The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) is holding its 68th AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from July 31 to August 4. The massive 18,000-person conference hosts breakthrough innovations in clinical testing and patient care, and 2016’s program features presentations by distinguished experts on cannabis, premature death, “intelligent” surgical knives, programmable bio-nano-chips, and the epigenetic causes of disease, to name just a few.

This year’s conference covers a lot. Even for seasoned scientists, catching up with the latest in other fields can be disorienting when you emerge from your lab into the blinding light of day. But fear not, we’ve done all the catch-up Googling for you, and broken down the show’s hottest topics into bite-sized paragraphs to prep you for productive networking at AACC.

Here is Chempetitive Group’s low-down on what we expect lab medicine’s brightest minds to be talking about in the Starbucks line:

Theranos explains itself
For the first time in front of a scientific crowd, Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of diagnostics company Theranos, will present data that describes the company’s proprietary small sample volume testing and finger-stick collection. Theranos has been drawing controversy and widespread media attention after promising to revolutionize the way lab testing occurs in the United States. The company claims its proprietary phlebotomy process uses a painless micro-needle to draw a sample not much bigger than a few drops of blood—still enough, though, to perform more than 70 assays per sample. The session, which takes place Monday, August 1 from 4:30 – 6 p.m., gives AACC attendees a chance to ask questions and learn about how the company’s technology works.

As of last week, Elizabeth Holmes has been banned from running a medical laboratory for at least two years, and Theranos’ Newark, California laboratory has also lost its license.

All highs considered – expert perspectives on cannabis
The states, the Fed, and public opinion are all moving toward legalization of marijuana, so it’s no wonder August 4th’s plenary speaker is slated to cover medicine’s latest insights on the drug – including acute and chronic effects, impact on driving, and methods to measure its presence in the body. Here’s some national context:

25 states have legalized medical marijuana, and four have legalized it recreationally (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon & Washington). 2016 may be the year that a majority of states will adopt legal medical marijuana.
A question crucial for research and legislation was just answered: an average American joint has .32 grams of marijuana.
The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016, a bipartisan bill to clear red tape around cannabis research, was just proposed in Congress.

State of Zika
The August 2 late-breaking session will focus on Zika. Two speakers will cover the latest progress in detecting the virus, and a third will discuss FDA emergency use authorization guidelines for Zika assays. Here’s what to know going in:

Before its connection to microcephaly was established, Zika was thought to be fairly benign – that’s why diagnostics and treatment are only now being researched heavily.
The CDC maintains a map of all known countries and territories with active Zika.
The FDA grants emergency use authorization (EUA) to unapproved devices and medications to diagnose and treat diseases that present a public health emergency, and for which no approved treatments and tests exist. Here is a list of Zika assays and tests currently approved under EUA.

Taking aim at big targets
With global efforts, could we cut rates of premature death in half? The August 1 plenary speaker Sir Richard Peto, FRS, has a vision for how we can get there. He and his colleagues have documented that worldwide deaths from tobacco are actually growing to epidemic proportions, and argues that fighting this as well as alcoholism can drastically reduce premature death, which is generally measured as the proportion of people who die before age 70-75.

This accounts for a huge number of lives extended – especially in low and middle-income countries, where about 48% of people die before 70. Tobacco kills around 6 million people each year, and 80% of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in these low and middle-income countries, so when it comes to fighting premature death, tobacco is certainly a large and low-hanging fruit.

More AACC Clinical Lab Expo 2016 Homework
Want to get a head start on networking or some last-minute conference pointers? Let’s meet! Chempetitive’s Todd Kuna will be representing at the conference – he’s a lab researcher turned life science marketer and is ecstatic to talk lab medicine. Reach out to Todd on LinkedIn.

To be fully versed in all things AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo, check out these in-depth resources:

Search tool to find sessions by topic, time, and speaker
Find exhibitors and devices you’re interested in, at the Clinical Lab Expo 2016
AACC socials – a mixer, a scavenger hunt, a mentalist performance…