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New SLAS Board of Directors Members Ready, Willing and Able to Help Drive Society Success

The newest members of the SLAS Board of Directors bring varied backgrounds, strong character and unwavering commitment to sharing what they have learned in their careers to help others succeed. They also believe in a common goal – ensure SLAS continues to lead the way in laboratory science and technology for years to come.


Scott Atkin, Michele A. Cleary and Susan M. Lunte join the 2015 SLAS Board of Directors for three-year terms beginning at SLAS2015. Atkin, Cleary and Lunte, along with six current members of the board are responsible for strategy, vision and business development to deliver value to SLAS members and the global life science community.

Atkin is CEO and managing director for SAGIAN Ventures, Zionsville, IN. At SAGIAN, Atkin identifies new candidate businesses for acquisition, performs due diligence, contract negotiations and facilitates the transition of the businesses out of the parent company and into a stand-alone entrepreneurial entity. Atkin brings more than 30 years of professional experience in the life science, scientific automation and clinical diagnostics industries, including stints with Dow Chemical and Beckman Coulter, Inc. where he was an executive vice president overseeing the company's Clinical Chemistry and Discovery Business Groups and the Instrument Systems Development Center.

Cleary, Ph.D., is the executive director of Genetics and Pharmacogenomics for Merck Research Laboratories (MRL), West Point, PA. She brings more than 12 years of experience managing drug discovery teams in a pharmaceutical industrial setting. Cleary has specific expertise in biomarker discovery and development, genomics, RNA interference, microRNA biology, drug target validation and oncology pathway biology. Her SLAS volunteer leadership began as an associate track chair for high-throughput technologies at the 2011 LabAutomation conference, and last year she served as SLAS2014 conference co-chair.

Lunte, Ph.D., is director of the COBRE Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways and director of the Ralph N. Adams Institute for Bioanalytical Chemistry at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The Ralph Adams Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry has served as a faculty member at the University of Kansas since 1994. Her research interests include bioanalytical chemistry, liquid chromatography, capillary electrophoresis, electrochemical and laser-induced fluorescence detection, microdialysis sampling, neurochemistry, protein and peptide analysis, microchip analytical systems, mass spectrometry and anticancer drug analysis.

Q: Why did you become a member of SLAS?

Atkin: I joined the Society for Biomolecular Sciences back in the very early days. At the time, I became a member to stay in touch with the laboratory automation community and keep pace with the latest innovations in the area of screening technologies. Maintaining my membership over the years became a way to continue to contribute to the Society and ensure it had the support required to serve the evolving needs of the growth of the organization.

Cleary: In 2009, I took on a new role in Merck's high-throughput screening area. The head of the area, Jeremy Caldwell, recommended me as a session chair in the High-Throughput Technologies track of the LabAutomation conference. As SLAS emerged as a new entity, I continued to be involved.

Lunte: SLAS is an excellent organization with a great mix of members from industry, academia, research institutes and government labs. From an academic perspective, it is exciting to be involved in an organization that highlights new scientific developments in industry as well as academia. It is also wonderful way to become informed about the research priorities and progress of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Q: Why have you chosen to increase your involvement over the years, and what have you found most beneficial from your membership?

Atkin: My increased involvement is a way for me to give back to the organization and to contribute to its growth, ensuring that it continues to be a source of information for future researchers and scientists. The most beneficial aspect of membership has been the opportunity to meet and collaborate with some great people over the years. One cannot overlook the fact that SLAS and its predecessors have consistently produced the conferences at which the newest innovations were introduced to the market.

Cleary: I fully agree with the mission of SLAS to create interfaces or connections across many divides: industry/academia, technology/research, students/established professionals, discovery/clinical applications. Most beneficial to me has been the opportunity to serve as a connector across these divides. I have met so many dedicated and innovative scientists who share many of the same goals and ideals.

Lunte: My initial involvement was as a track chair in smallTalk, an Association for Laboratory Automation conference focused on micro technologies lab automation. Later I was involved in programming related to the larger international meetings. I have found that the meetings organized by SLAS have a good balance of presentations by academic, industrial and government scientists as well as research institutes. This gives one a more diverse perspective on emerging areas in science and evolving methods than one normally is exposed to at a professional meeting. SLAS provides opportunities to learn about fundamental principles of emerging methods through its short courses. It also provides a unique forum to network with other scientists as well as promote the advancement of young scientists.

Q: How have your work background, and life experiences in general, prepared you to step into this new role as a board member?

Atkin: I've had a healthy mix of technical and executive business leadership roles in both entrepreneurial and large public companies. Those experiences have helped me to understand and stay focused on what truly creates value for an organization and I hope to bring that awareness to SLAS. I've also had the opportunity to observe and serve on a number of boards (both for profit and not-for profit) and have a good appreciation for the contributions that board members can make and how helpful a board member can be when it comes to planning for the future.

Cleary: I have been managing sizable laboratory teams with very diverse technology capabilities for the last several years. Our goals have been evolving over the years, and I have found many of these goals and our technologies to be perfectly aligned with the trends that are front and center among the SLAS community.

Lunte: I have been involved in leadership roles for many different professional organizations including the American Chemical Society, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and Royal Society of Chemistry. I also run an NIH-sponsored Center at the University of Kansas. I will be able to draw from these past experiences in this new role and have found over the past 30 years that collaborations and networking are important components of good science. No one can work in a vacuum anymore.

Q: As a newly elected board member, how do you see yourself contributing to the SLAS purpose?

