SLAS 2013 – An amazing keynote on Huntington’s Disease

This week I was at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening meeting in Orlando (SLAS2013). This was the first time I had attended this conference and I spent a couple of days glued to the informatics track, with occasional trips out to other sessions. As I do not get out of my home office that often I tend to use Twitter a lot to relate thoughts while listening. My tweets from this meeting can be found under #SLAS2013. Be warned there are many and yes I have a bit of an ironic turn of phrase every so often so please do not take offense. Oddly there were not that many of us live tweeting..but I found some new people to follow and they found me. Stand out talk for me was on FoldIt and I really should give it a try one day. It did stimulate me to propose a game for drug discovery called CureIT which I hope to co-develop in future with collaborators.

I was there principally to give a talk based on a collaboration with Joe Olechno at Labcyte and Antony Williams at RSC –  “Dispensing Processes Impact Computational and Statistical Analyses” and have posted the slides on FigShare, Slideshare. I even tweeted the slides from my dropbox account during the meeting.

As with many recent conferences – one thing can really have impact, and for me it was the ending keynote by Charles Sabine on his family experience of Huntington’s disease. His talk was a masterclass in oration, video and sound that was moving, inspirational and brilliant. I asked him a question following the talk “what could we do in the audience to help” and to paraphrase he basically said “carry on doing what you do” . I had chance to catch up with him in the hotel lobby and we got to discussing the disease in more detail and how in the UK it was swept under the carpet for so long if you had it in the family, or the Dr’s just diagnosed it as another disease to avoid the stigma associated with it. we also discussed how research on a disease like HD could help so many other rare diseases. Although HD has orders of magnitude more funding going into research than many of the ultra rare diseaseses I have been supporting. I mentioned that HD was also one of the diseases we track in the ODDT mobile app..so coming away from meeting this very brave man who has reported on wars and human disaster to now advocating for a debilating disease , I could not help thinking how can we do more to help find a cure.

Following this I left the meeting inspired and energized, my resolve to work more on rare diseases was justified.



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