2023 In-Person Breakouts

In-Person Breakouts 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. 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.

Below are 2023 topics and moderators. Please revisit this page in August for 2024 content updates.

All Breakouts – including Wednesday’s Diversity Discussion – will be offered IN-PERSON ONLY.


Protein Degraders and Molecular Glues – Part 1
DISCUSSION 1A: New Chemistries and Assays for Next-Generation Degraders and Glues

Rima Al-Awar, PhD, Head, Therapeutic Innovation & Drug Discovery, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Benedict Cross, PhD, CTO, PhoreMost Ltd.
Daniel A. Erlanson, PhD, Senior Vice President, Innovation and Discovery, Frontier Medicines Corporation

  • Leveraging covalent chemistry, induced proximity to develop new degrader modalities
  • Utilizing new assays and platforms for structural and mechanistic characterization
  • Finding new ligases and cellular pathways for inducing degradation
  • Pursuing degradation as a strategy for important therapeutic targets

Proteomics-Driven Drug Discovery
DISCUSSION 2A: Leveraging Phenotypic Screening, Chemical Biology, and Chemoproteomics Tools

Gizem Akcay, PhD, Head, Chemical Biology, Bayer Research and Innovation Center Cambridge
Christopher am Ende, PhD, Associate Research Fellow, Internal Medicine Medicinal Chemistry, Pfizer Inc.
Steve Gygi, PhD, Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School
Andrew Zhang, PhD, Director, Chemical Biology, AstraZeneca

  • How can proteomics be best used in the drug discovery pipeline?
  • Can traditional chemoproteomics and orthogonal methods help deconvolute “undruggable” targets?
  • Which improvements are most needed in developing good proteomic assays and screening platforms?
  • Insights into some of the new chemistries and chemical probes being generated

Small Molecules Targeting RNA
DISCUSSION 3A: Challenges and Opportunities in Pursuing RNA as a Drug Target

Brahma Ghosh, PhD, Senior Principal Scientist & Head, Chemical Biology, Global Discovery Chemistry, Janssen Research & Development, LLC
Rabia Khan, PhD, MBA, CEO, Serna Bio
Jennifer Petter, PhD, Founder & CSO, Arrakis Therapeutics
Alexander Serganov, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology, New York University School of Medicine

  • Emerging techniques for probing and modulating RNA
  • Co-relating RNA binding with function and physiological response
  • Rules for designing focused chemical libraries for targeting RNA/RNA-binding proteins
  • Designing and optimizing small molecules targeting various RNA moieties
  • Leveraging AI/ML, RNA degradation tools, and other drug development strategies

Small Molecules for Cancer Targets – Part 1
DISCUSSION 4A1: Lead Generation for Small Molecule Cancer Targets

Moderator: Chaohong Sun, PhD, Senior Director, Lead Discovery, AbbVie, Inc.

  • Lightning-round group member intros
  • Favorite biophysical tools
  • Integrating info from FBDD, DEL, HTS campaigns

DISCUSSION 4A2: Focusing on the Tumor Micro-Environment (TME)

Moderator: Scott Turner, PhD, Senior Vice President, Translational Sciences, Pliant Therapeutics

  • Lightning-round group member intros
  • Role of extra-cellular matrix (ECM)
  • Relationship to fibrosis
  • Relevance to metastasis

GPCR-Based Drug Discovery
DISCUSSION 6A: Finding GPCRs' Greatest Hits

Elisa Barile, PhD, Principal Scientist, Structural Biology & Biophysics, Takeda, San Diego
Phillip Schwartz, PhD, Director, Biophysics, Septerna

  • Favorite new tools & technologies
  • What’s your first step in GPCR-Targeted Drug Discovery?
  • Lightning-round participant introductions

Antibodies Against Membrane Protein Targets – Part 1
DISCUSSION 7A1: Membrane Protein Discovery Challenges

Moderator: Corey Smith, PhD, Principal Research Scientist, Global Biologics Protein Science, AbbVie

  • What are the challenges of working with in vitro and in vivo systems for membrane protein discovery?
  • How can these approaches be effectively leveraged to identify antibodies targeting membrane proteins?
  • What approaches are able to overcome typical hurdles that prevent efficient antibody affinity optimization against membrane protein targets?
  • What technologies can be used to target specific epitopes on membrane proteins?