Atkin: I hope to be able to work with the leadership and bring a sense of urgency to supporting the pursuit of the SLAS purpose by helping leadership stay focused on those activities and actions that have the greatest impact on the future success of the organization.

Cleary: My close connection to the laboratory scientists working in my group has empowered me to faithfully represent the challenges and opportunities that are forefront in early drug discovery. These challenges and opportunities are ones that are shared across the membership of SLAS. As my own team works to innovatively address our needs, I can bring our solutions and best practices forward as ones that may be more universal in nature and potentially useful to others working in the field.

Lunte: I greatly appreciate the education mission of SLAS. Many of my students have benefited from attending SLAS sponsored meetings, short courses and career workshops. I would like to help with expanding the education mission so that it impacts more members, nationally and globally. Through my role as a board member, I can promote interactions between SLAS with other professional societies. Lastly, I can supply an academic perspective on the board.

Q: What is most exciting to you about taking on this new responsibility?

Atkin: The organization has been extremely successful over the years reaching out and serving its members. What excites me is simply the opportunity to work alongside SLAS leadership and contribute to the continued success of the organization.

Cleary: Most exciting to me is the opportunity to strengthen and deepen my networks outside of my own company. I am also very excited about the opportunity to have impact on the larger SLAS community.

Lunte: I am excited about meeting the other people on the board and in the organization, who are all are leaders in their field. I look forward to working with the board to make SLAS a more global organization by facilitating interactions with scientific organizations in other countries, and to find new ways to assist young scientists with their careers and keep established scientists up to date on the latest scientific breakthroughs.

Q: Where do you see SLAS making the greatest impact in the next two years? The next five years?

Atkin: The world is an ever-changing ecosystem and the tools for collaborating continue to evolve at a record pace. In the near-term, SLAS must continue to expand its reach to include the major research and industrial regions throughout the world. Information moves quickly in today's electronic world and helping scientists and researchers stay abreast of the technological advances will be important to ensuring the pace of meaningful innovation in life science research continues at a healthy rate.

The longer-term opportunity is in the area of informatics. The tools for generating information that helps us understand biological function are impressive and getting more so each day. Helping the global life science community understand how to collaborate and make sense of the massive amount of information that will be available to us will become an increasingly important issue.

Cleary: In the next two years, SLAS will have tremendous impact in accelerating progress in several areas of interest to its members. Some of these include the new genome editing approaches, the use of micro and nanofluidics to address previously intractable technology challenges, and optimization of phenotypic screens for new targets and therapies to name only a few. In the next five years, SLAS will make impact not only in addressing scientific gaps by allowing the sharing of best practices, but also by serving as a mechanism to nucleate key collaborations across many interfaces that will increase the pace with which success in these areas is achieved.

Lunte: Over the next two years, I see SLAS expanding globally to attract more members and collaborations with other professional organizations with similar interests. I see a continued expansion of educational opportunities to make them more accessible and to a wider audience.

Q: What would you tell someone who is considering becoming a member of SLAS?

Atkin: SLAS is the best organization in the world for collaborating with your peers in the broader life science scientific community. Social media tools are useful but have a long way to go before they will ever replicate the opportunity to meet and spend time with others in the global scientific community. I don't see anything displacing the value that SLAS brings anytime soon.

Cleary: Being a part of SLAS literally provides something for everyone in the field of screening and laboratory science. It is a very collegial group and the connections that one can make will be valuable to advancing numerous areas of research and discovery for many years out.

Lunte: SLAS is a wonderful way to learn about new technologies and, for the more seasoned scientists, to stay up to date on emerging scientific breakthroughs in both industry and academia. It is also an important forum for meeting other scientists who are working in the areas of laboratory automation, high-throughput screening and clinical diagnostics.

Q: Talk about an area of the SLAS Strategic Plan that is most interesting to you?

Atkin: Serving Our Community. I am interested in helping the SLAS leadership plan for the future and ensure the implementation plans provide meaningful value to the global membership.

Cleary: One of the attributes that I value the most about SLAS is its strategy to be ever evolving. SLAS is not just simply geared toward hosting an annual conference and exhibition. It has established mechanisms to bring scientists together and educate them in novel approaches and mindsets. SLAS is reflective and seeks to understand gaps in our field and address them by building new committees, setting up new educational opportunities and constantly re-assessing its offerings to make sure they bring value and are aligned with current needs.

Lunte: I am most interested in educational outreach and globalization of the organization.

Q: When not involved in work/SLAS activities, how do you like to spend your time?

Atkin: I have three grown children who live on the two coasts of the United States so my hobbies have become more central to my non-work time. I have consistently proven that one can never really get good at golf, despite decades of trying. I also like to build things and have found restoring classic American muscle cars can be a rewarding challenge in many ways. I am a purist with regards to the build process and spend as much time researching the history of the manufacturing process and searching for original parts as I do actually working on the cars.

Cleary: I spend my free time with my family and supporting my teenage children in their activities and studies.

Lunte: I like to travel and enjoy meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures. I used to listen to shortwave radio but now I listen to all these stations (like BBC and Deutsche Welle) on my iPad! I also enjoy photography and take a lot of pictures when traveling and while I am walking my dog in the countryside of Kansas. Lastly, I appreciate any opportunity to visit with our two daughters, who now live in Chicago and Boston.

Q: Is there anything else you would like the SLAS ELN readership to know about you?

Atkin: I am an active supporter of the entrepreneurial community and spend time sharing my experiences with aspiring entrepreneurs and supporting leadership in early stage companies.

February 2, 2015