when originally spoken.

London remains a vibrant and fascinating city.  Just being in Mayfair for the meeting, puts numerous opportunities within walking distance.   Both Hyde Park and Green Park are close by as are the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace.  

If you come to London a few days early, you’ll catch the final days of the Henri Matisse Cut-Outs exhibit at the Tate Modern.  This landmark exhibition brings together around 120 works from the period in which Matisse began ‘cutting into colour’, providing a fascinating retrospective of his final artistic works.  

For more traditional art, the National Gallery – which is a few short blocks from the conference – will be hosting Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting which explores the role of architecture in Italian Renaissance painting of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

The London Eye is a treat if you haven’t taken a ride before. This slow enormous step-inside Ferris wheel provides an amazing bird’s eye view of London along the River Thames, from the Houses of Parliament to the National Theatre.  Located on the south side of the river, it is close to the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian footbridge across the river that leads to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where you might brave the stairs up to the dome to the Whispering Gallery to discover if the acoustics are as good as promised.  

Street vendors congregate in the Covent Garden area, as do many of the most popular theaters.  From Les Misérables to Miss Saigon, there are numerous outstanding plays and musicals to liven up the night.  

London excels in offering a wide variety of sporting events you can enjoy, from rugby to cricket.  There’s still time to buy tickets to the eleventh London Double Header match that kicks off the rugby season at Twickenham Stadium on 6 September if you come to town early!

Getting around London is easy, from the underground subway known as the Tube to the ubiquitous bright red double-decker buses to the London Black Cabs.  Often just walking is the best way to get about, so be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes.  For information about public transport, visit the Transport for London web site to plot your journey.    

For more information about what to do in London during your stay, please visit http://www.visitlondon.com.

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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An Interview with Professor Claude Wischik
28 Jul 2014

At the recent Biomarkers: From Discovery to Clinical Diagnostics meeting in Cambridge, UK, our guest blogger, Charlie Haynes, caught up with Professor Claude Wischik, to discuss amyloids, tau and Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

CH: Who are you and what do you do?

CW:
I'm Claude Wischik, I'm Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at the University of Aberdeen and I run TauRx therapeutics. We (http://taurx.com/) are developing novel therapeutics and diagnostics for neurodegenerative disorders, specifically Alzheimer’s.

CH: From the name of TauRx I can guess you are focused on tau proteins in Alzheimer’s - what are they?

CW:
Alzheimer's was named after Alois Alzheimer after his 1906 report of a patient who had what he called “neurofibrilllary tangles”. She had died from a rapidly progressive form of dementia at 55. In a post mortem he found these brain lesions, and concluded correctly that he had discovered a new type of brain pathology. Beyond this nothing was known about it.

In my PhD I discovered the tangle was made of tau protein - an axonal microtubule stabilising protein. In the discovery process I found by chance that there were molecules that could dissolve these filaments that build up. My supervisor, Sir Martin Roth, had done previous work showing that tangles are linked to dementia - the quantity correlated with how demented you are. We developed a biochemical measure of levels of aggregated tau, which is important because Alzheimer's is distinguished from normal ageing by the levels of aggregated tau in the brain. Amyloid on the other hand does not distinguish it. We went on to build on the discovery that potential pharmaceuticals could dissolve these tangles.

CH: Some others have focused on amyloids - what's the difference between your work and theirs?

CW:
The whole field of Alzheimer's research went for amyloid in the 1990s after the discovery of the amyloid-precursor gene: because dementia was linked in a few families with mutations in this gene, the field was convinced that amyloid explained entirely the pathology and pathophysiology of the disease. But we didn't because we found that levels of amyloid in the brain did not distinguish between those with terminal dementia and those who were cognitively normal. So we continued to focus on tau, and this gave us a 20-year lead which has proved a huge advantage.

15 billion dollars or so have been wasted on various approaches to the amyloid pathway in drug discovery. I’d say it is unsurprising that this has all failed, despite trial in over 15,000 patients, because the level of amyloid does not indicate level of dementia! Worse still, in 2008 there was a paper where there were patients who had been treated with an anti-amyloid vaccine, which cleared amyloid from the brain, and yet the patients still progressed towards end stage tau pathology and dementia. The level of amyloid doesn’t seem to be predictive of dementia.

Tau pathology on the other hand is a valid pharmaceutical target, and a valid biomarker target in its own right! There’s a completely predictable link between the stage of dementia you’re at and the quantity of tau in the brain, quantified by Braak stages 1-6.

CH: So you would say amyloid is a red herring?

CW:
There is a place for amyloid, but certainly not the place its had for the last 20 years!

It’s like young children playing soccer - they all cluster around the ball as opposed to spreading themselves out across the field. Likewise, our academic field has just been kids playing soccer. Amyloid was a promising target but it’s dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket.

It’s been bad for the community as a whole but fantastic for our group as we’ve gotten ahead of the pack.

CH: You mentioned you found drugs capable of destroying tangles - could you tell me a bit more about that?

CW:
What makes the tau proteolytically stable in the tangle is that it is an aggregated state. So cells can’t get rid. The real problem is that it behaves like a prion - it becomes self propagating. The driver a very tight binding interaction between what are probably antiparallel tau molecules. They form not only a beta sheet of successive nitrogens and carbons, but the structure is also stabilised by complementary charged amino acids - and is locked into a stable configuration. What the drug probably does is disrupt those ionic charged bonds that stablise the structure. This permits the tau molecule to refold into a more native configuration as a monomer, and is released from the aggregate. This refolding causes a kink which breaks the tight beta-sheet structure. Once the tau molecules are in the monomeric state, the cell can clear them.

Analogy: it’s easy to tear a single piece of paper, but not a phone book - same with proteases in the cell, once the protein is aggregated the protease is ineffective. For single molecules there is an efficient clearance machinery. The drug converts an intractable aggregate into something that can be readily cleared by the cell.

CH: Is tau nasty?

CW:
Tau is a completely innocent bystander. It’s a victim of circumstance. You have some sort of age related impairment of garbage disposal (age-related failure of autophagy), some of the uncleared degradation products snag tau, and makes it present this abnormal configuration which exposes a high affinity tau-tau aggregation domain - this then propagates in a prion-like manner.

CH: What could you see in patients with this to help diagnosis?

CW:
Protein in cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) are 100-1000x higher than in blood plasma. However collecting this protein requires a lumbar puncture, which is much more invasive than a simple blood test. But to need a lumbar puncture, you already have to be at a point where you are likely to have symptoms that worry you. The research shows that tau levels start to go up in the CSF approximately 15 years before symptoms and then rise progressively. But even there, measuring this reliably is technically difficult. What we really want is an effective plasma biomarker that can be easily measured. Quanterix (http://www.quanterix.com/) or proteome sciences (http://www.proteomics.com/) may produce something.

Quanterix have very sensitive technology, and they have been able to show a rise in plasma tau levels before and after the hockey season in players (repeated concussions can give rise to the same tau aggregation pathology as in Alzheimer’s). The Proteome Sciences approach is to multiplex: identify 5 or 10 markers that need to be up or down together, and you use some proprietary algorithm to provide a finger print - a measure of your risk of progressing.

The group take CSF or plasma, chop up the constituent proteins with trypsin, and the complex biological behaviour of individual proteins is reduced to that of a large array of more homogeneous short fragments. These can be measured by mass spec in bitesize chunks. 2D electrophoresis is then used to identify spots that increase or decrease according to disease states. But the real trick is the mass spec is where in every sample they run their proprietary built-in mass markers. This reduces the standard deviation and improves the reliability of their measurements.

Using a system called SysQuant (http://www.proteomics.com/products-and-services/cancer/cancer-pathway-assays/sysquant), they can do complex pathway analysis.

Once you have identified proteins that go up or down together, you can see what known biological pathways these link to, and so deduce other elements in the pathway that may be disturbed by the disease state.

How this may translate into a real diagnostic tool is tricky, but ultimately do-able. But they have blood markers here, so it’s promising. But even then there are still a lot of problems with standardisation of sample preparation.

CH: Thanks for coming to speak to us!

CW:
A lot in this space is still very speculative, but what is needed is a treatment that can break into the space.

A phase 3 study is expensive - our trial at TauRX will cost 250 million dollars - I’ve got to raise this, persuading investors. This is risk capital - if we succeed people will make a lot of money, but if we fail they will lose. It can be so - but important work. Such is the pharmaceutical industry, so fingers crossed!

Posted By: Charlie Haynes

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Tips for Winning Your Grant Application
16 Jul 2014

If you are seeking funding for research, be warned: your search will not be easy! A number of reports lately have pointed out that fewer grants are being funded and cite the difficulty in getting the grants that are available. Even so, grants are being awarded so it behooves the savvy researcher to pay close attention to advice on how to succeed.

What to do Right

Expert after expert agrees that there are several key criteria to keep in mind when assembling your grant proposal, but above all it is important to be clear, organized, and detailed.

It seems obvious, but perhaps one of the most important criteria to get right is having an interesting objective to your research. It has to stand out. This means that the grants with the most likelihood of being funded propose ideas that push the frontiers of knowledge, with multidisciplinary approaches. Hence, your research proposal has to come across as significant, novel, ambitious and original. Remember that your success will reflect upon the organization that funds your research. But don’t brag and don’t make unsustainable promises. In fact, emphasize the long-term prospects with a strong research plan.

Originality is Important

While the significance of your grant scores points, of course the most important issue is the research you hope to pursue. It is vitally important that you provide not only information that supports your hypotheses but that you also discuss how you will deal with potential obstacles. To this end, you should emphasize why you want to investigate these aims and why the outcome of your research is important. Spend time pointing out the significance of your work in the larger context of science knowledge, and show how scientific knowledge will be expanded because of your work. You should also provide alternative approaches and contingency plans in the event your original approaches do not work. Explain how your data will be analyzed and how the results will be interpreted.

Your research plan needs to be very explicit about why it should be done in the first place. You need to answer the question “who cares?” very emphatically by describing how your proposed research addresses a gap or problem area.

Be Clear and Concise

Write the research plan concisely, with clear objectives and a well-defined experimental strategy. Be detailed about your research data and methods; explain what is required to do the work proposed. You’ll need to highlight your understanding of what it will take to solve the problem you are tackling. In addition to tackling a question that is important and original, the strongest research proposals have promising long-term prospects. You may only be asking for funding for five years, but it is wise to include how your research could and should expand downstream. Having said that, you do need to be realistic about the extent and feasibility of your project.

For your proposal to be effective, it needs to be written well. First impressions count! Your proposal should not only clearly present your research idea and strategy in a logical, coherent way that’s readily understandable for both experts and laymen alike, but it should emphasize the most important points and not get side-tracked into detailing every item you hope to cover. Focus and clarity are important for your grant proposal success.

A big part of writing clearly is writing descriptively and organizing your material logically. Develop an informative title, use well-defined acronyms (and define all acronyms the first time they’re used), and put each piece of information under the appropriate heading. Make the grant reviewer's job easy and you’re a good way to making it to the top choice pile.

Emphasize Your Strengths

You’ll want to support your qualifications with a publication record that includes papers relevant to your research proposal. If you have a research team, then emphasize the strengths of each team member and their combined publication records. It is important however to point out that you are the main researcher in the project and your role in that position beyond managing the team’s work.

Where to Search for Funding

There are a number of places you can search online for information. There are sites that list different funding programs. Sites that provide information on how to get through the first round of evaluation. Sites that advise readers on how to get to the top of the applicant pile. Even advice on how to deal with disappointment when you don’t succeed. One thing that all these sites agree on is that getting a grant is not easy. A quick Google search will list a number of online sources where you can search for information about different funding programs. Good luck!

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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An Interview with Dr. Asit Kumar Chakraborti
09 Jul 2014

The 2nd Annual Drug Discovery India International Conference and Exhibition will be held on September 11-12, 2014 at the Ramada Powai Hotel & Convention Centre, Mumbai. The conference will focus on the areas of Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD), Medicinal Chemistry, Natural Products Chemistry, Chemical Biology, Molecular Modeling, and Novel Approaches, Techniques and Technologies for Drug Design and Discovery. Use of Interdisciplinary Approaches for optimizing the discovery and development of new molecular entities, collaborative research amongst interdisciplinary academic/research centers, government agencies and pharmaceutical industry will also be on the agenda. The conference will be co-located with Drug Metabolism & Discovery ADMET and Indian Lab Automation meetings.

Dr. Asit Kumar Chakraborti, Professor and Head, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, India, will deliver the Keynote talk in this conference. In today’s blog, Dr. Chakraborti will share some of the points he will cover in his Keynote talk.

SELECTBIO: What principles are being followed by your research group for implementation of Green Chemistry?

Dr. Chakraborti:
There are twelve principles of green chemistry. An ideal chemical synthesis should fulfill all of these twelve principles. However, it is hard to meet all of these twelve principles for a particular synthetic design but a checklist can be derived as to what extent a new synthetic design may be greener compared to the existing routes. For this purpose the pharma/chemical industries have come up with a road map referred to as the “Green Index” that includes a six point agenda that direct to prioritize the R & D activities to achieve sustainable chemical process. The salient features are: i) use of catalytic protocols replacing stoichiometric methods,(ii) reduction of steps (unit chemical reactions), (iii) use of solid (recyclable) acid/base catalysts in place of the traditional liquid acid/base systems, (iv) adopting a safer process avoiding the use of toxic/dangerous reagents, (v) replacement of the classical volatile organic solvents (VOSs) by developing solvent-free reaction and using alternate greener reaction media such as water, supercritical fluids, and ionic liquids, and (vi) adopting routes of higher atom economy that would minimize/eliminate the formation of byproducts. In my laboratory for any chemical synthesis the priority is given to adhere to the above Green Index parameters. The salient features of our efforts towards popularization green chemistry initiatives may be summarized as:

A) Catalysis: Development of various transition metal-based and solid supported protic acids derived catalysts has been one active area of interest of my research group. Many of the catalysts (particularly solid-supported recyclable protic acid catalysts) discovered in my laboratory are being routinely used by various national and international research laboratories and academic institutions for various synthetic needs.
B) Water-assisted Synthesis: Another thrust of my research interest is to use non-conventional reaction media particularly water. However, we realized that an understanding of the reason (molecular level interaction with the substrates with water) of how water promote organic reaction would make due impact on the traditional mindset that water is detrimental to organic reaction and would promote its rational use. To this effect research outcomes form this laboratory first projected the role of water as ‘electrophile-nucleophile dual activation’ through a relay of cooperative hydrogen bond formation in versatile organic synthesis. A further insight on exploring the aquatic organic reveals a non-heme model of dioxygen activation for a green oxidation protocol in aqueous medium in the presence of catalytic amount of a surfactant (SDOSS) that is traditionally considered as a solubility enhancing agent for aqueous insoluble organics.
C) Organo-catalysis by Ionic Liquids (ILs): The ILs have been projected as future green solvent based on their various advantageous physico-chemical parameters (particularly non-volatility). However, many ILs are toxic which arises on the variation of the cation or the anion but they possess unmatched ability to promote organic reaction and change the course of organic reactions with respect to altering the chemo-, region-, and stereo-selectivities. This led us to give a different focus to the use of ILs in promoting organic reactions. Thus, the prime focus is on organo-catalytic (non-solvent) applications of ILs, to understand the origin of the organo-catalytic potential, and develop some sort of predictive model for selection of ILs as organo-catalyst.

SELECTBIO: Sir, you have utilized nanocatalysis in your research. Could you please brief the salient features of this technology?

