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 to promote social distancing. For virtual attendees, the format will be in a Zoom room. 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 – at least one for each of the 14 conference programs – 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?

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
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

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

Antibodies Against Membrane Protein Targets – Part 2
DISCUSSION TOPIC: Characterization of Antibodies Against Membrane Proteins

Moderator: Joseph Rucker, PhD, Vice President, Research and Development, Integral Molecular, Inc.

  • Affinity and Kinetics: Useful approaches for characterizing antibody binding
  • Epitopes: Different techniques for epitope mapping; binning versus mapping; why do epitopes matter?
  • Specificity: Understanding off-target binding
  • Cell Function: Integrating functional assays into antibody discovery and development

Small G Proteins

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
Lisa Hazelwood, PhD, Director, Fibrosis Biology, AbbVie

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

Additional Interactive Discussions to be Announced