ImmuONE’s takeaways from the #SOT2023
As a first-time visitor to the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Annual Meeting and the US for that matter, I was unsure of what to expect when visiting Nashville last week for the 23rd SOT symposium. Upon arriving at the airport, the sun was setting, bathing the skyline in the distance with a beautiful orange glow. When we drove from the airport into the city, it was illuminated by neon signs, backlit billboards, and skyscrapers. It was a truly beautiful sight.
Ewelina, myself, and Clive (our consultant) spent the next day exploring the city, taking in the sights, eating far too much BBQ food, and stopping for the occasional drink in the downtown live music bars, or “Honky Tonks”. It was amazing to hear so much live music! I had never been much of a fan of country music, but seeing the fantastic musicians play with their hearts and souls, alongside the energetic vibes inside the bars, it was easy to see why country music is so popular. There is definitely more than one country song that has now found its way into my Spotify playlists!
After the sun set, the whole downtown area came alive, with crowds of people piling in to watch the live music and experience the street party. It felt more like the Magaluf Strip; a sensory overload with neon-lit bars, music pumping out at full blast, and thousands of hen parties all donning the obligatory pink cowboy hat attire, screaming down the streets.
Prior to the conference starting, we luckily had a little time to explore more of the city, including the cultural monuments, the country music museum, and, of course, many more live music bars and independent breweries. The latter is becoming an important destination for those post-conference “meetings”.
On Sunday, we set up our booth in the conference centre alongside other exhibitors. It was lovely to feel a real sense of camaraderie among the other exhibitors as we helped each other set up. I felt incredibly proud to be part of the ImmuONE team, as our booth was clearly very well designed and aesthetically beautiful. I was eager to get started and meet other attendees.
On Sunday evening, we attended a welcome drink reception in the conference centre. This was an incredibly useful experience, as I was able to meet some of our existing clients, collaborators, and even competitors. In addition, this was an opportunity to network and meet people, encouraging them to come along to our booth the next day for the full ImmuONE experience. There were some interesting appetisers, including waffle-coated chicken, which was the most American thing I have ever tried!
The first day flew by as I found myself having conversation after conversation with many interesting people. Our booth was clearly a hit, and evidently many wanted to try their luck at our competition, with an opportunity to win an incredibly adorable macrophage plushie. There was a real range of conversations, with many interested in our products, others in our services, some looking for potential job opportunities, and still more intrigued in the exciting things we do at ImmuONE. I particularly enjoyed these conversations, including talking with PhD students and postdocs about their projects as they came with CVs to hand out.
When looking at nearby stands, they had a fraction of the traffic coming to ours. While other exhibitors sat on their phones and laptops waiting to be approached, we were constantly engaged in animated discussions with a wide range of people. My favourite quote was “I just love popping by your stand as you’re all so friendly”. I think it sums up the general vibe at our booth; we were always smiling and really enjoying our time getting to talk to people from around the world. Many people discovered that actually ImmuONE was solving a problem that was relevant for their company, even if it didn’t appear so at first!
I spent a lot of time exploring the other booths in the centre hall, finding potential leads, and giving my pitch to top Contract Research Organisations (CROs), biotech companies and consultants. It was interesting to get a feel for how other companies work, what they need, and how best ImmuONE can support them in getting there.
It was a tiring day, but incredibly rewarding! I felt that that day alone generated a wealth of potential leads and allowed us to share the ImmuONE brand with many new people.
The days passed in a similar fashion, with many exciting conversations throughout the day, followed by drinks and music-filled evenings in the downtown area with collaborators and potential clients. I was often too busy to catch a lot of the symposium sessions and talks, but those I did visit were very insightful into market demand and how best to position ImmuONE for future growth.
When Thursday arrived, it was time to dismantle our stand and grab our last beer as a team! Ewelina and I still had one more night in the city, so alongside our collaborator from Senzagen, we went to watch a National Hockey League (NHL) game in the downtown stadium, cheering on the Nashville Predators! Having never seen an NHL ice hockey game before, I was blown away by the whole experience in the stadium. There was a powerful atmosphere in the stadium, with chanting, halftime shows, light displays, and of course a nail-biting penalty shoot-out that saw the “Preds” claim victory over Seattle.
Now on the plane home, exhausted and reflecting on my experiences, I could not be happier. I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do and work alongside some amazing people. Meeting new contacts, forming friendships, and having the opportunity to discuss innovative thinking at the forefront of science—what more could you ask for?