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BD Horizon™ NEXT Global Educational Tour

Illuminating exciting possibilities in biology with the latest advancements in cell analysis


The year was 2013. A historic breakthrough in dye technology had been achieved a few years prior,1,2 and a new set of unique polymer dyes that were much brighter than conventional dyes and offering equivalent background and more color options was available for use in flow cytometry experiments. Scientists at BD Biosciences were excited about all the new biological questions that could be asked, the throughput that could be attained and the scientific breakthroughs that flow cytometry researchers could achieve. Flow cytometry is a powerful technique that can reveal deep insights with an in-depth understanding of the principles, knowledge of available solutions (such as fluorophore chemistry, available colors, instrument capabilities), and the ability to determine how best they can be combined and utilized in the lab for a particular application. There was a unique opportunity to share best practices in flow cytometry for scientists around the world.


While numerous trainings were available on the principles of flow cytometry and on specific commercially available instruments and fluorophores, the knowledge of how different elements in the flow cytometry workflow could be orchestrated together to obtain the answer for a specific biological question remained esoteric. There was a critical need for education on optimizing experimental strategy, panel design and flow cytometry best practices to achieve deeper insights in cell analysis. The story of unraveling the beauty of cell biology through flow cytometry had reached prime time and was ready to be told.


Storytelling is inherent to scientists—whether they be in academia or industry. That’s how two scientific minds at BD Biosciences, Robert Balderas, VP, Market Development and Ranga Partha, VP, Global Marketing, conceived the idea of a show and tell for flow cytometry by experts in the field through the BD Horizon™ Tour Program. A passionate team under their leadership took this flow cytometry educational program around the world, spreading their excitement about the recent innovations and the innumerable options they offered to the scientific community, sharing their strategies and best practices for a successful flow cytometry experiment, and disseminating valuable information on how they could build on that foundation. Starting in 2013, the BD Horizon™ Global Tour Program was offered for 5 years, reaching a worldwide audience of 10,000+ scientists and students participating in 30+ countries. As a result, the program achieved the goal of sharing best practices in  flow cytometry by enabling scientists around the globe to compete on equal footing.


After a short hiatus, the program is returning to the world stage again this May with the introduction of the BD Horizon™ NEXT Global Education Tour. So, what’s next? We caught up with both Bob and Ranga to share their thoughts on what the program has achieved and what lies ahead:



What motivated you to start this program?

Bob: When we had access to all these wonderful polymer dyes and the new colors and possibilities that they opened up, I wanted to create a way for people to see their impact in real life. At the end of the day, all scientists compete for the same journals. I wanted to eliminate flow knowledge as an impediment to success. I wanted to create a program where scientists can listen and learn. So, I took the concept of these dyes and embedded in the story of building strong flow fundamentals. Once you train a group of scientists on flow cytometry best practices, they can amplify that message, build on that momentum and be part of that remarkable change that is happening in the field of flow cytometry.


Ranga: To me, the motivation was two-fold: first, telling the biological stories that have real implications of utility in the lab and second, providing this as an educational source for anyone who uses flow cytometry. We witnessed tons of students, application scientists, postdocs and research technicians attending the program and benefiting from it.


They also provided valuable feedback, and we used their insightful questions to develop subsequent programs and even in developing new products that addressed those questions.


What was the composition of the training team and how did you pick your locations?

Bob: Our team consisted of all PhD scientists, who were flow cytometry experts. Our motive was that whichever part of the world you are in, you should not be constrained by lack of knowledge on the fundamentals of flow cytometry.  So, we traveled across all major continents and to 30+ countries to build strength in flow cytometry in scientists.


What was your most memorable experience?

Bob: The number of people attending the event sometimes was quite unexpected. For example, once in Chennai, India, we had about four busloads of people attending our event. We did not expect that volume of attendance. But we made it work and it was very memorable.

The other satisfying memory is reading thousands of reflective emails that we received after the tours. We used them as the basis for subsequent tours, filling in the gaps.


Ranga: The sheer size of the participant groups and the interest they showed was very memorable for me. For example, once in China, we had more than 300+ attendees, all exhibiting keen interest in learning from us.


Another amazing aspect is that the material we offered then is still being used as training material across all regions. There are several satellite events ongoing with the educational material we provided during the BD Horizon™ Tour.


Why are you reviving the program at this time? What is the goal this time?

Bob: We have had other educational programs in recent years. However, in the past few years, flow cytometry has moved a giant step forward with the advent of spectral and imaging flow cytometry. Current instrumentation has enabled the depth of biology that we can now study to be several-fold higher than previously possible. So, I want to focus on that.


The goal follows on the general flow theme. The new theme will be centered around what is normal in terms of diversity of receptor expression. We’ll go into the details of receptor biology, the cohorts of normal receptors and how they diverge.


Ranga:  In the past few years, there has been a remarkable technological evolution with innovations in flow cytometry instrumentation, like spectral flow cytometers and imaging-enabled cell sorters, as well as a concomitant advancement in spectrally optimized dyes. All these innovations offer unprecedented capabilities for addressing immunology questions that could not be addressed before. So, now is the time to continue what we were doing effectively in the past, educating the flow cytometry community on what new biological problems can now be addressed with all these breakthroughs.


What can the attendees expect?

Bob: We are planning over 15 worldwide events across all continents. We’ll have multiple talks linked together to look at the diversity of flow cytometry applications. It will be a day of biology, incorporating high-dimensional flow, designing panels for deep immune cell lineages, analysis with new algorithms and connected software to evaluate and show how technologies that are available now can be used to discover differences between normal and abnormal. The modules are flexible, so attendees can pick and choose what they want to attend.


Ranga: We’ll introduce the attendees to the cutting-edge technologies available right now and educate them on what can be accomplished using these new innovations. It will be on a similar scale as our previous tours. This is another global tour that will span five continents! Attendees can expect to learn about the newest technologies from flow cytometry experts. These are exciting times!


Watch the introductory video about the BD Horizon™ NEXT Global Education Tour.