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After 15 Years, IBC Life Sciences Ends Chips to Hits; Will Focus on Personalized Medicine

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After a decade and a half of catering to the microarray market, educational event planner IBC Life Sciences will no longer hold its annual Chips to Hits conference.

According to IBC, the life-sciences space is currently more interested in a conference dealing with applications for personalized medicine and companion diagnostics than one devoted to new technologies.

"As a conference platform, we are constantly looking for the next big thing that the pharma companies are pursuing and how we can help bring that information to live at a conference, to facilitate face-to-face discussions among industry peers," said Mimi Quek Langley, conference director at Boston-based IBC.

"From our latest research, we understand that the culmination of discovery and diagnostics is to achieve personalized medicine — at least from the pharmaceutical companies’ viewpoint," she told BioArray News in an e-mail this week. "Personalized medicine is thus the larger worldview that we hope to achieve."

However, Langley said that IBC could resuscitate Chips to Hits in the future. "I’m sure there will continue to be improvements in diagnostics technologies and we may pick up the event again when we feel there’s good information that the industry needs to know," she said.

No More Hits?

In 2007, IBC consolidated the conference into a larger event called Discovery2Diagnostics, and as recently as five years ago IBC was billing Chips to Hits as the "largest and most comprehensive microarray and microtechnology conference in the world." Started in 1994, the conference drew "over 1,500 attendees" and had more than 100 exhibitor booths at its prime, according to IBC.

Chips to Hits, and later D2D, focused on "technologies that aid in the process of enabling faster to clinic, better detection, and attempt to link diagnostics and discovery efforts," said Langley.

The conference taking D2D's slot in IBC's roster is called Personalized Medicine. It will debut in December in San Francisco. Langley said the new conference will be a two-day event "focusing on creating a series of dialogues with pharma and diagnostic companies, regulators, and payors, to "share their observations, dissect their challenges and talk openly about their concerns and discuss how they can move forward in a collaborative effort to bring personalized medicine to reality. "

Though the conference's agenda is still taking shape, the IBC said at least one segment will concern cytogenetics, microRNA profiling, nanodiagnostics, and second-generation sequencing — all application areas in which arrays play some role.

That said, Langley stressed that the new conference will not have a specific focus on technologies. "It will mainly be bringing the various challenges of personalized medicine as confronted by the various stakeholders into a conference," Langley said. "So it’ll be very different from D2D or Chips to Hits [and] we do not consider it as an evolution from D2D or Chips."

Changing Focuses

While array vendors large and small presented at the latest D2D conference, held last October in San Diego, companies that once exhibited at Chips have decided to attend meetings tailored to their own sales agenda, as opposed to larger trade shows, in recent years.

This fall, for example, when D2D would traditionally be held, Illumina will be present at meetings such as ProkaGenomics, a conference on prokaryotic genomics, in Göttingen, the Netherlands; the annual American Society of Human Genetics conference in Honolulu, Hawaii; and the UK's National Cancer Research Institute conference in Birmingham.

Affymetrix, meantime, will be at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago; the Japanese Society for the Study of Xenobiotics annual meeting in Kyoto; and Japan Cancer Association meeting in Yokohama; as well as ASHG, to name a few events.

Alistair Rees, microarray product manager for Schott-Nexterion, told BioArray News this week that the discontinuation of D2D was "not surprising news." Rees said that Schott had already decided not to attend D2D in the future based on a "poor experience" with last year's show, which, in his words, was a "high cost" event with "few relevant delegates.

"These industry-focused trade shows do seem to exhibit a life cycle," Rees added.

Rees said that Schott chooses the conferences it attends based on the amount of DNA or protein content in the conference agenda. Shows are assessed according to relevance, location, and cost of exhibiting.

"Our strategy is fairly simple," said Matthew Lorence, vice president of sales and marketing at Tessarae, a Potomac Falls, Va.-based company that specializes in array-based infectious disease detection. Lorence sat on the scientific advisory board for D2D last year.

"We attend the American Society for Microbiology meeting , since it is the major microbiology meeting, and then attend any other conference where we are invited to present," he told BioArray News this week.

"I also attend those meetings where I have SAB responsibility, specifically Cambridge Healthtech Institute's Enablin Point-of-Care Diagnostics meeting and D2D, until this year," he said.

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