Dr. Chakraborti:
Yes recently we have focused on the use of nano-catalysts as they provide a bridge between homo- and hetero-geneous catalysis. In our recent efforts we showed the double advantage of nano-catalysis and aqueous medium to develop a straight forward synthetic protocol for the construction of a common but key structural feature of a diverse group of drugs (e.g., cardiovascular agents, cough expectorant) and demonstrated its utility towards the synthesis of a few drugs. Our further effort has recently gave the strategy of co-operative catalysis by metal nano clusters for the industrially important (but difficult to perform) Suzuki-Miyaura coupling reaction that would reduce the use of the costly Pd/Au-derived catalysts by cheaper Ni compounds.

SELECTBIO: What research objectives do you wish to achieve while working on COXIBS?

Dr. Chakraborti:
COXIBs (selective inhibitors of the enzyme COX-2 responsible for inflammatory response) are the new generation non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and have provided a new direction to provide relief to patients affected with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, later on some of the drugs belonging to this therapeutic class showed cardiovascular toxicity on long term use due to which rofecoxoib and valdecoxib were withdrawn from the market. However, apart from the essential need of COXIBs (celecoxib is still in the market) to treat RA, they find various other therapeutic applications such as cancer chemoprevention and CNS disorder. This triggers my research interest to develop newer COXIBs with novel structural features that might be devoid of the cardiovascular side effects but may have add on values towards their potentiality for use of other disease conditions (e.g., cancer, CNS disorder etc.). Our initial efforts have generated new lead structures for selective inhibition of COX-2 that are found to be more potent than the existing drug celecoxib for in vitro COX-2 selectivity and exhibited in vivo potency better than celecoxib and diclofenac (non-selective COX inhibitor used for the treatment of inflammation) in two different doses. Further pre-clinical and pre-formulation studies on these molecules are currently under progress with collaboration with pharmacology/formulation experts.

SELECTBIO: What message would you like to give to your students and young researchers?

Dr. Chakraborti:
Green/sustainable chemistry is the driver of modern chemical research and is an unavoidable exercise in chemical manufacturing processes. It provides enough scope in generating new chemistries and scientific knowledge that would derive inspiration to explore on green/sustainable chemistries. However, the philosophy of green chemistry is not restricted/limited to the industrial sector as one often thinks. Although the scale of chemical reactions in academic institutions are usually small, the cumulative footprints from thousands of laboratories would generate copious environmental burden. The academic institutions are supposed to be the nursery of green chemistry culture that need to be promoted through introducing appropriate curriculum and laboratory practicals/training in the various levels (undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, doctoral) of education.

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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Biochemical Assays for Screening Workshop
02 Jul 2014

An interview with Dr. Sheraz Gul

Are you looking for the opportunity to explore the latest technology for biochemical assays? If you want to know details about the latest screening equipment and want hands-on time with the instruments, this workshop is for you! SELECTBIO, in partnership with European Drug Target Review and European ScreeningPort, will be presenting a unique practical workshop on Biochemical Assays for Screening from 9-11 July 2014 in Hamburg, Germany.

Taking place over three days at the European ScreeningPort facility in Hamburg, the workshop will offer attendees case studies, lectures, and several opportunities to perform experimental work. In fact, the majority of the course will be laboratory-based in which assays for targets that are currently actively being pursued for drug discovery purposes (kinases, histone deacetylases and proteases) will be developed, validated and screened against a small molecule library of known drugs. Selected Hit compounds will be evaluated in suitable Secondary assays.

During the workshop, you’ll gain insights into the key parameters to be considered when developing biochemical assays and performing small molecule screening, data analysis and validation of Hits in suitable Secondary assays. The workshop leader, Dr. Sheraz Gul, is Vice President and Head of Biology at European ScreeningPort, where he manages the assay development and screening of academic targets. Previously, he worked for GlaxoSmithKline where he developed biochemical and cellular assays for High Throughput Screening as well as Hit characterization. In addition, he has worked in academia on proteases and kinases. He is the co-author of the Enzyme Assays: Essential Data Handbook. In today's blog, he shares some of the insights he will cover during the workshop.

SELECTBIO: The workshop offers not only lectures but also case studies. Are the case studies drawn from your own research?

GUL:
The case studies are largely taken from peer-reviewed literature reports. We discuss the typical outputs from assay development and small molecule screening campaigns and describe successes and failures.

SELECTBIO: The agenda shows that afternoons during the workshop will be devoted to experimental work. Can you tell us a bit about the labs that will be used for the workshop and the practical work that attendees will be performing?

GUL:
We use our laboratory in Hamburg, which is equipped with a state-of-the-art fully automated compound handling and high throughput screening system. The plate-reader integrated into the system is compatible with most optical assay readouts and the integrated high throughput imaging system is mainly employed in secondary assays. The screening system will be used to perform the proof-of-concept screens in the workshop.

The workshop will also involve some assay development activities for a number of interesting drug discovery targets (e.g. kinase, protease and histone deacetylase) using common drug discovery assay technologies (e.g. luminescence, fluorescence intensity and TR-FRET).

SELECTBIO: European ScreeningPort (ESP) is a busy contract research organization; it’s very generous of them to offer their facilities for this workshop. I understand there is a Visiting Scientist Program. Can you tell us a bit about that?

GUL:
The ESP are involved in a number of projects where the assay to be utilized in a small molecule screening campaign was developed externally. We also work collaboratively with external scientists and give them access to our facility. Having a Visiting Scientist Program allows the rapid progression of a project and at the same time provides external scientists an insight into how we work.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your research in biochemical assays?

GUL:
Generally, biochemical assay development has become straightforward as a wide range of tools, reagents, kits, etc. are commercially available. It is often the case that the activities of hits diminish in the secondary assays (often cell-based in nature) that are used to select which compounds to progress. The more interesting findings are when the original biochemical assay is modified to provide evidence regarding the compound mode of action; e.g., time-dependent studies, SPR, ITC, etc. that are used to select which ones should be progressed from a drug discovery perspective.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the key learnings you hope workshop attendees take away from the event?

GUL:
We hope that the attendees critically evaluate their own biochemical assay and screening projects, understand that often a multitude of assay technologies are available to investigate a given target and how to manage an early stage drug discovery project.

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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CNS Biomarkers from Discovery to Clinical Diagnostics: Molecules, Matrices and Platforms
25 Jun 2014

An interview with Dr. Andreas Jeromin

The upcoming Biomarkers 2014 conference is the result of a joint collaboration between SELECTBIO and Dr. Andreas Jeromin, President & CSO, Atlantic Biomarkers. The resulting meeting, Biomarkers in CNS Drug Discovery and Development: From Discovery to Clinical Diagnostics, will be held from 8-9 July, 2014 in Cambridge, UK.

The Biomarkers meeting will highlight current advances in the use of biomarkers in the context of CNS drug discovery and development and highlight strategies for their translation from discovery tools to clinical diagnostics. This is embedded into the discussion of innovate technologies for biomarker development, their non-clinical use, clinical development and regulatory strategies and serve as a unique forum for networking, critical assessment based on presented case studies and panel discussions.

The meeting will bring together international experts from across academia and industry and across a spectrum of CNS disorders, ranging from neurodegenerative, neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental to neurological disorders.

Dr. Jeromin will kick off the meeting with a keynote presentation that explores CNS biomarkers from discovery to clinical diagnostics. In today's blog, he shares some of the insights he will cover during his keynote speech.

Q: What are some of the key points you will address during your keynote speech?

A:
The validation of immunoassays as fit-for-purpose according to consensus criteria being developed is an important step towards improving the reliability of biomarker discovery and verification. Strategies for biomarker assay standardization as implanted large-scale consortia across CNS disorders will also be discussed. Finally, emerging ultra-sensitivity technologies show promise towards the development of assays for CNS biomarkers in blood, previously limited to cerebrospinal fluid.

Q: You have established several research programs in translational neuroscience in the past 15 years. Were there any synergies between the programs or were the objectives always different?

A:
The development of validated assays, ideally supporting non-clinical and clinical development programs, the use of sufficiently statistically powered studies and the assessment of different animal models of the human disease.

Q: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your investigations concerning CNS biomarkers?

A:
The identification of common and distinct biomarkers across CNS disorders, enabling the development of a biomarker-based molecular taxonomy of these disorders and their implementation in clinical management.

Q: What are some of the future innovations you think will occur in the field of CNS Biomarkers?

A:
The development of new technologies, some allowing for the assessment of multiple markers in single sample (multiplexing) and the development of ultrasensitive assay technologies, allowing for detection of low-abundance biomarkers. The orthogonal use of technologies, such as multiplexed multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) and immunoassays technologies.

Q: What do you hope Biomarkers 2014 attendees take away from the meeting?

A:
A unique forum for the presentation and discussion of the latest technologies for biomarker discovery and verification/validation and a forum for open discussion and networking. The conference highlights the use of these biomarker assays to address different clinical application/uses across different CNS disorders in selected case studies.

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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Metabolic Profiling to be Highlighted at Metabomeeting 2014
19 Jun 2014

An interview with Dr. Andrew Nicholls

Chemical fingerprints are unique.  Studying their small-molecule metabolite profiles is an exciting field that combines the challenges of systems biology with functional genomics to provide a more complete understanding of living organisms with regard to the physiology of specific cells.  The best place to learn about the latest research in this field is to network with your peers and listen to their presentations at key conferences, particularly the upcoming Metabomeeting!

SELECTBIO is partnering with the Metabolic Profiling Forum (MPF) to host Metabomeeting 2014 at the Royal Institution in London from 10-12 September 2014.  Agenda topics include: Applied Metabolomics; Data Analysis and Integration with Systems Biology; and, Metabolite Identification.  The area of applied metabolomics will be further separated into the following applications: Drug Discovery and Pharma; Human Disease; Human Health and Nutrition; Microbial, Invertebrate and Environmental Applications; and, Plants. 

Director and Secretary of the Metabolic Profiling Forum, Dr. Andrew Nicholls, has been closely involved in organizing the agenda and creating a roster of scientists performing research in metabolic profiling to present their findings during the conference.  Dr. Nicholls will also be chairing some of the sessions during the event.  In today's blog, he discusses the conference, the field of metabolic profiling, and his own research in this area.

SELECTBIO: Tell us a bit about Metabomeeting 2014 – what are the organizing committee’s goals for the conference?

Nicholls: Metabomeeting 2014 is the latest in a series of meetings we started in 2005 to bring together the growing community engaged with metabolic profiling, metabolomics and metabonomics. Our goal today, as it was from the start, is to provide a stage for the practitioners to meet, present and discuss their work in as open a manner as possible, but also to have the chance to engage in discussion with others over multiple occasions throughout the meeting.  Our position has always been that irrespective of anyone’s background, area of study or area of employment, that all attendees have an equal opportunity to present, whether as a talk in the main sessions or as posters.  Hence, we are proud to have recognised the valuable contributions from early career scientists, vendors and those in the commercial sector alongside the excellent work of long-standing members of the academic community.  From all of this, our goal is to achieve what we have repeatedly done to date, namely the simple feedback from our attendees that they have made new friends, developed new collaborations or simply seen something that inspires a new course of action. 

SELECTBIO: What do you feel are the current challenges in metabolomics profiling?

 

Nicholls: Being a multidisciplinary field, metabolomics will always have a mixture of challenges to address.  In recent years, the analysis of samples, and modelling of data have seen significant improvements, and these will continue to steadily evolve.  The biggest challenges for metabolomics in 2014 reflect opposite ends of the process, namely the design of the experiments and the identification/interpretation stage.  The assessments made and the analyses of these data are composed of multiple sources of influence, depending on the nature of the work.  Experiments can be designed to limit the possible sources of variation, but eventually practicality, feasibility and ethics will limit the simplification that can be achieved to the design.  This places greater emphasis on the interpretation stage (assuming that all signals of interest have been assigned to a biochemical entity) since meaningful conclusions are difficult to achieve with only a limited appreciation of the contributing factors to changes in the markers under study.  By sharing knowledge, not simply information and data, researchers would be able to determine the credibility of their interpretations, reduce the influence from biological noise and reach more accurate conclusions.

 

SELECTBIO: How is metabolic profiling different from other types of research, and what are the benefits to this type of analyses?

Nicholls: Metabolic profiling (or metabolomics/metabonomics if you prefer) provides the additional information to yield the most complete set of information for a biochemical alteration.  The information is commonly referred to as being the closest to the phenotype of a given condition, and recent improvements in our understanding of the genome and proteome would seem to support this.  Just as regions of the genome were considered to be non-coding, and all proteins were assumed to derive from the subject’s genetic template, assumptions that are now being challenged, small molecular weight metabolites have until recently been considered to be supportive to the main players, the macromolecules. Part of this view has stemmed from the difficulty in assessing the concentrations of a range of small molecules.  Metabolic profiling provides a means of measuring the relative concentration of many of the small molecules in a sample and then using statistical, chemometric and machine learning tools, to determine which are changing relative to a known variation or stimuli. The major benefit of this assessment is that it provides a more data rich approach than simply measuring a very small sub-set, as would be the case with traditional assessments, such as clinical chemistry, for example. The principal issue with this assessment is that it assumes the researcher is aware of all of the sources of variation, and commonly data can be incorrectly assigned to the induced change rather than the genuine cause.  It is also common for research work to only include a metabolic profiling step, when a follow-up targeted, quantitative assessment is also needed to confirm the observed alteration.  By adopting this thorough approach to the subject under study metabolic profiling provides a means of gaining information rich assessments of biology with the closest proximity to the phenotype. 

 

SELECTBIO: Your recent research has focused on the application of high-resolution analytical instrumentation for the study of metabolic alterations. What are some of the more interesting findings?


Nicholls: Over the last decade advances to analytical instrumentation have dramatically improved the ability to accurately measure simultaneously the small molecules in a sample.  However, such data do not mean that we have an abundance of knowledge since even with accurate assignment our understanding of the roles of the components of the metabolome has remained limited when compared to the scale of the metabolome.  A recent indication of the strength of a small molecule alteration has been the reported work of induced behavioural alterations following exposure of animals to 4-ethylphenyl sulphate.  The identification of this entity via metabolomics and the follow-up work to show its behavioural effects is a reminder that even though macromolecules play a key part to biology, the scale in an influence that small molecules can have upon their expression and function still remains to be adequately explored.

 

SELECTBIO: What are some of the innovations you think will occur in the area of metabolomics in the future?

Nicholls:
Although analytical assessment has improved, its principal disadvantage is that it is designed for a well-equipped scientific laboratory.  At the research level this works, but for many applications a device that can obtain data in the field, the patients home or other ‘more hostile’ environments would revolutionize the application of metabolomics.  Recent miniaturization of chemical sensors (mass spectrometric and NIR for example) and separation methods using microfluidics will lead the way towards devices that could be coupled with or embedded in smartphones.  Localization with these increasingly powerful computers would enable at-site application of existing models to the raw data or signal processing to apply more complex analyses either on the device or from a web-based service.  Indeed, the prevalence of smartphones on a global scale means that we may already have Dr. McCoy’s tricorder, but are now waiting for the app.  

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Understand Bioprinting and Biofabrication Challenges Better at Bioprinting Congress
11 Jun 2014

An Interview with Professor Makoto Nakamura

If you’re interested in the fascinating new field of bioprinting and biofabrication, you won’t want to miss the keynote presentation by University of Toyama’s Professor Makoto Nakamura. His presentation, The Concepts of the Challenges for the Developments of Bioprinting and Biofabrication, will examine the innovative printing techniques that are now being used in tissue engineering. In today's blog, he shares some of the points he will cover in his keynote speech.

The inaugural International Bioprinting Congress will take place at the Biopolis, Singapore on 24-25 July 2014. The event will present the leading international scientists and thought leaders within the rapidly developing field of 3D bioprinting.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the challenges you’re finding in your research on bioprinting and biofabrication?