DISCUSSION 7A2: Current and Future Perspectives for in vivo Lead Generation and Screening Strategies towards Complex Membrane Protein Targets

Moderator: Alec Woosley, PhD, Senior Scientist, Biologics Engineering and Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

  • Encapsulated oligonucleotide-based immunization strategies for lead discovery and when to use what (DNA, mRNA, etc.)
  • Virus-Like Particle (VLP) engineering and strategies for in vitro/vivo discovery workflows
  • Divergent/engineered species for in vivo immunization workflows
  • In vivo strategies combining formats for in vivo discovery and subsequent screening strategies
  • Future of membrane protein formats and AI-based in silico design of membrane protein scaffolds for platform development

AI/ML-Enabled Drug Discovery – Part 1
DISCUSSION 8A: How Successful Are AI/ML Approaches in Drug Development Today?

Shruthi Bharadwaj, PhD, Global Lead, Digital & Analytics, R&D Global Operations, Sanofi
Michael Liebman, PhD, Managing Director, IPQ Analytics, LLC
Alexander Taguchi, PhD, Director, Machine Learning, Antibody Discovery, iBio, Inc.

  • Growing use of natural language processing, ChatGPT, and other tools
  • Case studies highlighting use of knowledge graphs and quantum computing in healthcare
  • Applying statistics, decision tree–based ML to data analysis in drug discovery
  • Effective use of virtual screening and structure-activity predictions tools


Neurodegeneration Targets
DISCUSSION 5A: Early Discovery in Neurodegeneration

Jeffrey Martin, PhD, Scientist II, Drug Discovery, Biogen
Laura Silvian, PhD, Senior Director, Physical Biochemistry, Biogen

  • Speed introductions
  • Promising biomarkers for early-stage research
  • Popular animal models


Diversity Discussion (Sponsorship Opportunity Available)
Embracing All Shades of Diversity

Stephanie Ashenden, PhD, Senior Informatician, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, AstraZeneca

Rabia Khan, PhD, MBA, CEO, Serna Bio
Daniel La, PhD, Vice President & Head, Medicinal Chemistry, Triana Biomedicines Inc.
Dele Babalola, Senior Director, Clinical Data Management, Morphic Therapeutic
Saudat Fadeyi, PhD, MBA, Director, Business Development, Ovid Therapeutics
Joel Omage, Research Scientist II, CVM Disease Area, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc.

Join us for this interactive, informal, candid 55-minute discussion on welcoming and increasing all aspects of diversity in the life sciences. We have invited some engaging speakers to share their stories and experiences on initiatives that have and haven’t worked. Our goal is to help the audience learn, question, and get motivated to improve diversity in their own environments. This discussion will not be recorded nor available for on-demand access.

Topics for discussion will include, but certainly not be limited to: 

  • Importance of fostering empathy 
  • Recognizing and supporting neurodiversity
  • Encouraging and implementing diversity in thought
  • Creating avenues for improving gender diversity and participation
  • Increasing racial diversity, particularly in leadership positions
  • Reaching low income and underprivileged neighborhoods to eliminate any “zipcode bias”
  • Understanding and addressing other hidden barriers and biases
  • Implementing mentorship and internship programs that are simple yet impactful​​


Protein Degraders and Molecular Glues – Part 2
DISCUSSION 1B1: Addressing the Translational Challenges Associated with Degraders & Glues

Simon Bailey, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President & Head of Drug Discovery, Plexium, Inc.
Jin Wang, PhD, Professor, Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, Baylor College of Medicine

  • Designing and optimizing modalities that are likely to succeed in the clinic
  • Discussion of experimental and computational approaches helping translational research
  • Developing assays that are sensitive and unbiased in finding the right targets and molecules
  • Expanding the current toolbox to find new ligases and pathways for therapeutic intervention

DISCUSSION 1B2: Developing/Using Assays for Quantitative Characterization of Degraders and Glues

Courtney Havens, PhD, Director of Biology, Proteovant Therapeutics Inc.
Ralph Mazitschek, PhD, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School; Co-Director of the Chemical Biology Platform, Center for Systems Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Uthpala Seneviratne, PhD, Associate Principal Scientist, AstraZeneca

  • Developing assays that are sensitive and unbiased in finding the right targets and molecules 
  • Overcoming limitations in current biochemical and cellular assays 
  • Applying high-throughput mass spectrometry-based assays

