Interactive Discussions

Interactive Discussions are informal, moderated discussions, allowing participants to exchange ideas and experiences and develop future collaborations around a focused topic. Each discussion will be led by a facilitator who keeps the discussion on track and the group engaged. For in-person events, the facilitator will lead from the front of the room while attendees remain seated. For virtual attendees, the format will be in an online networking platform. To get the most out of this format, please come prepared to share examples from your work, be a part of a collective, problem-solving session, and participate in active idea sharing.

This year’s Interactive Discussions will take place on Tuesday, September 28, 4:40 - 5:25 pm EDT and Thursday, September 30, 9:30 - 10:15 am EDT. Below are the confirmed topics so far. Please revisit this page for more content updates.


TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28 | 4:40 - 5:25 PM EDT

Target Identification and Validation – Part 1
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Chemical Biology Approaches for Target ID and Target Discovery

Moderator: Doug Johnson, PhD, Senior Director, Chemical Biology & Proteomics, Biogen

  • Chemical biology approaches as an avenue for new targets
  • Chemo-proteomics approaches to understand protein degradation
  • Covalent fragment screening for the coupled discovery of targets and leads
  • How can chemical biology approaches complement CRISPR-based technologies?

RNA as a Drug Target
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Challenges and Opportunities Pursuing RNA as a Drug Target

Moderators: Jennifer C. Petter, PhD, Founder & CSO, Arrakis Therapeutics
Ralph Kleiner, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Princeton University

  • Emerging techniques for probing and modulating RNA
  • Corelating RNA binding with function and physiological response
  • New drug modalities for targeting RNA

PROTACs and Targeted Protein Degradation- Part 1 (VIRTUAL ONLY)
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Targeted Protein Degradation- Where Are We Going?

Moderators: Matthew Calabrese, PhD, Senior Director & Head, Structural & Molecular Sciences, Pfizer Global R&D Groton Labs
Adam Gilbert, PhD, Senior Director, Discovery Sciences, Design & Synthesis Sciences, Pfizer Inc.

Antibodies Against Membrane Protein Targets – Part 1
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Optimization of Antibody Screening and Characterization at Early Stages of Antibody Discovery Process

Moderator: Jane Seagal, PhD, Senior Principal Research Scientist, Global Biologics, AbbVie

  • Binding specificity vs functional and analytical screens: throughput, depth, timing to enable optimal screens and data driven decisions
  • Building screening funnels without ‘perfect’ reagents
  • Multi-specific format screening: can monoclonal antibody screens guide optimal domain selections for building multi-specific biologics

GPCR-Based Drug Discovery
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Structural and Biophysical Tools for GPCRs

Huixian Wu, PhD, Structural Biology Lab Head, Discovery Sciences, Medicine Design, Pfizer Worldwide Research & DevelopmentMatthew T. Eddy, PhD, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, University of Florida, Gainesville

  • GPCR crystallography innovations and applications
  • CryoEM insights
  • NMR for GPCRs
  • GPCRs and Nanodiscs

3D Cellular Models (VIRTUAL ONLY)
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Current State of the Art in 3D Cellular Models

Haiqing Bai, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Wyss Institute
Y. Shrike Zhang, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

  • Principe of design to mimic organ architecture and in-vivo configurations
  • Cell sourcing; Model validation/benchmarking
  • Analyzing perspective (throughput readout, automation, etc.)
  • Modeling of chronic diseases (fibrosis, chronic inflammation, aging, neurodegenerative diseases); linking of multiple organs
  • Adaptation by pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers; regulatory acceptance

Immunology and Oncology: Emerging Drug Targets (VIRTUAL ONLY)
DISCUSSION TOPIC: What Progress Excites You in Immunology/Oncology Discovery?

Moderator: Maricel Torrent, PhD, Principal Research Scientist, Molecular Modeling, AbbVie Inc.

  • New targets
  • Small Molecule IO Progress -- single agents and combos
  • Are targeted protein degradation strategies especially suited for oncology or IO? 
  • Small molecule antivirals for COVID -- what seems promising


THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 | 9:30 - 10:15 AM EDT

Target Identification and Validation – Part 2
DISCUSSION TOPIC: New Strategies for Target Discovery

Moderator: Paul Brennan, PhD, Professor, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford

  • Use of chemical biology and chemical genetics for target ID
  • Challenges with finding and validating good targets
  • Target discovery for rare diseases

Lead Generation Strategies
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Integrating New Hit/Lead Strategies

Moderator: Adrian Whitty, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Boston University

  • Enabling tools for hit-finding against difficult targets
  • Integrating FBDD with HTS, DEL, and other approaches; strategies for early prioritization
  • Applications of covalent fragments to drug lead generation
  • Stabilizing protein interfaces

PROTACs and Targeted Protein Degradation- Part 2 (VIRTUAL ONLY)
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Characterizing Protein Degraders

Moderators: Katelyn Cassidy, PhD, Senior Scientist, Chemical Biology, AstraZeneca
Fiona Pachl, PhD, Senior Scientist, Chemical Biology and Proteomics, AstraZeneca

Small G Proteins (VIRTUAL ONLY)

Moderator: Dan Erlanson, Vice President, Medicinal Chemistry, Frontier Medicines

  • What challenges lie ahead for KRAS-targeted therapies
  • Applying KRAS inhibitor success to other GTPases
  • Covalent fragments and promising biophysical tools for difficult targets

NASH and Fibrosis
DISCUSSION TOPIC: General Fibrosis Targets & Establishing Proof of Concept

Scott Turner, PhD, Director, Medicinal Chemistry, Pliant Therapeutics
Thomas F. Baumert, PhD, Professor & Head, Institute of Viral & Liver Disease, University of Strasbourg

  • Non organ-specific fibrosis targets
  • Emerging inflammation/immune/fibrosis targets
  • Current and novel biomarkers
  • Imaging techniques in discovery

Additional Interactive Discussions to be Announced