Nakamura:
Our team has ever pursued several challenges on tissue engineering, towards the final goal of engineering biological artificial organs which can be used for clinical therapy for disease patients. Our challenges concerning to bioprinting and biofabrication are as follows. First, we ask how can we position or assemble living cells directly onto arbitrary positions. Specifically, we’re examining high resolution as biological histology; respect cell-type onto respect cell positions; both 2D and 3D space, especially together with inner compositions; and, high speed positioning or fabrication. Second, we ask what kind of machines or technologies are feasible to produce biological tissues and organs. Within this area, we find many advantages in printing technology, which forms the beginning of our research on bioprinting. Third, we ask how we can make effective perfusion systems such as capillary vessels in the fabricated large 3D tissues. And, finally, we examine recent challenges such as searching suitable biomaterials for biofabrication and version-up of our 3D bioprinter. However, producing biological tissues--especially alternatives for transplantation-- is not easy. Therefore many challenges must be addressed until our final goal can be achieved.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the limitations of mechanical artificial organs that biofabricated artificial organs resolve?

Nakamura:
Mechanical artificial organs have contributed to saving many patients indeed, so I think they are necessary and they still need further development. I’d like to emphasize that it is important to understand that the research on mechanical artificial organs is very necessary. However, there are still no cues to compensate metabolic functions of biological cells and tissues by mechanical artificial organs, such as energy generation in vivo, hormone generation and detoxification in vivo. Therefore, energy must be transferred almost continuously from outside of the body for an artificial heart, while a dialysis patient must be connected to a machine that dilutes waters in the case of an artificial kidney. In addition, artificial organs never grow up along with children when they grow up. My hope is to develop a pediatric artificial heart to address one of the more serious problems in mechanical artificial organs.

SELECTBIO: Your research has involved the heart; is this really an organ that can be biofabricated?

Nakamura:
Of course, I think so, but it is in future. Although it is indeed a very difficult theme, I believe it can be achieved through science and technology some day.

SELECTBIO: You have been closely involved with the International Society For Biofabrication (ISBF) as an inaugural board member. What are the goals of the ISBF?

Nakamura:
As far as I understand, the goal of ISBF is as follows:

1. The most important purpose of ISBF is to promote the research and development of biofabrication worldwide. However, why is such biofabrication research necessary? The most essential point of fabricating biological products is to fabricate and produce human tissues and organs to contribute to the development of the medicine, not only basic but also clinical medicine. This is essentially the same as tissue engineering. Therefore, ISBF aims at this final goal.

2. To achieve this, interaction or collaboration with different disciplines in other different fields is necessary, because biofabrication is a new approach. Hence, ISBF actively searches for synergies with other fields.

3. In addition, application of biofabricated products to basic and clinical medicine, and all of the life science areas, is important, as well as interaction and collaboration. Moreover, industry is also important, because basic technologies must be connected to industrial applications to produce practical products. While a non-profit organization, ISBF nevertheless promotes interactions for contributing to biofabrication applications.

4. ISBF is an academic society. Therefore, ISBF is active in the education of young scientists and students.

These are not the official position of the ISBF, but my understanding as a member of ISBF.

SELECTBIO: What do you consider your greatest success in this field?

Nakamura:
My great success? It is difficult to evaluate my works by myself! I have proposed that printing technologies are a promising avenue to develop 3D tissue engineering by showing 3D bioprinting using an inkjet technique. Although other researchers are also working on bioprinting solutions, our works on bioprinting and biofabrication have influenced many Japanese engineers and researchers to work in the field of printing technologies, MEMS technologies and mechatronics technologies, as well as regenerative medicine.

SELECTBIO: How do you envision bioprinting and biofabrication evolving in the future?

Nakamura:
I hope and believe that the time when human tissues and organs can be produced by computer-aided machine technologies and process engineering will come some day.

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Genomics & Proteomics Research – An Interview with Dr. R.N.K Bamezai
04 Jun 2014

The 3rd International Genomics and Proteomics Research Conference is scheduled to be held on June 12-13, 2014 at the Hotel Radisson Blu Plaza, New Delhi. The event will focus on advancements in Genomics and Proteomics, especially in the field of gene analysis. This event will offer definite advantage to researchers in the fields of human, animal and plant genomics, genomics biomarkers, epigenetics, next-generation sequencing, miRNA and non-coding RNA, qPCR, bioinformatics, proteomics and proteome analysis including chromatography and mass spectroscopy.

The program will consist of moderated sessions and an engaging expert panel on research themes at the core of Genomics and Proteomics.

Dr. R.N.K Bamezai, Professor/Director, National Centre of Applied Human Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, will deliver the plenary talk at this conference. In today’s blog, Dr. Bamezai will discuss some of the issues regarding human genetics research.

SELECTBIO: What do you feel are the most important issues facing human genetics research in India?

Dr. Bamezai:
We are caught in a situation of neither-nor, where we neither have globally competitive multiple institutions in the subject area nor do we have affordable clinical-genetic services for all genetic diseases afflicting the population, readily available across the span of the country. Further, there is lack of: consolidation of contributions of different research groups; hand-holding in expediting the translational potential for affordable diagnostics for all types of genetic disorders; genetic counseling centres all across India with appropriate expertise and experience, involving human geneticists, clinicians, social scientists, ethicists and psychologists in a group; presence of more than one national level centre, at least in each region of the country, with a network of sub-centres all over India with adequate R&D and specialty hospital establishments or tie-ups. There could be different models considered for spreading awareness and providing services in the background of modern research, however, the cardinal principle should be to create a culture of laboratory to bed conversion of on-going research with counseling options, supported by appropriate expertise and modern research infrastructure facilities, availed by the needy equally and readily.

SELECTBIO: What is the significance of Individual Molecular Signatures?

Dr. Bamezai:
The significance of individual molecular signatures is to establish the unique individual molecular fingerprint, not only for identification but also for establishing inherent or acquired biological background for customized intervention in case of a disease; and to provide an evolutionary insight of relationship with other individuals and populations to help understand disease epidemiology.

SELECTBIO: How do you visualize personalized genomes in the future? 


Dr. Bamezai: Personalized genomes, though proposed with hype to begin with, are becoming a reality with affordable and quick output with high-throughput technologies. More affordable, precise and efficient these become with time, wider would be its use to know oneself and one’s risk to diseases and the susceptibilities. This, of course, would happen in the background of developing appropriate regulatory and ethical frameworks.

SELECTBIO: In the current scenario of Leprosy in India, what do you think the approach should be? 

Dr. Bamezai: Leprosy over the past decades has declined in India and other developing nations. The worry is adding new cases every year, especially in India in some of the regions, despite multidrug therapy regimens in place. Our contributions in defining genetic heterogeneity and the susceptibility to suffer from infectious disease opens up the area of further research to contain its spread by adopting several measures, ranging from rehabilitation of such communities, proper hygiene and clean environment, to stem cell therapies in the future to restore nerve damage and degenerated extremities. Instead of a low-priority health area, it requires attention through a multidisciplinary approach of the suggested measures mentioned.

SELECTBIO: What is your advice to your students considering a career in human genetics? 

Dr. Bamezai: A career in any subject including Human Genetics requires dedication, commitment, honesty and excellence. This follows a consistent and clear understanding of the fundamentals of the subject and the purpose. Human Genetics in today’s context and in the background of developments in modern biology has transformed from Genomic Sciences to Genomic Medicine and has an applied value in providing service and alleviating the trauma of families through pre-emptive and preventive approaches with future possibilities of pre-implantation genetics. All this would happen with educating the community and following ethical and not commercial interests alone.

You can register to attend here

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From Discovery to Clinical Diagnostics, Biomarkers 2014 Conference to Highlight Current Advances
28 May 2014

Whatever your area of specialty in drug discovery and development, if it involves biomarkers, then Biomarkers 2014 is the place to be in July!  From 8-9 July 2014, SELECTBIO will be hosting Biomarkers 2014 at the Buckingham House Conference Centre at Murray Edwards College in Cambridge, UK.  Part of the esteemed Cambridge University, Murray Edwards College offers a convivial atmosphere for learning—a perfect accompaniment to a conference agenda loaded with many interesting presentations.

Biomarkers 2014 is a joint collaboration with Dr. Andreas Jeromin, president and CSO for Atlantic Biomarkers, who will also provide the keynote presentation to launch the conference.  Dr. Jeromin’s presentation will explore CNS Biomarkers from discovery to clinical diagnostics, with a particular focus on molecules, matrices and platforms.  The conference tracks include technical considerations and applications of biomarkers in drug development; biomarkers in neurodegeneration (AD/PD); biomarkers in neuropsychiatric diseases; and, biomarkers in neurological diseases. 

The conference will bring together a group of international experts across academia and industry, who will present case studies, approaches and findings on CNS disorders.  The presentations will cover neurodegenerative, neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurological disorders.

Also featured will be an exhibition with vendors displaying the most recent technologies and products in this field.

Click here to register

Cambridge: A College Town

Cambridge is most well known for its many colleges and universities.  In fact, Cambridge is the second oldest university in the English-speaking world and dates back to 1209.

The great thing about visiting a college town is the wealth of intellectual pursuits that are offered.  Cambridge has these in abundance!  From visiting the revered colleges and chapels to punting on the River Cam, there are many wonderful ways to relax and enjoy this delightful town.  

Certainly visits to some of the 31 colleges and university buildings should be on your to-do list whilst in Cambridge.  All college chapels are open to the public at select times, and most of the colleges are also open for visits.  The colleges are all very different, and you may want to peruse a map to determine which to visit and when.  Some of the most popular are Corpus Christi College, King’s College and Trinity Hall.  Two hour guided tours that leave from the tourist office many times each day offer a good way to see the highlights.

Kings College Chapel is one of the largest and most fascinating college chapels in Cambridge.  Started in 1446 by Henry VI, the chapel is an excellent example of late Gothic architecture.  It has the largest fan vault in the world and some extremely fine medieval stained glass.  You can visit the chapel, attend services and even listen to the famous chapel choir during evensong. 

The National Trust manages some lovely stately homes in Cambridge, including Island Hall, a red brick riverside mansion built in the 1740s.  The house was built on an island in the Great Ouse river and is reached by a charming Chinese-style bridge.  Visitors can view not only the house, but wander the three acres of restful gardens.

For art lovers, there are many choices.  Two popular destinations are the free-to-enter University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, which houses world-class collections of art and antiquities spanning centuries and civilisations, and Kettle’s Yard, which offers galleries and a major centre for 20th century and contemporary art as well as music, lectures and workshops open to the public. 

If you’re in Cambridge, you simply must find time to either rent a punt – long flat-bottomed boats – or go on one of the celebrated punting tours.  The tours typically take 45 minutes, and wind along the River Cam past landmarks such as King's College Chapel, The Wren Library at Trinity College and the Bridge of Sighs.  The River Cam runs through the heart of Cambridge and it’s easy to just show up at any of the tour starting points along the river where you will quickly be surrounded by eager students selling tickets for the various punt companies. 

Is there a better way to end a day than in an English pub?  Enjoying a pint with your fish and chips is another great way to soak in the local atmosphere.  One of the oldest inns is the Eagle, which dates back to the 14th century and has long been frequented by scholars, students and scientists.  Scientists?  Yes indeed!  According to legend, James D. Watson and Francis Crick announced to fellow patrons of the Eagle that they had discovered “the secret of life” or DNA as we know it today.

Cambridge is a walking town.  This means that getting around Cambridge is easiest and most enjoyable on foot.  Whether you arrive by car and utilize the conference center’s free parking, or arrive by train and take a taxi or bus to the conference center, it’s best to walk everywhere after you arrive to fully enjoy the ambiance and delights of the town.

For more information about what to do in Cambridge during your stay, please visit http://www.visitcambridge.org/

 

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7 Good Reasons Why You Should Present Posters at a Conference
21 May 2014

Why should you go to all the trouble to present a poster at a conference? Even if your main goal is to listen to the presentations, there are many good reasons to do so.

1. Posters offer the opportunity to engage with other conference attendees interested in the same subject and application as yourself. You might strike up a conversation with someone about your poster that may lead to future collaboration or even a job offer! One-on-one conversations about your poster enable you to talk about very specific aspects of your research that may not be possible in a presentation.

2. A poster session is a good way to disseminate your work, particularly if your research falls within a narrow field of specialization. It also gives you the opportunity to actively engage with others during the conference in a way that networking alone does not, since by its very nature the poster defines the topic of conversation.

3. If your topic does not fit within the conference organiser’s themes for the tracks, a poster is a good way to present research that doesn’t fit into one of the track categories well. That’s not to say your research doesn’t fit the conference or the audience, it just may not be a good fit for the agenda. Certainly posters can offer a strong supplement to the conference agenda, as well as provide you with a means to present your research.

4. Another good reason to present a poster is that you can expect to receive compliments on your work and critiques that can help you in the future. An insightful, impartial discussion of your work by a peer can often provide ideas for improving your work downstream.

5. Sometimes a poster session is better than an oral presentation due to time constraints in the latter. During a typical oral presentation you will have 10-15 minutes for questions and comments while a poster session typically lasts several hours, allowing for more in-depth discussions. Moreover, not all people will manage to make it to your oral presentation because there will probably be concurrent tracks.

6. Poster sessions offer the opportunity to practice your presentation skills. One advantage of presenting a poster is that it enables you to try explaining a concept in different ways, and see which explanation is most well received. At the same time that you’re honing your ability to communicate verbally, you can also hone your ability to present information visually in a simple way.

7. A poster session is ideal for the early stages of the research, when you may not have much more than an idea, and you stand to benefit a lot from discussing your idea with other researchers from the same field.

In short, poster presentations provide value, both for attendees who discuss your poster content with you, and for yourself because of the opportunities highlighted above. SELECTBIO actively seeks posters for all our conferences, so if you would like to present one, please let us know!

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Genomics & Proteomics Research 2014 to Highlight Latest Advancements
14 May 2014

If your research includes genomics and proteomics applications, you're aware of the tremendous advancements in these fields. You'll have seen and no doubt participated in tremendous changes in the drug discovery process, particularly the integration of myriad disciplines from structural biology to computer sciences.

Some of these changes include: understanding of the nature of disease, novel biomarkers as diagnostic tools, target-specific molecules and integrated automated discovery platforms. All of these changes have become an integral part of the modern drug discovery process.

The pace of change is not going to slow down! Keeping on top of the latest changes, as well as new tools and technologies, continues to be invigorating and challenging. Conferences such as the upcoming Genomics & Proteomics Research 2014 can help you stay current.

Thought leaders in the field of genomics and proteomics research will converge in New Delhi, India, on June 12-13, 2014 to present at the Genomics & Proteomics Research 2014 conference. 

Keynote speakers include Dr. Rameshwar Bamezai, Professor/Director at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who will kick off the conference with a presentation on genome and human diseases, as well as Dr. Utpal Tatu, Professor at the Indian Institute of Science, who will talk about the discovery, diagnosis and drug development with regard to proteomics landscapes in neglected diseases.

Not only will the conference highlight advancements in genomics and proteomics, it will also feature gene analysis; human, animal and plant genomics; genomics biomarkers; epigenetics; next-generation sequencing; miRNA and non-coding RNA; qPCR; bioinformatics and more.

An added benefit to this year's event: oral presentations and posters presented during the conference will be subsequently published in a special issue of Computational & Structural Biotechnology Journal.

Also featured will be an exhibition with vendors displaying the most recent technologies and products in these fields.

The conference will be held at the five-star Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi hotel in New Delhi, India, which is just 10 minutes from the Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, yet offers easy access to the city centre.

Click here to register.

New Delhi: The City of Cities
For a city that has been populated since the 6th century BC, Delhi has so many exciting places to visit that it is hard to narrow down the list to just a few. But of course there are several must-see attractions worth spending an extra day before or after the conference!

