While the COVID-19 virus has brought many businesses to a crawl or total stop, the pharmaceutical industry can hardly afford to let a global pandemic interrupt its work. Similarly, industry events (traditionally a platform life-sciences professionals rely upon to learn new technologies and techniques) like the CPhI Festival of Pharma (taking place over two weeks, October 5-16) are taking their programming online, so the learning and sharing of vital information can continue.
Outsourcing-Pharma (OSP) recently discussed the Festival of Pharma with Tara Dougal (TD), head of content at CPhI Festival of Pharma, and how organizers have worked to provide real value in a virtual program.
OSP: The shift from real-world event to the virtual realm is pretty dramatic. How did CPhI staff come to navigate the digital-event world?
TD: Anyone who has been to our live events knows that CPhI is all about connections, so one of the biggest challenges we faced was how we deliver tailored meeting and networking opportunities in a virtual environment. At the Festival of Pharma, we are using an AI matchmaking tool that will match to individual interests of the attendee, providing targeted and valuable connections. In terms of the content, thanks to the extension of the event, the Festival will feature our largest ever line-up of speakers and sessions.
OSP: What challenges does an online event present to attendees, compared to a real-world conference?
TD: The main challenge is that to maximize the opportunities at the event we are encouraging attendees to fill out a detailed online profile. This information will then be used to provide new insights, and new potential contacts that match prescriptively to not only your company’s needs, but even your specific job role and interests, so rather than using traditional zones will use detailed profiles to ding you the contacts your business needs.
OSP: Could you please share some of the benefits of attending a virtual CPhI? What can organizers offer, and what can attendees gain, that might not be attached to a real-world event?
TD: I like to think of it as all the benefits of CPhI, just without the blisters. The level of connection targeting with the online event is much higher thanks to out AI powered matchmaking system, and of course you don’t need to run between halls.
The fact that the event is ten days as opposed to three also means there are more partnering opportunities – feedback we routinely got from our live event was that it was a challenge to complete all meetings within the three show days, so we hope the Festival of Pharma will provide added value for attendees.
OSP: Please summarize how COVID-19 impacted the topics found on the event schedule—what concerns are different, and what topic areas remain the same (or at least are not directly related to the pandemic)?
TD: The agenda, as with every year at CPhI, reflects the priorities of the industry. So this year, there are a number of new session on the much talked about rise in domestic manufacturing and supply chain reliability, but also of course there will be sessions on how COVID is driving ‘innovation across borders’, as well as a panel that looks at ‘vaccine development challenges’ in terms of scale-up and speed.
But in addition to this, we of course have a great deal of agenda dedicated to our core areas. That means presentations from key stakeholders like Jim Miller and Gil Roth on CDMOs and CMOs, as well as everything from ‘the future of drug delivery’, ‘trends in packaging’, ‘formulation challenges’ to cutting edge areas like AI and 3-D printing and market specific sessions on India, China, Italy and Saudi Arabia amongst others.
OSP: Could you please share some of the event highlights—speakers, sessions, exhibitors, special programming, etc.?
TD: Scott Gottleib [former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner] has often been described as a rock star regulator and is universally popular, with both industry and government. His views on bringing new medicines to market are going to of huge interest and his tenure at the FDA of course saw record levels of approvals.; we all very eager to hear his presentation.
By nature, Dr Gottlieb’s presentation will be US-Centric, so we felt it was also important to cover the European angle. As such, we’re delighted to welcome Adrian van den Hoven, Director General at Medicines for Europe for a second keynote address, he will speak on ‘how lessons learnt from COVID-19 will shape future EU pharmaceutical policy’.
OSP: In a preshow announcement, you highlight the API production panel [Impact of API Globalization on Drug Shortages, October 14, 2—3:30 pm CET]—can you tell us a little bit more about the scheduled experts and what direction their discussion might take?
TD: This session will take a look at API production in China and opportunities for growth, covering specifics like the government’s tightening of regulations governing IP rights and exports verses domestic driven growth. We have some really varied expertise on this session, including Pharma Intelligence and IQVIA from a market intelligence angle, Aspen covering the industry view and Kemiex who offer a digital platform for buyers and suppliers of APIs. The key question which the panel will be addressing is what does the future look like for API manufacture in China?
OSP: Before we say goodbye, what do you think are the strongest reasons to attend CPhI’s Festival of Pharma?
TD: While the pandemic has restricted in person meeting, pharma has responded very robustly and is forecast for steady growth in the next few years. An integral part of delivering this growth however, is the ability to build and maintain supply chain and partner networks.
The Festival of Pharma is the best opportunity global buyers and suppliers have to meet and establish these partnerships at a time when the getting business done face to face is not an option. Moreover, as a digital event running for two weeks, this is a huge opportunity to widen existing networks with more contacts and of course an invaluable overview of trends and new market opportunities.
It’s different than what we’re used to, but there are a host of positives to being able to participate in a digital event – networking and building your contact list has never been so easy, and you have the opportunity to access a huge library of content when it best suits you.
The CPhI Festival of Pharma takes place digitally October 5 to 16. For more information about the program or to register, go to https://www.cphi.com/festival-of-pharma/en/home.html.