The Australian High Content Screening Group (AHCSG) was established in 2009 by Dr Kurt Lackovic at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. Soon after, Associate Professor Kaylene Simpson (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) joined Kurt to organize the first major meeting of the organization as a satellite to the 2010 Lorne Cancer Conference hosting 3 international HCA experts. In July 2010, the first RNAi Australia meeting was held at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne to a closed audience of 45 researchers working with the Dharmacon RNAi Technologies platform.
In 2013, we recognised the need for HCA and RNAi communities to come together and share their experiences, resulting in a joint HCA‐RNAi meeting, which has enjoyed a regular attendance of approximately 90 delegates ranging from experienced screeners to researchers only starting in the field. In 2016, we rebranded ourselves as Functional High Throughput Technologies Australia (incorporating AHCSG and HCA-RNAi) to better reflect the diversity of screening technologies that have emerged in that time, and we moved the location of our meeting to the new Peter Mac site in Parkville, Melbourne. In 2017, we diversified the format of the meeting to focus more on a ‘workshop-style’ lab sessions, where we capped the format to 45 delegates, and had international speaker(s) perform hands-on session on Cell Profiler for 2D phenotypic analysis and on the second day, 3D models and image analysis.
All of this has been possible with our Foundation/Gold over the years, who have generously supported our meeting by sponsoring international experts in the field to speak at the meeting and engage with the Australian early- and mid-career researchers, which comprise the majority of our attendees. In fact, one of the most important aspects of our annual meetings has been to focus on young scientists who use this forum to showcase their key discoveries and discuss potential pitfalls with their peers and experts in the field.
The development of novel high-throughput approaches has been rapidly accelerating resulting in an array of technologies that exist side-by-side, and that should be used in a complementary manner to generate comprehensive high-impact data. Although the Australian screening community has readily embraced this ethos, we recognise a need to further educate our researchers on how to fully exploit these powerful tools in their research.
Last year (2018), we hosted the meeting at The John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in Canberra. Our meeting covered CRISPR, RNAi, compound and 3D screening, coupled with High Content Analysis and Flow Cytometry-based screening, presented by both National and International experts in these fields.