Perhaps tops on any list is a visit to the Red Fort. Built in 1638 to keep out invaders, the red sandstone walls of the massive Red Fort (Lal Qila) rise serenely above the Old Delhi, providing a reminder of the magnificent power and pomp of the Mughal emperors. The vaulted arcade of Chatta Chowk, a bazaar selling tourist trinkets, leads into the huge fort compound. Inside are numerous buildings, including the Drum House, the Hall of Public Audiences, the white marble Hall of Private Audiences, the Pearl Mosque, Royal Baths and Palace of Color. An evening sound and light show re-creates events in India's history connected with the fort.

Another must see is the Swaminarayan Akshardham. Inaugurated in 2005, this magnificent complex is a showcase of India's ancient architecture and traditions. Gardens, boat rides, musical fountains and giant film screens all offer an astounding array of information about India. Tripadvisor.com rates this as the number one thing to do in New Delhi!
One of the most impressive historical buildings in Delhi is the Jama Masjid, the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India. Begun in 1644 from a commission by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. There are three great gates, four towers and two 40m high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble.

If you're looking for a pleasant place to take a break, visit the Lodi Gardens, which provides a serene retreat from the city. Built by the British in 1936 around the tombs of 15th and 16th century rulers, the vast gardens are an enjoyable place to relax and people-watch.

Qutab Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world, is an incredible example of early Indo-Islamic architecture. Built in 1206, the tower has five distinct stories, and is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the holy Quran.

The Ghandi Museum is worth a look. Opposite the Raj Ghat memorial, the Gandhi Museum is dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi and contains some of his personal belongings. There are five pavilions that offer sculpture, photographs and paintings of Gandhi and the history of the Satyagraha movement as well as the philosophy of 'ahinsa' (non-violence).
Certainly shopping is both a spectator sport and a participatory one in Delhi. The Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, and worth the time to explore. This densely populated market has been around for more than three centuries and was once visited by merchants from Turkey, China and even Holland! It is comprised of several areas that specialize in specific goods for sale, such as the Khari Baoli that's a must for spice lovers and the Katra Neel cloth bazaar.

Getting around Delhi, both the new and old parts of the city, can be achieved with the usual means of local transport, from trains, buses and taxis to the charming and colorful auto rickshaws that offer a less expensive way of getting around the city.

For more information about what to do in New Delhi during your stay, please visit http://www.delhitourism.gov.in/

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Why You Should Attend Virtual Conferences
07 May 2014

Wouldn’t it be nice to attend a conference in your pajamas?  No one is looking so no one cares how you dress!  If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can attend virtual conferences anywhere you are, from wherever you feel like watching – whether from the home or the office or anywhere else.

Clothes aside, it’s also nice to eliminate the hassles of traveling, and certainly the costs and time it takes to get to a conference, sort out the hotel room, where to eat, etc.  You’ll miss interaction with peers and colleagues that attending a conference provides, but it’s easy to email any of the presenters and start a dialogue almost immediately concerning their research or findings. 

Certainly you do not need to attend the entire conference – another great benefit of your virtual presence – but pick and choose the sessions that interest you most.  Because virtual conferences are usually held during the week, it’s easy to fit the sessions around other tasks while at work.  This multi-tasking benefit enables you to stay current on your workload without having to plan for how things will happen while you’re away.

Virtual conferences offer all the benefits of live events: there’s a virtual exhibit hall, posters (you can even engage in interactive sessions with the poster presenters!), and of course the presentations.  The virtual exhibit hall is pretty cool – you can find out about the latest technological systems and solutions via video, downloadable applications, brochures and interaction with booth staff.  You can even interact with other attendees, viewing others in attendance and chatting with them privately or in open forums.

Best of all, there is no cost to attend.  No registration or delegate fees.  No expensive flights or hotels.  So, aside from the convenience of attending from wherever you want to be and saving the time and hassle of getting somewhere else, you’re not out of pocket any money.  All you need to do is register.

This is all leading up to telling you about the first of SELECTBIO’s innovative online conferences: Drug Discovery & Development (DDD 2014). We’ll be using our pioneering new platform that was especially developed for scientific events to broadcast DDD 2014 live on 17th-18th June 2014.

Just like our live conferences, DDD 2014 will explore the hottest topics in Drug Discovery but this time in a webinar-style auditorium with the opportunity for live Q&A at the end of each talk. The conference will feature an array of leading international speakers – many of whom have spoken at other SELECTBIO conferences – who will provide insights into the latest developments in the design and development of drugs. Keynote speakers for DDD 2014 include:
Rathnam Chaguturu, Founder and CEO, iDDPartners; Hakim Djaballah, Director, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; William Janzen, Professor, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and, Steve Rees, Vice President, Astrazeneca. 

DDD 2014 will focus particularly on current developments in screening design, assay technology and compound management. In addition, several of the speakers will highlight the increasing importance that academic centres play in drug discovery efforts, including drug repurposing and drug discovery for orphan diseases.

Please click here to view a short video and find out more about our new state-of-the-art online conferencing platform - then REGISTER FOR FREE! 

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Immerse Yourself in European Lab Automation (ELA) and the Catalan Experience!
30 Apr 2014

This year we’ve got something very special planned to celebrate the 4th annual European Lab Automation (ELA) exhibition and co-located conferences.  This year, we’re featuring a special Catalan Experience that highlights ELA and the Life Science Awards from 13-15 May 2014 in Barcelona, Spain!

Please join your colleagues, the SELECTBIO team and myself from 5:00-7:00pm Tuesday, 13th May 2014 during a very special opening reception: the Catalan Experience.  Come and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Catalonia and get a taste for the region, through a selection of tapas, local wines and craft beers.

The ELA opening reception enables you to wander the exhibit hall without the pressures of getting back to the conference sessions, whilst also enjoying the culinary and cultural highlights of Barcelona and the Catalonia region.

In addition to the Catalan Experience, the ELA opening reception includes the bi-annual European Life Science Awards ceremony, beginning at 6:00pm in the workshop presentation area of the exhibition hall. The European Life Science Awards recognize and celebrate the very best of the industry's achievements.  Award categories include: Most Innovative New Product; Most Innovative New Service; Research Group of the Year; Investigator of the Year; Business Leader of the Year; Most Effective Marketing Campaign and Best New Company. 

The ELA 2014 exhibition will be held in parallel to Advances in NGS & Big Data, High Content Analysis, Advances in Automation & Robotics, Advances in qPCR & dPCR and Advances in Cellular Assays & Cell Culture. Building on the success of the previous years, we expect an exhibition of around 40 of the industry’s leading solution providers, showcasing current technologies and services.

As readers of my blog know, I’ve been interviewing many of the speakers about their presentations in previous posts.  But let me quickly mention what each of these outstanding conferences will cover:

Advances in Automation & Robotics will dive deep into the use of robotics in biobanking, drug discovery and development and aspects of compound management.

High Content Analysis will feature the latest developments in high content technologies and their applications, including novel 3D cell based screening methods, the use of model organisms, and live cell imaging approaches as well as the evolving use of microfluidics in this field.

Advances in qPCR & dPCR will examine new developments in qPCR technology, particularly improvements to qPCR design, the acquisition of accurate data, and efficient data analysis. Focus will also be given to the use of dPCR in the clinic, covering applications such as infectious disease diagnostics and cancer detection.

Advances in NGS & Big Data will provide insights into the latest developments in next-gen sequencing technologies and applications, including the growing use of NGS in the clinic and in diagnostics, as well as developments in sequencing platforms and methods.

Advances in Cellular Assays & Cell Culture will focus primarily on bio-processing technologies and applications, featuring both up-stream and down-stream bio-processing as well as technology trends, end-user application segments and new approaches.

The conference tracks above take place at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via Conference Centre, which is located in a new business development area, close to the airport. Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, winner of the Pritzker prize, this elegant conference centre is easily accessible by the public transport network.

Barcelona Offers Wide Range of Experiences

Barcelona is packed with numerous World Heritage Sites, from the Parc Güell to the Casa Batlló.  But those places are just the start -- there's lots of interesting things to do in this cosmopolitan port city.  If you enjoy museums, everything from modern to classic is at hand. Two very special (and very different) places to visit are the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, with pieces that represent Catalan art from the Romanesque period to the mid-20th century, and the Fundació Joan Miró, which is not only housed in one of the most amazing museum buildings in the world but features more than 225 paintings, 150 sculptures, more than 5,000 drawings and all of Miró's graphic work!  

A visit to the unique Casa-Museu Gaudí is a step back in time, while the Fundació Alorda Derksen showcases stunning contemporary art.  A personal favorite is the Picasso Museum.  Picasso's amazing journey from a classically trained artist to the realm of Cubism makes this particular museum a real treat! 

Science museums are always invigorating, and Barcelona has several, including the CosmoCaixa, where exhibitions include the Flooded Forest that recreates an Amazonian rainforest ecosystem and features piranhas, crocodiles and other animal and plant species typical to the zone.

Barcelona nightlife has everything to offer from Flamenco to theater to world-class cuisine.  Don't forget to try some of the rightfully famous Catalan specialties, and that includes anything with bolets (wild mushrooms) or calçots (large sweet spring onions) that are roasted over hot coals and dipped in a spicy romesco sauce. Make sure you try the tapas, particularly the pintxos. Pintxos are Basque tapas; e.g., plates of bite-sized goodies served atop a piece of bread. Tradition calls for you to pick at the food with toothpicks, and at the end of the night you will be charged for the number of toothpicks that you have used.  Right now Spanish food is trending at the top of the food charts, with some of the most innovative and delicious treats to be found anywhere in the world!

Getting around is easy on Barcelona's metro system. TimeOut is always a good reference and they provide a list of 20 Great Things to do in Barcelona, so you're sure to find something to do that will make your visit to Barcelona memorable in all the best ways!

 

 

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Advances in Automated MALDI Mass Spectrometry Analysis
23 Apr 2014

An interview with Dr. Rainer Cramer

The 3rd Annual Advances in Automation & Robotics conference is part of the upcoming European Lab Automation (ELA) conference to be held 14-15 May 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  The conference will present a diverse array of presentations concerning automation and robotics in analytical laboratories, as well as robotics in biobanking, drug discovery and development.  Professor Rainer Cramer of the University of Reading, UK, will deliver the keynote speech to kick off the conference.  In today's blog, he shares some of the points he will cover in his presentation.

SELECTBIO:  What are some of the points that you plan to cover in your keynote presentation?

CRAMER: MALDI MS has been around for almost three decades and automation has always been a strong point for MALDI MS.  I will present an overview of how the field has developed and where we are going from here, including some of our past and present work, particularly in disease profiling, clinical diagnostics and the more basic aspects of integrating MALDI and its automation in an analytical laboratory.

SELECTBIO:  What are some of the more challenging aspects of MALDI Mass Spectrometry analysis?

CRAMER: In MALDI, the efficient generation of multiply charged (ESI-like) ions is a major stumbling block for its wider uptake.  ESI has been perfect for this and took the lead in applications such as proteomics.


Another area is MALDI’s full exploitation in MS profiling of diseases and organisms.  The typical challenges in this area are data processing and experimental design (including employing the correct sample treatment as well as statistics and sample sets) and as always achieving the ultimate sensitivity that is needed to see those highly specific but less abundant biomarkers.

And of course, there is MALDI MS imaging.  Here, it will be important to find ways of improving data acquisition and processing rates along high sensitivity at high spatial resolution.

SELECTBIO:  You’ve had an interesting career in academia.  You started as an experimental physicist and later moved on to cancer research and other research fields in the life sciences.  Why the diversity?

 

CRAMER: I see MS as a key technique throughout the life (and physical) sciences, similar to microscopy.  Thus, it is important to understand the basics for further innovations in mass spectrometry but also its current and future application fields and, most importantly, to facilitate a smooth and sensible translation from discovery to application.

SELECTBIO:  How do you envision MALDI MS techniques evolving in the future?

CRAMER: MALDI has had a very good start but with the emergence of proteomics and those powerful, high-performing MS instruments, such as the hybrid Q-Tof and later Orbitrap instruments, it is essential to have an ionization technique that can deliver multiply charged ions and to some extent enable on-line coupling to liquid separations. My group is working on both and we can see light at the end of the tunnel.  Thus, I envisage that MALDI will be able to catch up with ESI as its ionization efficiency in general can be very competitive.  Having said this, these new developments in MALDI are breaking down the boundaries between MALDI and ESI, in both the achievable ionization products as well as the ionization processes.

Other future developments in MALDI will be based on its success in MS profiling and its application in the clinical field (e.g. clinical diagnostics/microbiology).  It is amazing to see that MALDI MS has become FDA-approved.

Also, as mentioned earlier, MALDI MS imaging has still some way to go but once these hurdles are taken it will be an even more valuable molecular imaging technique for the pharmaceutical and clinical fields.

Cramer will be presenting some of these ideas and more at ELA 2014 as part of the Advances in Automation & Robotics conference from 13-15 May in Barcelona, Spain.

Click here to register to attend.

 

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Inaugural Bioprinting Congress to Highlight Current State-of-the-Art on 3D Scaffolds
16 Apr 2014

An interview with Professor Chee Kai Chua

The inaugural International Bioprinting Congress will take place at the Biopolis, Singapore on 24-25 July 2014. The event will present the leading international scientists and thought leaders within the rapidly developing field of 3D bioprinting.

Topics to be covered during the conference include: Additive Manufacturing of Tissues and Biofabrication; Scaffolds and Biomaterials for Tissue Engineering; Biological Laser Printing; Biological Inkjet Printing; Search for the Synergy by Fusion of Bio-Additive Manufacturing and Micro Manufacturing; Cell and Tissue Patterning for Lab-on-a-Chip and Tissue Models; and, Additive Manufacturing and Medical Devices.

The Bioprinting Congress will deliver a unique format to maximize the knowledge being delivered to registrants.  Mornings will follow the traditional format of scientific presentations from the leading experts, while the afternoons will be comprised of panel discussions covering the topics highlighted in the morning sessions. The panels will include the morning’s presenters, the organising committee of Prof. Chua, Prof. Nakamura and Dr. Djaballah, plus members from international regulatory bodies and venture capitalists. The conference will thus provide attendees with a balanced overview of the industry from the varied perspectives of leading researchers, investors and legislative authorities.

In addition to the comprehensive conference programme, registrants can also take advantage of a tour of the facilities at the
Nanyang Technological University Additive Manufacturing Centre. The tour, which will take place on Thursday 24th July, is open to all conference attendees and includes transportation there and back.

Keynote speaker, Professor Chee Kai Chua of Nanyang Technological University will discuss current research on additive manufacturing in tissue engineering with an emphasis on state-of-the-art techniques on 3D scaffolds.  In today's blog, he shares some of the points he will cover in his keynote speech.

SELECTBIO:  What role do Additive Manufacturing (AM) techniques play in 3D bioprinting?

CHUA: In 3D bioprinting, specifically for scaffold fabrication, conventional methods are not able to repeatedly control the precise architecture of the scaffold. The architecture at micro and macro scale is very important to direct cells responses and ensure cells survival on the scaffold.

By using AM, we are able to produce a scaffold as an exact replicate of what has been pre-determined in the design file. This allows us to control the macro and micro architecture of the scaffold with precise repeatability. The pores can be tailored to different cell types and the interconnectivity ensures maximal cell survival.

There are more than 40 Additive Manufacturing (AM) techniques or systems in the market, including professional 3D bioprinters. Different AM systems play different roles in 3D bioprinting. For direct fabrication of cell-free scaffolds with customized design and controlled pore size, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) would be the choice, because they can directly process some biopolymers into 3D scaffolds. For biopolymers that cannot be easily processed, a dissolvable mold can be made first and then used to cast a biopolymer scaffold. This approach is called indirect fabrication. In this case, Modelmaker or Polyjet could be the choice of printer, because its resolution is high and the printing material can be dissolvable. In the last 15 years, my group did a lot research on both. As to additive manufacturing of cellularized scaffolds or scaffold-free tissue equivalents, a bioprinter would be preferred, since living cells are incorporated in the fabrication process, now some of my students are working on this approach. Again, different AM systems play different roles, depending on what you want to do in 3D bioprinting.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the potential and challenges of implementing AM?

