April 4, 2024

Under the Hood at SLAS 2024

Advances in Multi-omic Technologies and Automation, But AI is Just ABuzz

The SLAS (Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening) conference in Boston February 3 – 7, 2024 was abuzz with a multitude of new tools for increasing the efficiency of discovery and screening in the laboratory.

  Hardware offerings included vendors offering components used in automation integration (Cognex for motion vision, Mechademic for small, precise and affordable six-axis robots, LabSmith for microfluidics valves and pressure sensors, to benchtop instrumentation for processing like Cellular Highways for vortex-actuated cell sorting at 37,000 cells per second and ReFeyn for biomolecular characterization using mass photometry,  to autonomous robots shuffling labware from room to room (Biosero) and many liquid handling systems like Formulatrix dispensing 100 nl of reagents to every well of a 384 well plate in 5 seconds. 

Software offerings ranged from HighRes Biosolutions for the scheduling and execution of laboratory workflow to exciting new techniques for single cell, whole-transcriptome profiling   software by 10X genomics.  New methods in single-cell proteomics were presented by Nikolai Slovav.

Noticeably absent from the exhibition space were vendors of AI as a service.  The reason, we think is two-fold.  First, there was a lot of talk about the knowledge and credibility gap for biologists who would adopt it for their experimental purposes.  That said, it is clear that biopharma is placing bets on AI through alliances that are being formed behind closed doors between AI startup companies and biopharma companies (McKinsey & Company, AI in biopharma research: A time to focus and scale).  Many attendees of the conference were employees of these AI enabled startups, looking to integrate new research methodology and automation into solutions for potential biopharma clients.   Notably there was a presence of evangelism for AI for pharma from Ramanderpal Singh who has founded hitchhikersai.org, an organization built to break down the walls between biologists and those who would implement AI applications in pharma and biology.

BME Systems is a member of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening

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