2020 Technology Showcase brings NCI and FNL technologies to a new audience

The 2020 Technology Showcase on September 9 brought well over 300 viewers for a half-day of presentations and panels on technology commercialization and collaboration. The annual event once again highlighted the capabilities of the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNL), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and greater Frederick region—but this year, with its novel virtual format, it reached a new audience. Attendees logged in from all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Brazil, Malaysia, and China. It was a first for the typically regional event.

“It allowed us to be accessible to everyone in the world,” Leonard Freedman, Ph.D., FNL Chief Science Officer noted in his opening remarks. This accessibility was a clear win for an event designed to spur collaboration.

A screenshot of the video presentation showing a diagram of a technology workflow with an image of a man in the upper right corner
Benjamin Madej, Ph.D., Data Scientist, FNL and ATOM, presents on “AMPL: A Data-Driven Modeling Pipeline for Drug Discovery”

Innovative technologies

The focus of the event was the technologies. The NCI has more than 350 technologies currently available for licensing and even more available for collaboration. Three FNL and six NCI inventors presented cutting-edge technologies they developed, and addressed questions from the virtual audience.

“The technologies highlighted the breadth and depth of expertise at NCI and FNL,” said Maggie Scully, Ph.D., of the FNL Partnership Development Office, who served as a moderator for the presentations.

“This year, cancer therapeutics from small molecules to antibodies, an HIV vaccine, drug delivery platform, and computing solutions were showcased,” Scully said. “Each technology pitch was a neat package of the value of the biomedical solution complete with a concise snapshot of data and market description.”

Stephan Stern, Ph.D., laboratory co-director and director of research and development for the FNL’s Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory, presented a polymeric delivery platform for therapeutics. He said it delivers the therapeutic payload right to the lymphatic system—something that current drug delivery methods fail to achieve—and thereby increases the therapeutic effects, avoiding liver metabolism, and reducing toxicity and side effects.

Uma Mudunuri, M.S., deputy director of FNL’s Advanced Biomedical Computational Science, presented on the Analytics and Visualization through interactive Data (AViD) dashboards, which are designed to allow users to easily visualize their data using a variety of graphs, charts, and other visual tools. The dashboard can handle any data type, and she said they require “no skills to use.” She demonstrated how the dashboards can perform a variety of exploratory analytics, including creating cohorts, detecting outliers, and comparing data.

Benjamin Madej, Ph.D., a data scientist for the FNL and member of the Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM) team, presented the ATOM Modeling PipeLine (AMPL), a free and open-source software to predict chemical properties for drug discovery. AMPL models can be used for virtual lead optimization, generative molecular design models, and prediction of safety and toxicity properties. The goal of the software is to help accelerate lengthy drug development projects.

In addition to the technologies presented by the inventors, the NCI Technology Transfer ambassadors presented virtual posters on additional available technologies.

A screenshot taken during a presentation showing a slide about the panel's topic and a woman's video sharing in the top right corner
Elizabeth Cho-Fertikh, Ph.D. Exit Disclaimer Co-Founder, MEDA Angels, Founder, ECF Biosolutions, moderates the “How to Attract Investors and Funding for Your Company” panel.

A full agenda

Technologies were not the only item on the agenda. The event also featured remarks from keynote speakers Kelly Schulz, secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, and Howard Bland, of Kite Pharma. Schultz and Bland each noted the growing biotech community in Maryland and, specifically, in Frederick County, a region some international attendees previously knew little about.

There were also four educational panel discussions among experts with a diverse array of backgrounds and experience: from investment firms, industry, nonprofits, and various government laboratories and agencies. One such panel focused on how to partner with the FNL and NCI, and it included FNL scientists Serguei Kozlov, Ph.D., team leader for the Center for Advanced Preclinical Research, who is currently working on a collaborative project with an early-stage biomedical company.

“This year’s event went beyond expectations,” said Vladimir Popov, Ph.D. director of the FNL Partnership Development Office. “We had so many variables at play, but everything went according to the plan. Every technology presentation and panel went smoothly and was very well received by audience.”

Looking forward

Michael Salgaller of the NCI Technology Transfer Center told participants he hopes the next Technology Showcase can capture the best of both the virtual and in-person environments. The event co-sponsors—the FNL, NCI, the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, the City of Frederick Department of Economic Development, and TEDCO—are already busy planning an in-person event for June 2021 that will also be streamed live for a worldwide audience.