CHUA: Most of the systems now only process single materials. In reality, most applications require multi-material for a functional part. Therefore, the challenge is how to process different materials within the same system to produce a multi-material functional device using AM. This is not only true for industrial application, but also for biomedical applications.

Another great potential of AM is making functionally graded structure to match the exact host tissue mechanics to maximize the performance of the scaffolds.

We have seen more and more companies selling AM-made 3D scaffolds, either as medical devices or as research tools. This is the potential of AM to create business opportunities. Perhaps, we could see a medium-sized industry in future.  On the other hand, we have seen growing research works successfully printing living cells, stem cells and functional mini tissues. We have also seen growing research works attempting to print constructs incorporating multi-cell types and multi-materials. These show the potential of AM to be able to print human tissue models in the near future for applications in biomedical and pharmaceutical industries.

As to the challenges, there are many. Technically, the main challenge is vascularization; i.e., how to print a long-lasting vascularized construct. Other challenges include development of new AM biomaterials, standardization of AM-made tissue engineering products, regulatory environment for speedy bench-to-market, financial policies for sustainable funding support, creation of AM talent pool, etc.

SELECTBIO:  What are some of the key points concerning 3D bioprinting – particularly 3D scaffolds – that you plan to cover during your keynote speech?

CHUA: The key points include the following: (1) What is the current state of the art in scaffold fabrication using 3D printers?; (2) What are the requirements for a scaffold?; and (3) What are the challenges and potential of 3D printed scaffolds?

SELECTBIO:  Tell us a bit about the NTU Additive Manufacturing Centre that you have been instrumental in getting established.  What are the goals and objectives of the Centre?

CHUA: NTU Additive Manufacturing Centre or NAMC in short, is a programme funded by Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore.  The Centre’s vision is be a world leader in Additive Manufacturing technology.  The Centre’s mission includes the following: to achieve technological innovations and breakthroughs through in depth Research and Development (R&D); to discover and innovate new and demanding industrial applications, transfer of knowledge, technology and manpower to local and regional industries; and, to train and nurture a pool of talented manufacturing engineers to meet the increasing demands of this sector and to excite a new breed of AM engineers to the profession.

SELECTBIO:  You have also been instrumental in spearheading the set up of three pan-university institutes: the Institute for Sports Research, the Maritime Institute@NTU and the Air Traffic Management Research Institute.  These are three very different disciplines!  What are the synergies and why a pan-university institute?

CHUA: Indeed, they are three different disciplines!  However, what is common amongst the three institutes is that they cut across colleges and schools in terms of drawing the expertise across the universities.  The 21st century discoveries are more and more borne out of multi-disciplinary research and these three institutes are great examples of getting faculty across different disciplines to tackle problems in and deliver innovative solutions to those three industries.

SELECTBIO:  How do you envision AM tissue engineering evolving in the future?

CHUA: In recent years, I have seen AM tissue engineering trending from printing cell-free scaffolds to printing scaffold-free cells. In the near future, probably we could see cells, stem cells or mini tissues printed on chips to be used as tissue models for various biological, medical and pharmaceutical applications. Meanwhile innovative ideas using AM to print vascuralized tissues or composite tissues are also highly expected. Of course, ultimately, AM tissue engineering should progress to deliver automated, industrialized human tissue/organ fabrication to meet clinical demand.

Multi-material scaffold can be fabricated, with tailored design and incorporating functional substances such as nanocomposites or active biomolecules. There will be new applications going into various biomedical fields, beyond hearing aids and digital dentistry. The extension of AM in bioprinting will bring AM towards more biological-oriented systems. 

SELECTBIO:  What do you hope attendees take away from the International Bioprinting Congress?

CHUA: KFC – Knowledge, Friendship and Collaboration.

 

 

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Genomics Research 2014 to Highlight Tracks for PCR & Next-Gen Sequencing and Gene Silencing & Epignetics
09 Apr 2014

SELECTBIO’s Genomics Research 2014 conference will feature an integrated program of tracks designed to cover the latest developments in single cell PCR, qPCR in diagnostics, next-generation sequencing platforms and methods, microRNA-based gene expression and epigenetics in development.  Because of the breadth and depth of these topics, Genomics Research has been split into two distinct tracks: PCR & Next-Gen Sequencing and Gene Silencing & Epigenetics.  These co-located conferences will take place at South San Francisco Conference Center from 29-30 April 2014. This dual track format has been very successful with attendees.  Because the conferences are co-located, registered delegates will have unrestricted access to all co-located meetings, ensuring a comprehensive learning and sharing experience as well as being financially beneficial for attendees. The PCR & Next-Gen Sequencing conference will focus on new research developments and applications of single cell PCR along with presentations covering diagnostic applications in qPCR in pathogen detection. In addition, the conference will dive deep into next-gen sequencing applications, covering the latest developments in third generation sequencing technologies.
The Gene Silencing & Epigenetics conference will focus on gene silencing processes as a way to modulate gene expression, with the goal of finding novel ways to help treat human disease. A major focus will be on cutting-edge research taking place in the field, with a particular emphasis on epigenetics in modulating and controlling development. The latest developments in these two fields will be highlighted and discussed by experts sharing their work.
Speakers for both conferences come from a worldwide roster of top academic institutions as well as commercial organisations in a manner that brings together the basic science with the applications in these growing segments.  In fact, a recent SELECTBIO interview with Dr. Stephen Bustin discussed his keynote presentation at the upcoming PCR & Next-Gen Sequencing conference during which he will consider some of the challenges, especially those relating to reverse transcription (RT)-qPCR and introduce novel applications of this versatile technology.  Check it out!

Also featured will be an exhibition with vendors displaying the most recent technologies and products in these fields.
Click here to register to attend. Sublime San Francisco San Francisco, California offers a number of wonderful treats for any visitor, from world-class art museums to one of the most fun baseball stadiums to the always entertaining Fisherman’s Wharf. What’s better than an early evening stroll along the Embarcadero waterfront, a visit to the Ferry Building at the base of Market Street (with everything from a Farmer’s Market to wine tasting) and dinner in any of the nearby restaurants with a marvelous view of San Francisco’s new Bay Bridge all lit up at night?  The nearby recently renovated Exploratorium on Pier 15 provides 21st century learning laboratory sure to amuse and delight. If the weather is fine (and it usually is in April), another fine place to visit is Golden Gate Park.  Many walking trails throughout this greenbelt in the middle of the city start and end at interesting destinations, including the De Young Fine Arts Museum, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the California Academy of Sciences. During April, the De Young museum will be featuring a very interesting show on Georgia O’Keefe along with several other exhibits. 

Across the road from this museum is another: the
California Academy of Sciences. Completely re-built and re-envisioned after the 1989 earthquake, the new Academy is touted as the greenest museum in the world, and “brings the whole universe under one roof - an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and more! The 412,000 square foot structure is not only physically impressive, but it just may be the greenest museum on the planet, with a 2 ½ acre Living Roof, an expansive solar canopy, an extensive water reclamation system, and walls insulated with recycled blue jeans.”  The walk-through butterfly garden is delightful, but all the exhibits are fascinating.  Don’t miss the chance to visit the 2.5 acre living roof! At Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf along the waterfront is the launching point for trips to the famous Alcatraz Island, ferry rides across the bay, and boat cruises under the Golden Gate Bridge.  The nearby Aquarium of the Bay offers a number of fascinating exhibits, including a unique underwater walk through a glass tunnel that allows visitors to view the world beneath the waves.  Be sure to try the justifiably world famous Dungeness Crab from one of the crab shacks, street vendors or restaurants along the pier!

If sports are your thing, then a baseball game at AT&T Park should be on your bucket list!  You’ll be visiting San Francisco thick in the middle of baseball season with several home games scheduled before, during and after the conference.  The delights of an afternoon game can be enjoyed on the weekend before the conference or an evening game any night of the conference.  Ticket prices range from as low as $26 in the outfield to almost $200 if you want to ensure a night to remember! Getting around San Francisco can be a bit different: the famous cable cars provide a fun and quick way to get around the downtown area.  Other transportation options include buses, trains, rapid transit and taxis.  The conference will be held in South San Francisco, which provides better airport access.  From the convention center, it’s easy to hop onto the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system to quickly get right into the heart of San Francisco or even dross the Bay.  For more information about what to do in San Francisco, please visit http://www.sanfrancisco.travel/

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Diagnosis and Prevention of Cell Line Cross Contamination
02 Apr 2014

An interview with Professor John Masters

The inaugural Advances in Cellular Assays and Cell Culture is part of the 4th annual European Lab Automation (ELA) conference to be held 14-15 May 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. The ELA exhibition will be held in parallel alongside several exciting co-located conferences, including not only Advances in Cellular Assays and Cell Culture but also Advances in NGS & Big Data, High Content Analysis, Advances in Automation & Robotics, and Advances in qPCR & dPCR. The exhibition will showcase 50 of the industry’s leading solution providers and feature current technologies and services.

The conference will present a dizzying array of presentations concerning current research in cell culture and assay systems, including University College London’s Professor John Masters in-depth look at the causes identification and prevention of cell line cross-contamination. In today's blog, he shares some of the points he will cover in his presentation.

Masters points out that “up to 20% of human cell lines are derived from a different individual or species to that claimed. This figure is based on submissions to cell line banks. It indicates that when cell lines are shared between laboratories without authentication about 20% are not what they are claimed to be. If the cell line is being used as a tissue-specific model – e.g., screening for drugs for a particular type of cancer – then the data is not only invalid, it is misleading.”

Poor tissue culture practice is a leading cause of cross-contamination. Masters advises a close study of various methodologies for good tissue culture practice that are described in many books and articles, in particular R. Ian Freshney’s “Culture of Animal Cells A Manual of Basic Technique and Specialized Applications, 6th Edition,” published by Wiley-Blackwell, as a good primer. “Thorough training is essential,” he adds.

Another topic Masters will address during his presentation is the role of STR profiling in authenticating human cell lines. “It is the gold standard for authenticating cell lines,” he emphasizes. Masters has been intimately involved in STR profiling beyond the walls of the lab. He chaired an ATCC Standard Development Committee chartered with developing a standard using STR profiling for the authentication of human cell lines, which in January 2012 became accredited by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). It gave him great pleasure to chair the committee. “In fact,” he states, “everyone gave of their time freely and worked extremely hard. I had very little to do. It was co-chaired by Yvonne Reid (ATCC) who did a fantastic job.”

With the STR standard defined, Masters envisions the evolution of STR techniques to eventually “be replaced by SNP profiling, but not until there are sufficient cell lines SNP profiled for comparative purposes.”

Masters will be presenting some of these ideas and results at ELA 2014 as part of the Advances in Cellular Assays & Cell Culture conference in Barcelona, Spain

Click here to register to attend.

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Real-time PCR: Revisiting the Old and Introducing the New
26 Mar 2014

An interview with Dr. Stephen Bustin

According to Dr. Stephen Bustin, “Although real-time PCR (qPCR) is arguably the most ubiquitous molecular technology in use today, many aspects of its use remain problematic.” Dr. Bustin’s keynote presentation at the upcoming PCR & Next-Gen Sequencing conference will consider some of the challenges, especially those relating to reverse transcription (RT)-qPCR and introduce novel applications of this versatile technology.

The PCR & Next-Gen Sequencing conference is co-located with Gene Silencing & Epigenetics at the upcoming Genomics Research conference to be held in San Francisco, CA from 29-30 April 2014. Keynote speaker Dr. Bustin is Professor of Allied Health and Medicine at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK. Dr. Bustin has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and reviews and is the editor of the “A-Z of quantitative PCR”, the leading textbook for this technology. He will deliver an in-depth presentation about real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with a look back at the evolution of the technology and a look forward to what’s to come. In today's blog, he shares some of the points he will cover during his keynote speech.

“First,” Bustin points out, “the transparency of reporting and reliability of conclusion of qPCR-based publications continues to be a major problem, as demonstrated by our recent publications in Nature Methods (Nov 2013), Molecular Oncology (Jan 2014) and PLOS One (Feb 2014). I aim to emphasise the urgent need to implement the MIQE guidelines.”

“Second,” he continues, “I will discuss how the majority of publications using RT-qPCR to quantify transcripts report fold-changes of less than 10-fold, and very often less than 5-fold. In 2004 two reports suggested that commercial RT preparations result in concentration and target specific variegations of up to 100-fold. We have compared a large number of commercial RTases to determine whether that same variability still exists. We have also looked at the RT step to see how much variability there is, and how that might affect the biological relevance of small fold-changes.”

In addition, with regard to improvements that could be made to the basic PCR workflow, specifically in the area of manual activities, Bustin states that he will be pointing out that the workflow suggested by MIQE provides the best guarantee for a successful and meaningful result and highlight its straightforward approach.

“The most influential findings that have come about as a result of investigations using qPCR and (RT)-qPCR,” he adds, “relate to the misuse of these technologies in the detection of measles virus in the intestines of autistic children, and my role in uncovering this.” When asked what some of the innovations Bustin thinks will occur in the area of PCR technology in the future, he answered: “In a nutshell, miniaturisation, very fast cycle times, complex multiplexing, point-of-care assays, automation from sample preparation to result reporting.” Bustin will be presenting these ideas and more at PCR & Next-Gen Sequencing. The conference takes place from 29-30 April in San Francisco, USA.

Click here to register to attend.

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Flow Chemistry Conference to Highlight Cutting-Edge Research
19 Mar 2014

The 4th Annual Flow Chemistry Congress of the Flow Chemistry Society will be held from 10-11 April 2014 in Boston, MA. Hot topics such as Meso Flow Chemistry, Microfluidic Chemistry and Combination of Microwave Technology and Flow Synthesis will be covered.

Leaders in the field will be among the keynote speakers and presenters, including Dr. Frank Gupton, Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University; Dr. Timothy Jamison, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and, Dr. Klavs F. Jensen, Warren K. Lewis Professor and Head of the Chemical Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Jensen’s kickoff presentation on Developing and Scaling Multistep Flow Chemistry will provide examples of development of scaling of multistep flow chemistry along with ultrafiltration strategies for recycling of homogeneous catalysts.

The Flow Chemistry Society was formed by internationally recognized flow chemistry experts to unite and represent those who are actively working on this rapidly developing field. The Society is dedicated to enhance the public appreciation of flow chemistry and its integration into everyday practice throughout the world by delivering the latest knowledge and making it available for the entire chemistry community. This conference provides detailed presentations concerning some of the most notable flow chemistry research being performed today.

Flow Chemistry Congress will be held at the Revere Hotel Boston just two blocks from Boston’s famous Boston Common and close to numerous world-class eateries and entertainment.

Explore Boston

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile, brick-lined route that leads walkers past 16 historically significant sites, including museums, meeting houses, churches and burying grounds, all intimately tied to people who shaped the United States and tied to the American Revolution. Walking this path, and visiting the various places along the way, provides a must-see look at American history from the Paul Revere House to the Old State House. It’s easy to download an audio tour to ensure that you don’t miss anything as you go and to provide intriguing details about key points along the path.

And where better to start your walk into history than Boston Common, just steps from the FCC hotel? A 50-acre park in the middle of this historic city, the Common is close to many of the most important (and interesting) places to visit in Boston. Even if you’re just walking across the Common to get to the cool eateries and antique shops that line Charles Street, you’ll probably witness an event or two along the way that you’ll want to linger over, from outdoor plays to festivals.