Genomics-Driven Drug Discovery
DISCUSSION 2B: When and How to Best Leverage Genomics Tools and Data

William Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota
Nathan Lazar, PhD, Senior Director, Data Science, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Sarra Merzouk, PhD, Screening Staff Scientist, Genetic Perturbation Platform, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

  • Expanding the current functional genomics toolbox for drug discovery
  • Highlighting how CRISPR and base editor screens can be effectively used
  • Leveraging genomic data to understand drug mechanisms and off-target effects
  • Combining genomics and AI to help improve speed and accuracy
  • Using synthetic biology for programmable genetic regulation

Targeting Transcription Factors
DISCUSSION 3B: Challenges and Opportunities in Pursuing Transcription Factors

Debra Brennan, Executive Director, Medicinal Chemistry, Nimbus Therapeutics
Rhushikesh Kulkarni, PhD, Principal Scientist, Oncology Chemical Biology, Pfizer Inc.
Asad Taherbhoy, PhD, Director, Drug Discovery, Foghorn Therapeutics
William Tansey, PhD, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, Professor of Cell & Development Biology, Vanderbilt University

  • Assays and screening strategies to identify modulators of transcription factors
  • Structural and mechanistic approaches for understanding mechanism of action
  • Emerging transcription factors as viable drug targets for the various indications
  • Designing potent, orally bioavailable drugs that target co-activators and inhibitors
  • Pursuing degradation as a therapeutic strategy for targeting transcription factors

Small Molecules for Cancer Targets – Part 2
DISCUSSION 4B: Challenges Targeting Intracellular Oncoproteins

Moderator: Charles Wartchow, PhD, Associate Director, Global Discovery Chemistry, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research

  • Why so many TPD approaches are for cancer
  • Small molecule IO opportunities/combos
  • Small Molecules in a Big Way: bRo5 issues
  • Digging deeper: additional Q&A for Session Speakers

Fibrosis and Inflammation
DISCUSSION 5B: Drug Development Challenges for Anti-Fibrotics

Cory M. Hogaboam, PhD, Professor, Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; CSO, Lung Therapeutics
Vanessa M. Morales-Tirado, PhD, Principal Research Scientist I, Discovery Dermatology, Abbvie Bioresearch Center

  • Quantifying fibrosis: markers for initial diagnosis
  • Measuring treatment response
  • Which is best for what?: AI, imaging, lab tests, histology scoring, more?
  • Digging deeper: more Speaker Q&A

Lead Generation Strategies
DISCUSSION 6B1: DNA-Encoded Libraries (DELs) for Lead Discovery

Rachael Jetson, PhD, Senior Director, Lead Discovery, Valo Health
Douglas J Marcotte, Director, Protein Science, Valo Health

  • Protein quality in DEL; what have we learned?
  • Moving into the perceived ‘unDELable’ targets (RNAs, GPCRs, cellular, etc.); what are the current advances/thoughts?
  • Making the most of your DEL platform by focusing on library design and selection conditions

Antibodies Against Membrane Protein Targets – Part 2
DISCUSSION 7B1: Avoiding Roadblocks: Maneuvering the Challenges of Difficult Targets

Moderator: Ross Chambers, PhD, Vice President Antibody Discovery, Antibody Discovery, Integral Molecular, Inc.

  • Antigen design: antigen strategies and engineering for optimal target presentation
  • Antibody sources: pros and cons of naive and immune libraries, and the benefits of using divergent species for targets that are highly conserved
  • Screening: best approaches to identify diverse antibody panels, and merits of B cell cloning vs. display technologies
  • Specificity: how to assess off-target binding

AI/ML-Enabled Drug Discovery – Part 2
DISCUSSION 8B: Leveraging AI/ML for Finding New Drug Targets and Leads

Anthony Bradley, PhD, Vice President, Design Development, Exscientia
Joseph Carpenter, PhD, Vice President, Medicinal Chemistry, Recursion Pharmaceuticals
Victor Guallar, PhD, Professor, Barcelona Supercomputing Center and Nostrum Biodiscovery
Yuan Wang, PhD, Head of Research Analytics, UCB Pharma

  • Use of molecular modeling and virtual screening for finding protein degraders
  • Using deep learning, neural network analysis, and imaging for phenotypic drug discovery
  • Using physics and computational chemistry to find inhibitors and allosteric modulators
  • Using large language models to understand protein structures and novel drug modalities