Laura and I attended the 2022 ABRF (Association of Biomolecular Resources Facilities) meeting. Laura’s ‘A Tale of Two Cytometry Platforms’ on getting quality data in spectral flow was, in my opinion, the highlight of the meeting, and was very well received. She was following Dr. Diether Recktenwald, an accomplished leader in the field of Flow cytometry, provided an historical perspective on the development of spectral flow. While we tend to see it as a recently developed innovation, Dr. Ricktenwald reminds us that a great number of attempts have been made over the years to bring it to life, only to be thwarted by limitations in the technology. It was an eye opener presentation indeed, and I look forward for more discussions with Dr. Rictenwald who has deep knowledge of the field of cytometry.
I myself was asked by Miltenyi to make some noises about the MACSQuant Tyto, which I’m always happy to do. I feel the instrument does not have the level of exposure it deserves. I was impressed by the work done at the facility of my co-presenter Jasmine Plummer, Associate Director at Applied Genomics. Jasmine correctly pointed out that the quality of the sequencing data relies hugely on the quality of the samples. This is something I have known for a while, and I’ve been looking for any kind of devices that would help us clean up samples for our users. But the data that Jasmine presented, using the Tyto HS (high-speed) cartridges for that purpose was another eye opener. We don’t need another gizmo, the Tyto is where it’s at!
Here’s a few remarks I’ll make about what I gathered at the meeting:
- SRL career stepping stones, and getting more people in the pipeline
There was a number of discussions about the staffing issues many SRLs are facing. A simple way of putting it is that SRLs struggle to attract candidates, and ounce they are trained, they quickly move to industry where the salary conditions are better. All that can be done in a SRL is to try to keep it’s talent for as long as possible, and continuously keep training new people. The main issue is that hiring new people is a tremendous challenge and many cores are struggling to find anyone. There’s a few solutions being discussed at ABRF, including the idea of creating a partnership with community colleges and providing them with a curriculum that would provide the basic knowledge on applicable technologies. So one could get a specific training in college on Flow cytometry, coupled with a apprenticeship in a core facility, The benefit would be to increase the pool of candidates available. It’s an interesting idea, and we’ll see if it can gain traction.
- The risks of hybrid meetings
ABRF decided to organize a hybrid conference with most of its in person sessions being broadcast live on Zoom. This proved to be a challenge for the organizers that was not fully resolved. Even with a full professional team dedicated to AV, most sessions experienced some kind of technical issues constantly breaking the flow of presentations (including an infuriating Zoombomb during a key session of the meeting. As someone currently involved in the organization of three upcoming meetings, I take these issues as ominous warning signs. At this time, my feeling is that the benefit of grabbing a few more attendee is probably not worth the effort and risks of running a hybrid event. Prove me wrong in the comments below!