A quick metro ride takes you to Faneuil Hall, a marketplace built in 1742 and referred to as the Cradle of Liberty. Located near the waterfront, Faneuil Hall is a popular attraction that is still a marketplace offering food, entertainment, and a hub for starting numerous types of Boston explorations, including the famous Duck Tours that take visitors around the city in WW2 amphibious landing vehicles. Duck tours cruise by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts, from the golden-domed State House to Bunker Hill, Boston Common, Copley Square, Quincy Market, the Prudential Tower, the USS Constitution, even past the Big Dig! Best of all – and the grand finale – a short cruise on the Charles River!

If we get lucky with the weather, April can produce fine spring days that make attending a baseball game at Fenway Park an experience not to be missed! We can’t say that we planned FCC during the height of the baseball season but if you arrive a day early you’ll be able to catch the Red Sox vs the Rangers at 4:05pm on April 9th! Don’t forget to bring along a jacket for the cool April evenings!

If you’re an arts lover, then you’ll score big on this trip: the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston has a super exhibition on Impressionism that highlights the top 30 picks in the MFA’s impressive Impressionist collection. From Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece, Houses at Auvers, to Claude Monet’s iconic Water Lilies, the exhibit is just one of more than a dozen shows taking place at the museum. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are all late nights at the museum, with the doors open until 9:45pm, so go!

Getting around Boston is easy thanks to lots of taxis, buses and the famous “T” subway system. The conference hotel is located within a block of 3 different T stations, all of which can get you around town quickly and safely. You can easily use the T to come straight from the airport on the Silver line and walk one block to the hotel. For more information about what to do in Boston, please visit http://www.bostonusa.com.

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Nanomedicine Conference to Highlight Latest Research in Medical Applications of Nanotechnology
12 Mar 2014

The pace of research has been accelerating in recent years, and new technology has driven many new applications, one of which is nanomedicine. To bring this exciting area of research to you, SELECTBIO is proud to collaborate with the British Society for Nanomedicine (BSNM) in the organisation of Nanomedicine 2014. BSNM is a registered charity, created to allow open access for industry, academia, clinicians and the public to news and details of on-going nanomedicine research throughout the UK and beyond. A key aim of BSNM is the provision of forums for scientists to disseminate their latest advances and highlight their work to the wider scientific community.

The Nanomedicine 2014 programme will provide insight across a number of emerging nanotechnologies that span from treatment to diagnosis. Presentations include the use of solid drug nanosuspensions for improving oral bioavailability and for sustained release formulations, recent developments in targeting nanoparticles through the use of aptamers conjugated to their surface and progress in siRNA delivery as well as cell and particle imaging.

In-depth Keynote Speeches

Nanomedicine's keynote speakers include Dr. Steve Rannard, Group Leader & Vice Chair, University of Liverpool, and Dr. Kattesh Katti, Director, University of Missouri. Dr. Rannard's presentation, "Polydendrons: A New Nanoparticle Platform with Nanomedicine Opportunities", will address dendrimers and their application in nanomedicine, with particular attention to the combined benefits of branched vinyl polymerisation with dendrimer chemistry to produce a new class of material - polydendrons. Dr. Katti's presentation will describe the application of green nanotechnology in cancer therapy, with a particular focus on phytochemicals from tea, various fruits and herbs possess powerful antioxidants that have redox potentials capable of reducing gold and other metal salts to their corresponding nano particles.

Nanomedicine 2014 will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland from 26-27 March 2014. A prestigious list of presenters from around the world, from industry and academia, will offer in-depth looks at various aspects of medical applications of nanotechnology. The conference will be held at the Edinburgh Conference Centre at Heriot-Watt University, which offers first-class conference facilities easily accessible to both downtown and the airport.

When in Scotland...

When in Scotland ... golf? If golf is your game, this is certainly the country and the place to take advantage of some world-class links. The Baberton Golf Club, established in 1893, is right next door and welcomes visitors of all ages, experience or ability. It's not the only one: the Kingsknowe Golf Club, established in 1908, is just a bit further, and also welcomes visitors. If you're interested in getting together a small group of like-minded conference attendees, please let me know and I'd be delighted to connect everyone for a truly unique conference networking experience!

Why not visit a whisky distillery? The Glenkinchie Distillery is a short drive away and the home of "The Edinburgh Malt". If you don't have a car, you can certainly still enjoy whiskey tasting at numerous whisky shops along the Royal Mile in downtown Edinburgh. Even better, make it your go-to drink during Nanomedicine: Whisky is often less expensive than a pint of beer in the local pubs!

Here's one for the books: the Scottish Whisky Experience on the High Street offers of all things a barrel ride through a replica whisky distillery to learn the whisky making process (it's well-rated by visitors and right next to the Castle downtown!). There are whisky tastings at the end and true aficionados can also schedule private whisky tastings.

Of course no trip to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to the Castle. Built on the Castle rock (an extinct volcano!), Edinburgh Castle is a World Heritage site. It anchors the old town that continues down the High Street and Cannongate - or the Royal Mile - toward the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

A short walk from the Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a member of the Royal Collection Trust and one of the Queen's residences, is open to the public, so take advantage of your trip to see how the other half lives!

Nearby, the National Museum of Scotland offers a diverse look at the natural world, science and technology and Scottish history all under one room; right now there is a Mammoths of the Ice Age exhibit that is sure to delight!

For art junkies, there are three key art museums near the Castle, including the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. In March, the Scottish National Gallery will have just opened an exhibition "Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting" that celebrates recent acquisitions. Other exhibits at the museums include the latest in the Scottish Colourists Series, Edward Lear in Greece, Pioneers in Science, and Out of the Shadow: Women of Nineteenth Century Scotland.

If you're in the mood for a little sleuthing, Rosslyn Chapel is on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A privately owned chapel that belongs to the Earl of Rosslyn and is now managed by the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, Rosslyn Chapel is the 12th century chapel famous more recently for its role in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Getting around Edinburgh includes the usual combination of trains, taxis and buses. The train station adjacent to the campus takes you directly downtown. For more information about what to do in Edinburgh, please visit http://visitscotland.com.

With only two weeks to go, time is running out to register for the Nanomedicine 2014 conference.

Don't miss this opportunity to network with your peers and attend lectures provided by world leading experts, providing insight across a number of emerging nanotechnologies that span from treatment to diagnosis.

Don't delay, register today!

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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Mediator Probe PCR - Principle, Applications and Guidelines for Primer and Probe Design
05 Mar 2014

A look at Dr. Felix von Stetten’s upcoming presentation during the Biodetection & Biosensors conference

Many scientists follow varied and interesting research paths during their careers, and Dr. Felix von Stetten is no exception. Now Head of Division, Lab-on-a-Chip at HSG IMIT Institut für Mikro- und Informationstechnik, Dr. von Stetten studied agricultural engineering, dairy science and biotechnology before zeroing in on microbiology as the area of research for his PhD.

Since then, he has pursued the development of methods for sample preparation, real-time PCR and DNA-arrays to his current focus on lab-on-a-chip-research. Soon, at the upcoming Advances in Biodetection & Biosensors conference, he will share findings from his latest research performed in the mediator Probe PCR research team headed by Simon Wadle.

Advances in Biodetection & Biosensors will be held in Berlin, Germany from 10-11 March at the Estrel Berlin, Germany's largest hotel. The conference will be co-located with Advances in Microarray Technology, Single Cell Analysis Europe and Lab-on-a-Chip (LOAC). Registered delegates will have unrestricted access to all co-located meetings.

Dr. von Stetten points out that mediator probe PCR is an alternative to established sequence-specific fluorogenic probe based real-time PCRs. Detection relies on label-free primary probes and secondary universal fluorogenic reporters that can be synthesized at decreased costs. In today’s blog, Dr. von Stetten and Simon Wadle, leader of the mediator Probe PCR team, discuss the technology which will be presented.

SELECTBIO: Can you tell us more about what will be discussed during the presentation? For instance, what are some of the guidelines for probe design and applications for detection that will be presented and how do they differ?

VON STETTEN: Mediator probe design is based on the principle of hydrolysis probe design. The differences are: One, the mediator probe is label free. Two, the hydrolysis probe sequence is augmented by a 5’ overhang, the mediator sequence (15-20 nt long). The mediator is complementary to the binding site of the fluorogenic universal reporter. And three, the 3’-terminus of the probe is blocked to avoid unspecific extension by the polymerase.

The universal reporter oligonucleotide, required for signal generation in MP PCR, comprises a reverse complementary sequence to the mediator binding site. Its’ hairpin-stem structure brings a fluorophore and quencher moiety in close proximity in order to maximize quenching before signal generation is initiated by the mediator.

SELECTBIO: What do you feel are the current challenges in mediator probe PCR?

WADLE: There are two key challenges. First, the increase of the degree of multiplexing. Compared to hydrolysis probe PCR two probe molecules are required for each signal generation reaction (mediator probe and universal reporter). This may lead to a higher chance of unspecific interactions and thus reduction of the reaction efficiency. Second, facilitating the detection reaction by using a microarray of surface-immobilized universal reporters. This will in future allow to increase the degree of multiplexing by parallel real-time detection of multiple target sequences.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your investigations concerning MP PCR versus HP PCR?

WADLE: Relatively long hydrolysis probes (e.g. >25 nt), which are for instance required for the detection of AT-rich sequences, show low quenching efficiencies. Using unlabeled MPs together with quenching optimized universal reporters lead to increased quenching efficiencies and lower detection limits compared to the corresponding assays using hydrolysis probes. Exemplarily in a detection assay of human metapneumovirus RNA 29 copies could be detected at 95 % probability using HP PCR and 11 copies using MP PCR.

Due to the better initial quenching, the repeatability of the back-calculated copies was also better in most of the MP PCRs compared to corresponding HP PCRs; e.g., in an RSV RNA detection assay of the corresponding RNA standard with an input concentration of 100 copies per reaction lead to 95 [84..100] detected copies in MP PCR, whilst HP PCR detected 66 [22..239] copies.

Concerning probe synthesis, in average we receive twice higher yields at same synthesis scales ordered with MPs compared to HPs. This enables usage of the same order for twice as many analyses. The higher yield is due to the lower synthesis complexity: only one terminal modification of the MPs (3’ blocking moiety) instead of 2 (fluorophor and quencher) in case of HPs.

SELECTBIO: The presentation abstract mentions that MP PCR enables cost savings. Can you expand on this? What financial benefits can the lab manager expect?

WADLE: Two things in particular can be expected. First, even not considering the higher synthesis yield (see above), MPs are 60% cheaper than 6-FAM-labelled hydrolysis probes at the same synthesis scale (3 different vendors compared). This is of special importance where multiple probes are required per target (e.g. 3-5 hydrolysis probes per viral sequence due to evolutionary sequence heterogeneity). Assuming rapid amortization of the UR (~ 5x the costs of one HP at same synthesis scales) by a high number of assays that can be run with the same UR, the final oligonucleotide synthesis costs in MP PCRs approaches the synthesis costs of the MPs, thus total probe costs in the lab can be reduced by the 60% mentioned above. In this case, we are aiming to further reduce the costs of MPs. A second key area involves facilitating the detection reaction by using a microarray of surface-immobilized universal reporters that will add a further substantial cost benefit by large batch fabrication. Instead of fabricating small numbers of custom-specified microarrays, a high number of universal reporter microarrays can be fabricated and the customer defines by the liquid reagents (primers and probes) which different sequence panels he wants to analyze using the same microarray.

SELECTBIO: In your experience, how has PCR research changed over the last 5-10 years and what impact has it had on research?

VON STETTEN: Many research laboratories can now afford running real-time PCRs due to reduction of costs for devices and consumables (reagents and tubes). In comparison to post-PCR analysis via gel electrophoresis, this saves time, increases specificity of the molecular analyses and reduces the contamination risk. Especially for time critical diagnostic applications, this has led to a shift from culture-based to molecular based tests. In addition, the MIQE Guidelines (Minimum Information for Publication of Quantitative Real-Time PCR Experiments) are increasingly improving the standardization of PCR research by means of reaction setup and result reporting and thus comparability of data.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the innovations you think will occur in the area of PCR in the future?

VON STETTEN: Several innovations are expected to occur, including: • Increase of the availability of point-of-care PCR analysis systems (sample-to-result).
• Increase of availability of inhibitor-tolerant polymerases that allow direct analysis from crude sample material
• Improvement of isothermal amplification protocols
• New multiplexing strategies including different solid and liquid phase sensors
• Label-free detection

Dr. von Stetten will also be giving a presentation at the co-located LOAC conference “LabTube – A Novel ‘Microfluidic App’ for Sample Preparation and Diagnostics Operated in a Laboratory Centrifuge”.

You can register to attend here.

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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From Microfluidic Components to a true Lab-on-a-Chip - Modular Approaches for Integrated Microfluidics
26 Feb 2014

An interview with Dr. Holger Becker

SELECTBIO’s 6th Lab-on-a-Chip European Congress will bring together leaders from both academia and industry to discuss innovative developments in this exciting field. Attention will be given to some of the many applications of Labs-on-Chips, from the enhancement of life science research to taking diagnostics to the point of need. The congress will be held in Berlin, Germany from 10-11 March 2014.

The congress will be co-located with Advances in Biodetection & Biosensors, Single Cell Analysis Europe and Advances in Microarray Technology. Registered delegates will have unrestricted access to all co-located meetings.

Dr. Holger Becker, co-founder and CSO of microfluidic ChipShop GmbH, will discuss the state of the art and future opportunities in microfluidics and lab on a chip. In today's blog, he shares some of the insights he will cover during his presentation.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the key points concerning integrated microfluidics you plan to cover during your presentation?

BECKER: Given the progress of the field, highly integrated microfluidic devices can nowadays be realized. It takes however a smart strategy to minimize technical development risks as well as saving time and money in such a development. I will demonstrate examples for a proven strategy for such developments.

SELECTBIO: What do you feel are the current challenges in microfluidics?

BECKER: Devices are becoming more complex and the interaction between the application and the technical realization more important. It is the application which drives the technical development and this is often an ignored connection. Often, a solution is chosen because there is a technology at hand. This might not be the best way.

SELECTBIO: Your mission at microfluidic ChipShop is "to shrink the biological and chemical laboratory in order to bring lab-on-a-chip systems into daily laboratory life at a reasonable cost". Tell us more about that.

BECKER: Despite the fact that microfluidics has been around in academia for almost 25 years, in the typical life science or diagnostic lab, only few systems can be currently found. One of the reasons for this has been that microfluidics is a field with a rather high entry barrier. In the past, you always had to start an engineering project if you thought that you had a problem which could be solved using a microfluidic device. We have concentrated on offering a rapid path to such proof-of-concept experiments by offering a multitude of microfluidic devices with instruments and accessories off-the-shelf so that you simply can order from a catalogue instead of going through inventing the wheel for the 127th time. Having these microfluidic modules (chips and instruments) at hand allows for a rapid product development without the need for significant early investments.

SELECTBIO: What sparked your interest in the field of microsystem technologies in medicine and the life sciences; i.e., how did you get started?

BECKER: I was intrigued by applying engineering solutions from the microtechnology world to life science problems. Already during my time as a PhD student in the early 1990s, I worked on microstructured sensors for chemical and biochemical analysis (using surface acoustic waves, which nowadays are making a big comeback in acoustofluidics) and then was fortunate to become Andreas Manz’ first postdoc when he was appointed professor at Imperial College. These were the pioneering times in microfluidics and all early players, academic as well as commercial, came to our lab. It was a bit like a “Woodstock” feeling, knowing that we were on to something big.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your work with microfluidics and lab on a chip systems?

BECKER: I am still baffled by the wide range of applications. It is this applicability in almost any field of diagnostics or the life sciences which makes microfluidics such a powerful tool and it proves its worth more and more often.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the innovations you think will occur in the area of microfluidics and lab on a chip systems in the future?

