With a concentration on lessons learned from the pandemic and the future of COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, the in-person 2021 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo drew thousands of laboratory medical professionals to Atlanta from September 26 to 30.

Although this year’s attendance is estimated in the low thousands — in contrast to the nearly 20,000 attendees AACC reported in 2019 — the in-person event was a welcome change from last year’s virtual format.

“I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity of an in-person annual meeting,” says Khushbu Patel, PhD, director of clinical chemistry at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The ability to network and make meaningful connections with colleagues could only happen at such an event. I had a great time catching up with both old and new friends at the meeting.” 

Educational sessions at the meeting included five plenary talks presented by scientific luminaries. In the opening keynote, Regina Barzilay, PhD, winner of AACC’s 2021 Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award, described how her experiences as a cancer patient led her to recognize the trove of patient data that is not fully utilized, and how she is using artificial intelligence to change that. 

Monday’s plenary speaker, Margaret Liu, MD, DSchc, MDhs, FISV, discussed the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and the efforts to combat it, emphasizing that COVID-19 countermeasures must continue to adapt quickly along with the changing virus. 

In Tuesday’s plenary, Bonnie Ramsey, MD, recounted her scientific journey in developing a cystic fibrosis therapy known as CFTR modulators, and Caley Mauch — a cystic fibrosis survivor — shared how these modulators have changed her life. 

On Wednesday, Holden Thorp, PhD, editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals, gave his unique perspective on the effects the pandemic has had on the scientific workforce and the ability to build public trust in science. 

In the closing keynote, Wilbur A. Lam, MD, PhD, discussed microsystems-based COVID-19 diagnostics, as well as his laboratory’s recent advances in miniaturization of diagnostic platforms. 

Although this year’s AACC Clinical Lab Expo was smaller than usual, AACC reported that the exhibitor-to-attendee ratio was on par with previous years. IVD companies showcased the latest diagnostic technology, in areas ranging from COVID-19 testing to mass spectrometry and automation. 

“Laboratory medicine and diagnostic testing have taken center stage, and the AACC Annual Scientific Meeting attendees were highly engaged,” says John Sperzel, chairman and CEO of T2Biosystems, Lexington, Mass. “We commend AACC leadership for their efforts to maintain a safe environment for all attendees.” 

The plenary and other select scientific sessions and abstracts will be available for on-demand viewing through November 1 on the AACC digital meeting platform. Press can register for digital access here, and members of the general public can register here.

“The 2021 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo has not only been a terrific showcase of the latest diagnostic innovations—it has also been a testament to the strength and perseverance of the people behind these innovations,” says AACC CEO Mark J. Golden. “It took an extraordinary amount of effort to make sure that this meeting could take place safely and in person. We at AACC are so proud of how the laboratory medicine community came together for this event, and we look forward to seeing even more of the community at next year’s conference.” 

The 2022 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo will be held in Chicago from July 24-28, 2022.

Featured Image: Downtown Atlanta, Georgia, site of the 2021 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo. Photo: Dreamstime.