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Back from Boston

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Another ACS National Meeting, this time in Boston, is over and I’m finally home. I gave two talks, one on issues surrounding the data deluge in modern drug discovery and another one on structure activity landscapes. There were a number of great sessions in CINF, COMP and MEDI, with some thought-provoking talks. I especially liked a talk given by Birte Seebeck, in which they abstracted the idea of SALI (which focuses on structural features of ligands) to one that considers interactions betwen a ligand and a receptor – thus identifying activity hotspots within a protein site that actually cause the activity cliffs. The idea is somewhat similar to SiFT’s, but differs in that it takes into account the SAR. (As a side note, I discovered that one of our landscape papers is in the Top 25 in Drug Discov. Today). Gerry Maggiora gave a very thought provoking talk on the topic of activity cliffs,  highlighting the fact that there’s a lot of open questions that need to be looked at in this area. Ant Nicholls of spoke on the disconnect between molecular modeling in academia industry. His three suggestions: rigorous statistics training, stop government funding for all but basic research and all remaining funding must have an experimental component.

I also met up with a number of old friends, met some people with whom I’d only had email or FriendFeed conversations and made new friends. We had a Blue Obelisk dinner, with Christoph awarding a Blue Obelisk to Nina Jeliazkova. This time round, we got a whole restaraunt to ourselves, thanks to Christoph, so conversations was much easier! Also the financial contribution towards the dinner from Bob Belford and Harry Pence was very much appreciated.

At this meeting I finally got round to making use of Twitter – it turns out it was quite useful for keeping running notes during a talk, as well as keeping track of other parallel sessions. Thanks to Egon for those extra tweets (though maybe Egon and I were being a bit obssesive!?). A quick hack I put together just before the meeting allowed Tweeters to visualize the Twitter stream emanating from the ACS meeting as a word cloud. Obviously, it works better with more people tweeting, but cute nonetheless.

As always, CINF hosts some great receptions and this meetings’ ones were no exception. Though the weather didn’t cooperate, the convention center was pretty nice in providing free wireless. This came in especially useful as we had a speaker with three talks in our program but was unable to make it to the meeting. With the wireless available, we successfully connected with him over Skype, and with me switching slides, were able to have him present (audio and video) his work. Definitely not a trend we want to encourage, but for emergencies, “Skype talks” are great!

At this meeting I also organized an experimental symposium consisting of lightning talks – 8 minutes talks on arbitrary (but hopefully interesting) topics in chemical information and cheminformatics. While we only had 5 speakers, we had a great set of talks – I’m still amazed at how Richard West got through 24 slides in 7 minutes so smoothly! While it could have been publicized better, we got a lot of good feedback and will be running a revamped version in Denver, next fall.

Overall a pretty good meeting, and my last meeting as CINF Program Chair. I had a great time in this role, and with the help of a very capable Program Committee, I think we were able to successfully develop interesting multidisciplinary programs over the last four meetings. As I step down, Rachelle Bienstock from the NIEHS will take over as Program Chair, and I wish her all the best. However, I’m not done with CINF just yet :) I’ve been elected as Chair-Elect of CINF for 2011 so will be switching roles (though I certainly hope to continue contributing to the CINF program in the future).

I’ll end with three suggestions for the ACS: 1. Seriously consider letting divisions to drop Thursdays 2. Reduce registration fees & do a better job on hotel rates 3. Fix the meetings to one or two places (preferably San Francisco).

Update: I had misstated Anthony Nicholl points from his presentation. The post is updated to the correct that.

Written by Rajarshi Guha

August 27th, 2010 at 2:54 am

Posted in cheminformatics

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Lightning Talks at the Fall ACS (Boston)

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Another ACS is coming up this fall in Boston. As in the past there’ll be lots of symposia in various divisions,on various topics. But common to all of them is the fact that they were submitted nearly 6 months ago and in most cases talk about work that is already published.

While the ACS meetings usually have some pretty interesting symposia and talks, it’s not always the best venue for getting breaking news. So to address this, CINF will be holding a short session consisting of lightning talks – 6 minute talks, strictly timed (think of loud bells and maybe even a fog horn) on any topic related to cheminformatics and chemical information.

Lightning talks are certainly fun (see Ignite for example). But it wouldn’t be fun if we had to hear 6 minute synopses of old work. So, for this session, we’re not going through PACS. In fact we’re going to accept submissions from July 17 to Aug 7. The expectation being that speakers are going to talk about recent developments and not rehash old work.

This is an experimental symposium, so we’ll likely have just 8 to 10 speakers. But I’m excited as this a brand new format and should be a lively session. Hopefully, the cheminformatics crowd can put on a good show! (Or as the Ignite motto states: ‘Enlighten us, but make it quick‘).

I’ve included the full announcement below

For the 2010 Fall meeting in Boston, CINF will be running an experimental session of lightning talks – short, strictly timed talks. The session does not have a specific topic, however, all talks should be related to cheminformatics and chemical information. One of the key features of this session is that we will not be using the traditional ACS abstract submission system, since that system precludes the inclusion of recent work in the program.

So, since we will be accepting abstracts directly, the expectation is that they be about recent work and developments, rather than rehashes of year-old work. In addition, talks should not be verbal versions of posters submitted for this meeting. Given the short time limits we don’t expect great detail – but we are expecting compact and informative presentations.

That’s the challenge.


  • Talks should be no longer than 6 minutes in length. At 6 minutes, you will be asked to stop.
  • Use as many slides as you want, as long as you can finish in 6 minutes
  • Talks should not be rehashes of poster presentations
  • Talks will run back to back, and questions & discussion will be held of off until the end

If you haven’t participated in these types of talks before here are some suggestions:

  • No more than three slides for a 5 minute talk (but if you can pull of 20 slides in 6 minutes, more power to you)
  • Avoid slides with too much text (and don’t paste PDF’s of papers!)
  • A single chart per slide and make sure labels are readable at a distance


Aug 23, 2:45 PM

Submissions run from July 17 to Aug 7


Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Room 155. You can get a map of the concourse here


  • Send in an abstract of about 100 – 120 words to
  • We will let you know if you will be speaking by Aug 15 and we will need slide decks by Aug 20
  • You must be registered for the meeting
  • Note that the usual publication/copyright rules apply
  • We will encourage live blogging and tweets (if we have net access)

Written by Rajarshi Guha

June 30th, 2010 at 3:38 am

Posted in cheminformatics

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