BECKER: One of the most rapidly growing fields — which also holds enormous potential — is in cell-based assays, especially in an area now nicely called “organ-on-a-chip”. By being able to mimic in-vivo conditions on a microfluidic device, one can study cells and cell compounds much closer to real-life conditions. This is academically very relevant to understanding cellular and organ functions but also has tremendous economic potential. The other field is in molecular diagnostics, where complete workflows which previously needed a PhD-level chemist/biologist and expensive instrumentation can be transferred to an integrated microfluidic cartridge which does not need a skilled user.

For more information about Holger’s talk, and to view the agenda, please click here.

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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Nanosuspensions and a Novel Synthesis of Solid Drug Nanoparticle Formulations
20 Feb 2014

An interview with Dr. Andrew Owen

I'm delighted to announce that the British Society for Nanomedicine (BSNM) is collaborating with SELECTBIO to present Nanomedicine 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland from 26-27 March.

Nanomedicine 2014's diverse programme will provide insight across a number of emerging nanotechnologies that span from treatment to diagnosis. The programme includes the use of solid drug nanosuspensions for improving oral bioavailability and for sustained release formulations, recent developments in targeting nanoparticles through the use of aptamers conjugated to their surface and progress in siRNA delivery as well as cell and particle imaging.

The Conference Chair is Dr. Andrew Owen, Professor of Pharmacology for the University of Liverpool and Chair of the British Society for Nanomedicine. In today's blog, Dr. Owen discusses the conference, the technology and his presentation.

SELECTBIO: Your presentation at Nanomedicine 2014 is titled “Improved Oral Delivery of Antiretroviral Drugs Via a Novel Synthesis of Solid Drug Nanoparticle Formulations”. Can you give us a prelude to what you'll discuss?

OWEN: Solid drug nanoparticles have been produced commercially using technologies such as milling where large fragments of crystallised drug are ground into particles with diameters measurable in nanometers. This approach has been shown to overcome bioavailability issues for some poorly absorbed and insoluble drugs but does have some limitations because it is not compatible with drugs that have certain physiochemical properties. At Liverpool we have been working on a novel technology that produces solid drug nanoparticles through freeze drying or spray drying emulsions, which may be more broadly applicable across drugs. I will discuss the benefits of the approach with a specific emphasis on our antiretroviral programme.

SELECTBIO: As Chair of BSNM, what are the key goals the organisation has with regard to nanomedicine?

OWEN: The British Society for Nanomedicine is a registered charity (Charity number 1151497) and our mission includes the direct explanation of ongoing science and commercial developments to allow the public to understand and stay in touch with this exciting area as it impacts future global healthcare. We are also actively engaged in organising research-based meetings so that scientists can present their latest advances and highlight their work to industry, clinicians and other researchers. More details about the society can be found on our website at www.BritishSocietyNanomedicine.org

SELECTIO: What do you feel are the current challenges in nanomedicine?

OWEN: The term nanomedicine refers to a spectrum of very different technologies that are deployed across diagnostics, therapy and regenerative medicine. While some of these technologies are in their infancy, others have already proved successful and have resulted in licensed therapies that are delivering patient benefits daily. Nanotechnology has received some bad publicity, not least through science fiction media, but it is important to emphasise the benefits it provides for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of disease.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your investigations of solid drug nanoparticles (SDNs)?

OWEN: Our solid drug nanoparticle formulations have shown the potential for reduced doses and benefits for paediatric administration formats for antiretroviral drugs. These formulations have now undergone GMP manufacture and are in stability testing to support regulatory documentation for clinical evaluation. We are very excited by our pre-clinical data which has the potential to reduce the cost of therapy and expand the number of patients in resource-limited settings that can access therapy. Hopefully, these benefits will be confirmed in humans but we will rigorously assess this in the foreseeable future.

SELECTBIO: In your experience, how has nanomedicine research changed over the last 5-10 years and what impact has it had on research?

OWEN: Nanomedicine research continues to proliferate and this has resulted in new medicines and many therapeutic and diagnostic benefits are possible. Over the past 5-10 years there has been a large increase in the number of manuscripts describing the biological characterisation of nanomedicine candidates. There is still a strong emphasis on new material development but it is encouraging to see more pharmacologists and other life scientists engaging with the field.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the innovations you think will occur in the area of nanomedicine in the future?

OWEN: Two major global pharmaceutical companies have recently developed long-acting nanoformulations that can be administered once a month or even less frequently. In chronic diseases such as HIV this may represent a huge benefit to patients who currently need to take oral multi-drug regimens daily. Two such HIV drugs are now in later stages of development and it is important to consider development of other agents that are complimentary to these. There have also been recent developments in cancer with the first aptamer-targeted polymeric nanoparticle therapy entering phase II clinical evaluation. This is a really important area for future development since it allows specific-targeting of therapies to diseased cells or tissues within the body and has the potential to reduce off-target toxicities associated with many drugs and may therefore result in safer more tolerable medicines.

For more information about Dr Owen’s talk and to view the complete agenda, click here »

You can register to attend here »

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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Discovery Chemistry Congress to Highlight Drug Design, FBLD, Protein-Protein Interactions and Chemical Biology
12 Feb 2014

If you're looking to catch up on the latest research in drug discovery, there's no better place to be than the 10th annual Discovery Chemistry Congress! To be held in fascinating Barcelona, Spain from 18-19 February 2014, the congress will integrate the latest structural chemistry with innovative discovery-driven technologies. Speakers will concentrate on the most important aspects of discovery stages for effective drug design and refinement. In the current economic climate there is increasing global competitiveness and financial pressure, therefore this conference aims to explore the options available to maximise the success of drug discovery and development.

Discovery Chemistry Congress will bring together top international scientists and clinicians presenting cutting-edge discoveries. Planned round table discussions on key areas are sure to energize the participants in defining the drug discovery and development landscape. Open to all conference and exhibition attendees, these discussions will provide an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and network. In addition, the congress will provide an excellent platform for researchers from all areas of drug discovery research to discuss the future perspectives and collaborative options amongst various research departments.

The congress will be co-located with Flow Chemistry Europe and ADME & Predictive Toxicology. Registered delegates will have unrestricted access to all co-located meetings. Running alongside the congress will be an exhibition covering the latest technological advances and associated services within these fields.

Two Adventures in Chemical Biology - Palladium Mediated Cellular Chemistry and in vivo Imaging

You'll have the opportunity to learn about two very special adventures in chemical biology from the University of Edinburgh's Dr. Mark Bradley at the upcoming Drug Discovery Congress. A keynote speaker and the Conference Chair, Dr. Bradley will discuss his group's experiences as they developed a truly heterogeneous Pd(0)-catalysts with the ability to enter cells in culture and mediate efficient bio-orthogonal organometallic chemistry. The road to development wasn't always easy but the results were amazing.

Drug Discovery Efforts Mirror the Proverbial Hyper Cycle: What’s Next?

The wealth of chemical diversity that has evolved with biological diversity is underrepresented in the commercial chemical library offerings according to Dr. Rathnam Chaguturu, Senior Director and Deputy Site Head at SRI International. He states that the chemical diversity of these libraries is also not always relevant to biological function, and that major advances in chemical methodology and library development technology platform are needed to increase the natural product- and drug-like attributes to play their part in improving the success of our drug discovery efforts. Dr. Chaguturu will cover these points and more during his keynote speech at the congress.

Learn about the Latest Lead Discovery Techniques

Want to dive deep into fragment-based lead discovery techniques? Then sign up for Dr. Ben Davis' short course on 17 February. The course, "Fragment-Based Lead Discovery: Issues and Applications", examines FBLD methods to identify and optimise hits and leads in a drug discovery program. It is also suitable for those who are developing compound libraries for use in FBLD campaigns, and for anyone with an interest in integrating FBLD approaches with existing hit identification and lead optimisation strategies such as HTS. For details, check out Dr. Davis' agenda.

The conference takes place at the amazing Hesperia Tower Barcelona, one of Barcelona's tallest and most symbolic towers and a landmark in the city. It is just steps away from the Metroline and the train station, as well as close to the airport, providing easy quick access to all that this wonderful city holds.

Barcelona Offers Wide Range of Possibilities

Not only is Barcelona packed with numerous World Heritage Sites, from the Parc Güell to the Casa Batlló, there's lots of interesting things to do in this cosmopolitan port city. If you enjoy museums, everything from modern to classic is at hand. Two very special (and very different) places to visit are the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, with pieces that represent Catalan art from the Romanesque period to the mid-20th century, and the Fundació Joan Miró, which is not only housed in one of the most amazing museum buildings in the world but features more than 225 paintings, 150 sculptures, more than 5,000 drawings and all of Miró's graphic work!

A visit to the unique Casa-Museu Gaudí is a step back in time, while the Fundació Alorda Derksen showcases stunning contemporary art. A personal favorite is the Picasso Museum. Picasso's amazing journey from a classically trained artist to the realm of Cubism makes this particular museum a real treat!

Science museums are always invigorating, and Barcelona has several, including the CosmoCaixa, where exhibitions include the Flooded Forest that recreates an Amazonian rainforest ecosystem and features piranhas, crocodiles and other animal and plant species typical to the zone.

Barcelona nightlife has everything to offer from Flamenco to theater to world-class cuisine. Don't forget to try some of the rightfully famous Catalan specialties, and that includes anything with bolets (wild mushrooms) or calçots (large sweet spring onions) that are roasted over hot coals and dipped in a spicy romesco sauce. Make sure you try the tapas, particularly the pintxos. Pintxos are Basque tapas; e.g., plates of bite-sized goodies served atop a piece of bread. Tradition calls for you to pick at the food with toothpicks, and at the end of the night you will be charged for the number of toothpicks that you have used. Right now Spanish food is trending at the top of the food charts, with some of the most innovative and delicious treats to be found anywhere in the world!

Getting around is easy on Barcelona's metro system. TimeOut is always a good reference and they provide a list of 20 Great Things to do in Barcelona, so you're sure to find something to do that will make your visit to Barcelona memorable in all the best ways!

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Flow Chemistry and the State-of-the-Art in Microfluidic Bio/Chemical Processing
05 Feb 2014

An interview with Dr. Paul Watts ...

The 4th International Conference of the Flow Chemistry Society, Flow Chemistry Europe will be held in Barcelona, Spain from 18-19 February 2014. The presentations will focus on cutting-edge topics such as Meso Flow Chemistry and Microfluidic Chemistry. As the Society's main European meeting, Flow Chemistry Europe is dedicated to the integration of flow chemistry into everyday practice throughout the world by delivering the latest knowledge and making it available for the entire chemistry community. The conference will be co-located with Discovery Chemistry Congress and ADME & Predictive Toxicology.

Dr. Paul Watts, Professor and Research Chair in Microfluidic Bio/Chemical Processing at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, will be a keynote speaker during the conference.

In today's blog, Dr. Watts shares some of the insights he will cover in more depth during his keynote speech.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the key points you plan to cover during your keynote speech at Flow Chemistry Europe?

WATTS: When micro reactor technology was first introduced it was seen as being a research and development tool suitable for small scale production. However the most topical examples discussed in the literature include the Ritter reaction performed on an industrial scale by DSM (Austria) that has generated over 4000 tonnes of product to date, and the synthesis of nitroglycerine in China. The key driver in these examples being safety, where the excellent mixing and heat transfer characteristics of micro structured reactors enables these highly exothermic reactions to be safely performed.

Nevertheless there are now a plethora of commercial reactors on the market, which means that most companies are investigating this technology to rapidly screen reactions utilising continuous flow, leading to the identification of reaction conditions that are suitable for use at a production level. Furthermore the inherent safety associated with the use of small reactor volumes enables users to employ reaction conditions previously thought to be too hazardous for use within a production environment, such as extreme reaction conditions or the use of hazardous compounds. Consequently, the types of reactions available to the R&D chemist increases through the use of this technology. It is this system flexibility that has the potential to reduce both the time taken and risk associated with transferring reaction methodology from research to production.

SELECTBIO: What do you feel are the current challenges in microfluidic bio/chemical processing (with reference to your work if possible)?

WATTS: One of the biggest hurdles is that chemists have been trained using batch reactor technology for decades. Consequently a lot of chemists are not even aware of micro reactor technology and are very unsure about its use. Consequently it is very important to introduce new technology within University curricula. A second problem relates to the abundance of batch reactors within industry within developed countries. Consequently management tries to push for existing technology to be used rather than investing in new expensive technology.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your investigations in continuous flow organic synthesis?

WATTS: One of the biggest drivers of micro reactor technology is the ability to manufacture dangerous intermediates and products very safely as a result of the small volume of the system. It is for this reason that industry has adopted the technology.

SELECTBIO: In your experience, how have flow chemistry and microfluidic processing changed over the last 5-10 years and what impact has it had on your research?

WATTS: Ten years ago there were only a few companies that sold such equipment. Consequently the vast majority of research was performed using homemade systems, which industry was reluctant to adopt. There are now a wide variety of companies in the field manufacturing different technology to cover all applications, from small scale laboratory scale to industrial production.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the innovations you think will occur in the area of flow chemistry in the future?

WATTS: Innovations will undoubtedly occur in integration of production systems with purification and separation technology. It is imperative that such systems enable more efficient and greener manufacturing.

Posted By: SelectBio Blogger

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QbD Excellence and Compliance to be Highlighted at Upcoming QbD Pharma Development Conference
29 Jan 2014

Tired of cold weather? Then get thee to Mumbai to bask in the warmth and heat your mind with a hot blast of knowledge! SELECTBIO is hosting two conferences in Mumbai, India from 24-25 February: the 2nd International conference on QbD in Pharma Development and the Generics and Biologics 2014 meeting.

With the theme "Excellence and Compliance using QbD", QbD in Pharma Development will feature implementation case studies, success stories and issues and challenges faced while implementing QbD principles at industry level. The Generics and Biologics 2014 conference will address a wide range of topics, including the quality and structure of biologics, biosimilars, industry challenges, with presentations on pharmaceutical innovator products and how to achieve success. Together the conferences provide both detail and broad overviews of key issues affecting pharmaceutical R&D.

An exhibition featuring latest technology and equipment in formulation development, bioanalysis and software for QbD studies will be held in conjunction with the conferences. As always, registered delegates will have unrestricted access to all the co-located events and exhibition.

Get Out and About in Mumbai

One of the great treats that attending a SELECTBIO conference provides is superior facilities easily accessible to the wonderful activities that the host city provides. Both events are held at the Ramada Powai Hotel & Convention Centre, which has the distinction of being the first property to serve Zero Transfat Food in Mumbai. Located in midst of bustling Mumbai, the 14 acre property provides both a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city with easy access for taking advantages of Mumbia's plentiful attractions. Beautiful Powai Lake is close by for a pleasant stroll.

Venturing further out a number of must-do pleasures await! If you get in a day early, a visit to the Chor Bazaar or Thieves' Market provides a dive into not only a very different shopping experience, but a fantastic look at history. The Chor Bazaar marketplace originated as a place where stolen goods were bought and sold. These days, you can rummage around items, from junk to antiques, and test your bargaining skills. Each street of the bazaar has a different specialty; one might feature woolen items while the next is stall after stall of furniture both old and new; you can even find car parts!

Chowpatty Beach is another Mumbai attraction, but not for swimming or sunbathing! It's a wonderful spot to soak in the true Mumbai spirit, from sampling local delicacies, to getting entertained by contortionists, astrologers and snake charmers! Throughout the year, Chowpatty Beach is the site for a variety of Hindu festivals.

Elephanta Island is another place you'll want to visit. It's a series of astounding cave temples at Gharapuri, a small island about seven miles northeast of the Gateway of India. A trip there and back takes at least four hours, but it’s more than worth it, so you'll need to plan some time either before or after the conferences for this visit. Most Indian temples are built by erecting base pillars and then laying plinths on top to support the roof, but in this region the brittle volcanic stone plinths kept breaking. Instead, at Gharapuri, this challenge was solved by chiseling away the rocky landscape to create the stone temple that now sprawls across 60,000 sq ft, with ornate pillars and exquisitely carved sculptures. It is truly stunning.

