SBS Symposium

The Society for Biomolecular Sciences’ (SBS) Symposium, “Back to Pharmacology: Stem Cells and Primary Cells in Drug Discovery,” was held on November 8 and 9 at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel in Anaheim, California. It was one of SBS’ small symposia focused on specific topics that the organization has been holding for a number of years in addition to its annual conference. “Back to Pharmacology” had an attendance of 171. SBS held its 13th annual conference and exposition this April in Montreal, drawing a total attendance of 2,171. Stem cells have received considerable attention in both mainstream and scientific media, but many speakers at the symposium addressed the utility of primary cells, which are cells that have been extracted from fresh animal or human tissues through chemical and mechanical means, for drug discovery. For example, Ellen Berg, chief scientific officer of BioSeek, discussed the use of primary cells for finding drug leads and characterizing drug function in her company’s research. John McNeish, senior director of Genetic Technologies at Pfizer, discussed a number of future avenues for stem cell utilization in the pharmaceutical industry, including the possibility of using stem cells as drug delivery systems. Dan Marshak, vice president and chief scientific officer of PerkinElmer, described the use of comparative genomic hybridization for verifying the chromosomal stability of stem cell lines over time. Dr. Marshak also discussed the work of Summit Glycoresearch Corporation, a Japanese firm that has developed a technique for cell-surface profiling without using monoclonal antibodies. Two common themes brought up by speakers and attendees were the particular utility of stem and primary cells to test for the cardiotoxicity of drugs and drug leads, and the need for additional techniques for verifying the chromosomal integrity of stem cell lines. Twenty-three companies had tabletop displays at the symposium. Given the wide array of reagents needed for the culture, expansion and differentiation of stem and primary cells, it was no surprise that reagent producers Invitrogen, Millipore and Lonza were present. Lab automation companies Tecan and Velocity11 also had displays in the exhibition hall. Several vendor tutorials were held; BD’s tutorial presented its Discovery Platform, which combines software, automation and services to develop media and substrates for the expansion and differentiation of human adult stem cells. Incubators have an important role in primary and stem cell research, and BioSpherix and Essen Instruments both showed incubators integrated with other technologies, such as microscopes and cell sorters. Finnish firm Chip-Man Technologies displayed the Cell-IQ, a platform for the real-time imaging and analysis of live cells. And there was a new product introduction at the symposium: BellBrook Labs unveiled the iuvo, a microfludics array for cell-based research. SBS’ next annual conference, entitled “Enhancing Research Productivity: Quality Tools, Leads and Candidates,” will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, from April 6 to 10, 2008. The next SBS Symposium, “Label-Free Technologies in Drug Discovery,” will be held at the Maritim Hotel and International Congress Center Dresden in Dresden, Germany, on June 10 and 11, 2008.

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