Blog | April 13, 2022

Getting Back to In Person


I recently had the pleasure of taking a trip to the West Coast to meet with several X-Chem clients. They were the first in-person meetings we’ve taken in over two years, and likewise for our partners, I believe. The sensation of sitting in a room and talking science felt at once foreign and familiar. It reminded me that all the changes we’ve made at X-Chem in the last two years, from rebranding to adding new drug discovery capabilities and expanding globally, were done during the pandemic. One of the hallmarks of X-Chem’s culture has always been building strong relationships with our colleagues and clients through frequent discussions, often in person. It fills me with both pride and regret that we’ve accomplished so much without the benefit of those kinds of face-to-face interactions.

So what does the future look like for scientific collaboration? I think we’ve seen that we can take a best-of-both worlds approach. For routine engagement with established partners, virtual interaction continues to be a convenient and effective option. I’m sure all of us appreciate the added flexibility that remote interaction allows us. But for building innovative and collaborative relationships, there is no substitute for in-person interactions. They allow for a better rhythm of discourse. The tempo of ideation and exchange are faster when people can read the nonverbal cues of their interlocuters. When scientists really get their intellectual juices flowing, the result can be a conversation where new vistas are revealed and mutual learning occurs. I strongly believe these kinds of interactions are much more likely in the face-to-face setting. We have embraced this philosophy at X-Chem. While we execute great science virtually, we invest in bringing our colleagues together from all global locations. It’s important for our culture, fosters trust, inspires innovation and results in better outcomes for our partners.

Of course, one of the hallmarks of pre-pandemic life for scientists was the scientific conference. I applaud conference organizers for finding creative ways to keep conferences effective and engaging in a virtual mode. But I’m sure we all agree that conferences are more effective when they are in person. The prospect of the side conversation, the unplanned encounter with an old colleague, the huddle of questioners after a notable talk — these things are difficult to recreate in a virtual conference.

It is in this spirit that I am very much looking forward to the Drug Discovery Chemistry (Drug Discovery Chemistry | April 18-21, 2022 | San Diego, CA & Online ) conference in San Diego this month. The organizers have put together a great agenda that hits so many of the hottest topics in drug discovery: protein degradation, AI, RNA-targeting, chemoproteomics, and, of course, DNA-encoded libraries. From what I’ve seen, attendance will be at least 75% in person. I will give a talk during the DEL session that describes the X-Chem drug discovery ecosystem and how we can integrate our technology platforms to accelerate our clients’ drug discovery efforts. Also, in the AI program, my colleague, Marie-Aude Guié, will describe X-Chem’s approach to AI applied to DEL screening.

Seeing folks in person again, in the beautiful San Diego spring, should make for a great conference. Hope to see you there! And don’t forget: Take the Lead. Drive Discovery!

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