If you're looking for some inside pursuits, museums in Mumbai offer a uniquely interesting blend of heritage and culture, from the oldest museum in Mumbai -- the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum -- that traces the city's history through a stunning collection of intricate dioramas created in the late-19th and early 20th centuries to the National Gallery of Modern Art that houses India's richest collection of modern art. Housed in a building that once served as the palace of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the National Gallery's collection of 17,000 works includes paintings, sculptures, graphics and photography from 1850 onwards.

How to get around? Pubic transportation is the best solution. The hotel is located near the rail line, providing quick and easy access to the city centre. Rapid transit connects the railway to both airports to the rail line, while bus services, taxis and auto rickshaws fill in the gaps.

Make sure you take the train in to the gorgeous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) (but make sure you get on the fast train!). Built in 1808 and formerly known as Victoria Terminus, CST is the city’s main transport hub and the busiest train station in Asia. CST was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 for its blend of ‘Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and Indian traditional buildings’. And what a blend! The ornate exterior is a jungle in stone with a life-sized pair of lions guarding the doors to its administration offices and peacocks, monkeys, owls, chameleons, rams, elephants and other beasts peering down on commuters from the façade. CST makes even getting from point A to point B an adventure!

For more about Mumbai, from what to do to where to go, visit the official tourist website at http://www.maharashtratourism.gov.in/

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Flow Chemistry Spotlight on New Activation, Intensification, Integration and Readiness for Megatrends
22 Jan 2014

An interview with Prof. Volker Hessel

Microfluidics and meso flow chemistry are undergoing rapid innovations that are changing – almost as we speak – how flow chemistry is performed. Keeping on top of this dynamic field means keeping tabs on new directions and the latest technology; an activity that delivers the best results is the conference environment that encourages networking, delivers cutting-edge research from your colleagues, and an exhibit hall that displays the latest tools.

The 4th Flow Chemistry Europe Conference of the Flow Chemistry Society will be held in Barcelona, Spain from 18-19 February 2014. Held at the amazing Hesperia Tower Barcelona, the conference will cover the latest innovations in flow chemistry, microfluidics and meso flow chemistry. If you've registered for the Flow Chemistry Conference, you are also registered for the 10th annual Discovery Chemistry Conference, which addresses drug design, FBLD, protein-protein interactions and chemical biology, as well as the ADME & Predictive Toxicology Congress which will report on the vital role ADME and Predictive Toxicology play in aiding successful drug candidate identification and design. Running alongside the conferences will be an exhibition covering the latest technological advances and associated services within this field.

Keynote speaker, Volker Hessel, Professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, will kick off the conference with an insightful keynote presentation about several key aspects of the current state of flow chemistry, from new activation to readiness for megatrends. In today's blog, he shares some of the points he will cover during his keynote speech.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the key points concerning recent advances in flow chemistry that you plan to cover during your keynote speech?

HESSEL: Formerly driven by technological forthcomings, the innovations in flow chemistry were set on the micro-flow reaction and reactor level (‘intensification’). This has been brought to maturity, even concerning industrial needs. Innovation is less here nowadays. Then in the last five years, the innovation was focused “downwards” on a proper process chemistry and its generic aspects (‘activation’) and “upwards” on a continuous full-process conception (‘integration’). Both give entire new momentums and attract entire new groups of users and developers; e.g., synthetic chemists and energy/heat-, recycling-, supply chain and system engineering specialists. The driver is now on time-to-market and costs and sustainability, respectively. The next change is indicated by new application-scenarios steered by megatrends which slowly will change entire chemistry and melt together the best of conventional and new technologies, using flow chemistry for hybrid process solutions.

SELECTBIO: What do you feel are the current challenges in flow chemistry?

HESSEL: Process-chemistry and process-systems (heat integration, ‘Verbund’) innovations. Both merge in the need for industrially-suited flow multistep syntheses. Here new catalyst and process conceptions should orient on nature (biomimetics) and origin flow process-technical challenges which recently have given the name “flow orthogonality”. Further I see many individual challenges and promises. Too many to name all here. But certainly on particle synthesis, crystallization, dispersions, photochemistry/photocatalysis, biotechnology/biocatalysis (enzymatic microreactors), complex synthetic chemistry, plasma/microwave/ultrasound use and process automation. To approach chemistry of renewables and artificial photosynthesis. I will try to cover some of these aspects; especially where I do own research.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your investigations using flow chemistry?

HESSEL: Flow protocols can be set very differently from batch protocols. For use of high temperatures and pressures – in a way and meant as a picture – the sky seem to be unlimited. Environmental concerns and industrial needs in public-private partnerships further define a boundary line; most often in a complex, multi-criteria manner, for which we finally need automated flow processing and automated evaluation. Process integration offers large, yet also largely overlooked, changes in CAPEX, OPEX and NPV improvements which are even given for flow processes that are not better here on a reaction level. One should not say too early if a synthesis is better in flow or batch, unless having the full picture of information. Vice versa, a rough early-bird view can help for game-changing flow chemistry already with the first experiments in the laboratory.

SELECTBIO: I note that you built up the new group devoted to Micro Flow Chemistry and Process Technology at Eindhoven University of Technology in 2011. How did you go about that, and what is your team doing now that you didn't anticipate when you started?

HESSEL: The group has grown larger than I expected. With master students, we are currently 26 group members. I deeply entered back into science, which was my intention, and now I'm satisfied to have that achieved. I did not anticipate us doing complex and dedicated synthetic chemistry; e.g., in the field of photocatalysis and other modern synthetic strategies. I did not imagine that we would specialize on plasma chemistry. Yet, there was an industrial and societal demand and we responded to that. I did not think we would work also with fuel processing and we are now deeply involved in a project on integrated biogas/biooil utilization to fuel. Yet, even with these additions, we also achieved many expected developments and dreams were realized. My ERC Advanced Grant helped here so much.

SELECTBIO: What are some of the innovations you think will occur in the area of flow chemistry in the future?

HESSEL: Multistep flow syntheses, yet finally whole ‘machines’ that will automatically make complex molecules with an easiness unknown today. Flow chemistry will merge with modular container process platform technology to allow much faster and consistent process development (time-to-market). New process control and analysis strategies will foster to realize stable processes under extreme conditions. Flow chemistry will move from its focal point organic chemistry towards particle/functional material synthesis, energy generation/conversion, renewables processing and biotechnology.

For more information about Prof Hessel’s talk and to view the complete agenda, click here »

You can register to attend here »

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Imaging and Functional Manipulation in Cells and Cell Mimics
15 Jan 2014

An interview with Dr. Steven Boxer

Single cell analysis is an exciting area of research that involves developing advanced methodology for probing the properties and dynamics of single cells, including understanding differences in cells and how these differences affect development and disease.

SELECTBIO's 5th annual Single Cell Analysis conference will present the very latest developments in this field. Agenda topics will include: Label-Free Routes to Single Cell Analysis; Microarrays and Chips for Single Cell Analysis; Microfluidics and Single Cell Analysis; RT-qPCR in Single Cell Analysis; Single Cell Analysis in Genetic Disorders; and, Single Cell Analysis in Signalling. The conference will be held in Berlin, Germany from 10-11 March 2014.

The Single Cell Analysis conference will be co-located with Advances in Biodetection & Biosensors, Lab-on-a-Chip and Advances in Microarray Technology. Registered delegates will have unrestricted access to all co-located meetings.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Boxer, Professor at Stanford University, will dive deep into imaging and functional manipulation in single cell analysis. In today's blog, he shares some of the insights he will cover during his keynote speech.

Q: What are some of the key points concerning recent advances in single cell analysis, particularly with regard to model membranes and cells, you plan to cover during your keynote speech?

A: Cells and organelles are surrounded by a membrane composed largely of lipids and proteins. These membranes are compositionally complex with many different components organized on different length scales. The proteins are incorporated with specific orientations; they serve as the primary gatekeepers transporting specific components in and out of cells and as signal transducers between the inside and outside of the cell or organelle. The lipid compositions of the two bilayer leaflets are quite different and kept that way at considerable metabolic cost. Further complicating matters, these membranes are highly dynamic, with many components diffusing laterally in two dimensions and, in living cells, constantly being re-cycled. So much of what we want to know about the organization of single cells involves learning about their membranes in as much detail as possible. We focus initially on model membranes both as reductionist systems that capture important properties of actual cell membranes and as test bed for the development of new tools for studying and manipulating membranes.

Q: Describe some of the tools being applied to image and manipulate single cells. How were these tools developed and what impact do they have on research results?

A: With model membranes our work began with simple methods to organize or pattern membranes on solid supports. In this way arrays of arbitrary composition can be generated. Unfortunately the proximity to the solid support affects the lateral organization of membrane components, interferes with membrane protein function, and doesn’t really provide two “sides” as in an actual membrane. For this reason our lab and many others have developed tethering strategies that hold the membrane close but not too close to the support. In order to characterize the lateral organization of these model membranes, we have developed a type of imaging mass spectrometry using a NanoSIMS (Cameca Instruments), which gives unprecedented quantitative analysis of composition with 50-100 nm resolution. In the course of this work, we have developed molecules that mimic the natural membrane fusion machinery with an entirely synthetic system. This can be used to study the mechanism of membrane fusion with a high level of control and can also be used to manipulate the composition of cell membranes. Lastly, in a quite separate line of research, we have been developing split GFPs with novel features that can be used both to actively control interactions in cells and then image the result.

Q: What do you feel are the current challenges in single cell analysis?

A: The overwhelming majority of work in this field relates to distinguishing different cells in a population, typically at the level of the genome, transcriptome or proteome. Lipidomics and glycomics are developing. Each target drives the development of different bioanalytical methods, often methods that are sensitive enough to detect single molecules or very small numbers. There is, of course, a long history to histology and the current challenges are largely driven by increasing sensitivity and information content; i.e., quantitative analysis of as many components as possible, especially to distinguish normal from abnormal cells in a population. Ultimately a more complete inventory of cellular composition, organization and dynamics will be needed to understand how living systems function.

Q: Tell us more about the role of single cell analysis in current research; how is it different from other types of research and what are the benefits to this type of analyses?

A: I come from a background in physical and analytical chemistry using various types of spectroscopy. Even for non-biological systems, pushing the limits of sensitivity and precision are general goals. Single cell analysis pushes this even further with the potential to generate massive amounts of information about the composition, organization and dynamics of individual cells and what makes them different over their lifespan, in various disease states, and in different environments.

Q: What are some of the more interesting findings that have come about as a result of your investigations using single cell analysis?

A: Our focus has been on the development of methods for analysis and manipulation. We now have tools to deliver components between membranes and across membranes as well as analytical methods to measure the composition of membranes with high information content and high spatial resolution.

Q: In your experience, how have single cell analysis techniques changed over the last 5-10 years and what impact has it had on research?

A: The development of single molecule level analytical methods has dramatically affected the analysis and imaging of cells. Recent developments of superresolution fluorescence methods in particular can provide unprecedented information for labeled components. Of course there are many other components so methods with a higher degree of multiplexing are desirable - mass spectrometry and imaging mass spectrometry have that potential. As mentioned above, the majority of single cell analysis work focuses on genetic variation, transcript and protein levels that distinguish normal from abnormal cells. Most of the other speakers will emphasize this.

Q: What are some of the innovations you think will occur in the area of single cell analysis in the future?

A: Methods for encoding distinguishing features among a multitude of components in cells (i.e. high level multiplexing) without interfering with their function is a major challenge. While each group specializes in the development of different analytical approaches, applying all of them in parallel on comparable systems to the extent possible will be necessary. Then systematizing and understanding how complex functions emerge from all of this will require new theoretical frameworks.

More information about Dr. Boxer’s talk and the Single Cell Analysis agenda can be viewed here >>

You can register to attend here >>

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Welcome 2014! Exciting Conference Programs Ahead!
09 Jan 2014

It has been a cool start to the year here in the UK, with our typical on-again off-again rain showers. I am so looking forward to our first big multi-conference program in sunny Barcelona!

Here at SELECTBIO, we're kicking off the year with a deep dive into all things chemical from 18-19 February at the Hesperia Tower in Barcelona. One of Barcelona's tallest towers and a city landmark, the Hesperia Tower not only offers a great venue for the conferences but also really cozy accommodations right next to a main train station near the Port of Barcelona. Convenience, comfort, and a comprehensive program of presentations: what's not to like?!

In Barcelona, the Flow Chemistry Society joins us for their 4th European Conference that will cover the latest innovations in flow chemistry as well as microfluidics and meso flow chemistry. If you've registered for the Flow Chemistry Conference, you are also registered for the 10th annual Discovery Chemistry Conference – which addresses drug design, FBLD, protein-protein interactions and chemical biology – as well as the ADME & Predictive Toxicology Congress which will report on the vital role ADME and Predictive Toxicology play in aiding successful drug candidate identification and design. Your head will be spinning with all the information you'll learn!

Our next big multi-conference venue takes place in beautiful Berlin from 10-11 March and includes Advances in Biodetection & Biosensors, Advances in Microarray Technology, Lab-on-a-Chip European Congress and Single Cell Analysis Europe 2014. In fact, SELECTBIO has almost three dozen conferences scheduled throughout 2014 – so of course we have to combine them! This works out really well for everyone!

If you can't join us in Barcelona in February, try for one of our conferences there from 14-15 May. If you're involved in lab informatics, this is the set of conferences to attend: European Lab Automation and High Content Analysis. Data management has moved way beyond organizing and categorizing and into the realm of 3D manipulations that will blow your mind (and set your intellect blazing!). Alternatively, at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via Conference Centre, we're hosting four other conferences that will help "advance" your knowledge: Advances in NGS & Big Data, Advances in qPCR and dPCR, Advances in Cellular Assays & Cell Culture, and Advances in Automation & Robotics. With a focus on new developments and new technology, you're sure to learn many details about cutting-edge research to help deepen your understanding and improve your own research efforts.

That's not all of course, I'm delighted to tell you that we've got some wonderful life science events planned all around the world, from Mumbai to California and many spots in between. Please check our conference listing to see what programs offer the most relevant presentations for you.

See you in 2014!

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Conference News
Call for papers - Advances in qPCR and dPCR 2015, Singapore
Call for papers - Advances in qPCR and dPCR 2015, Singapore
We are now accepting papers for the Advances in qPCR and dPCR meeting which will take place on the 21-22 May 2015 in Singapore.


Site Visit to the SIMTech Microfluidics Foundry
Site Visit to the SIMTech Microfluidics Foundry
Take advantage of a tour of the facilities at the SIMTech Microfluidic Foundry. Dr. Zhiping Wang, Director of Research Programmes, will be your host, providing all attendees with a detailed insight into the advanced work carried out by SIMTech. Don't miss out - Register today!


SONY DADC PreConference Workshop, September 17, 2014 from 16:30-18:30
SONY DADC PreConference Workshop, September 17, 2014 from 16:30-18:30
Defining Commercialization Roadmaps for Emerging Technologies into Smart Consumables for in-vitro Diagnostics. Free Admission to this PreConference Workshop.


Keynote Speaker Confirmed, Stephen Minger
We are thrilled to announce that Stephen Minger, Global Director of GE Healthcare, has confirmed he will be giving a keynote presentation at Stem Cells in Drug Discovery 2015.


Accreditation
“The Medical Association of Saxony certificates the two-day congress with 16 continuing education points.”


Keynote Speakers Confirmed, Carlos Caldas and Mark Caulfield
We are thrilled to announce that Professor Carlos Caldas, Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and Professor Mark Caufield, Chief Scientist of the Genomics England 100,000 project, have both confirmed their keynote presentations at Personalized Medicine in May 2015, Cambridge.

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