The imprint of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be visible on life-sciences events. However, 2021 events like the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) PharmSci 360 conference are showing signs of getting back to normal—the industry event is taking place October 17-20 online and in the real world (Philadelphia, to be precise).
Tina Morris, AAPS executive director, shared with Outsourcing-Pharma a glimpse at the event, and what benefits attendees can expect to gain from attending.
OSP: Could you please tell us about PharmSci 360—what stands out about this event from other industry gatherings (in-person, virtual, and hybrid)?
TM: AAPS brings its members together to share research and conversations that advance the capacity of pharmaceutical scientists to develop products and therapies that improve global health. PharmSci 360 is the most comprehensive way we do that in a normal year, and especially during the pandemic.
Our volunteer leaders—in industry, academia, and regulatory areas—have collaborated to develop a two-meetings-in-one plan for 2021. To support those who cannot travel, we are offering a complete virtual program, which was released on October 11; this means scientists around the world can watch sessions and communicate with speakers and other attendees regardless of the time zone they live in. There are more than 300 hours of on-demand programming!
For the scientists who can travel, we will hold an in-person meeting in Philadelphia, October 17-20, which is an extension and enrichment of the virtual program. Our Scientific Programming Committee has remixed the program so in-person attendees can expect fresh-from-the-lab data and in-depth conversations; cross-topic panels; and new formats like our Speaker Spotlight stages, which feature one or two speakers in an intimate discussion. The scientists who come to Philadelphia will have an expanded experience.
All attendees will have access to the recordings and Connect 360, our virtual networking platform, which facilitates connecting new and old colleagues virtually or in person.
PharmSci 360’s scientific program is built on six tracks:
- Discovery and Basic Research
- Preclinical Development
- Clinical Pharmacology
- Manufacturing and Analytical Characterization
- Formulation and Delivery.
The conference will open with plenary speaker Siddartha Mukherjee, M.D., oncologist, cancer researcher, and Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer. The closing plenary session will feature Kathrin Jansen, Ph.D., senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, whose team led the development of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.
More than 700 posters will also be presented either in person or virtually throughout the conference.
PharmSci 360 offers the unparalleled experience of bringing scientists together from throughout the entire drug development process, and there are many topics that span more than one track. Some of this year’s featured topic areas include oligonucleotides, new drug development processes, drug transporters, mass spectrometry, dissolution, excipients, RNA, biomarkers, vaccines, gene therapy, AI, PROTACs, continuous manufacturing, and immunogenicity.
OSP: The past 18+ months have been packed with challenges (thanks in large part to COVID-19), but also opportunities. Could you tell us a little bit about that, and how the content of this year’s event will help attendees deal with such a dynamic environment?
TM: Those working in the pharmaceutical sciences have been affected by lab capacity challenges, high demand, and supply chain disruptions throughout the past 18 months. Despite the many obstacles, pharmaceutical companies, universities, and suppliers have come together in an unprecedented way to fight one mutual enemy: COVID-19.
The challenging environment that our field has faced has been seeded with unique opportunities to fundamentally rethink and evolve how we go about drug development. When we will look back at this time in the future, hopefully it will be with the appreciation for many paradigm-shifting innovations and changes that have been introduced for the benefit of bringing cures to patients faster and with even higher quality.
AAPS, more than ever, is an important convener of scientists—bringing thousands together to learn from one another with the goal of advancing research toward products and therapies that improve global health. PharmSci 360 will be this year’s premier opportunity for scientists to meet, converse, and advance their collective knowledge—virtually or in person. In particular, the in-person sessions will provide up-to-the-minute research findings and recent experiences that can help scientists immediately in their labs and offices.
OSP: Please share how organizers decided upon a hybrid environment and share an overview of how that format will work this year.
TM: Our primary goal is to bring scientists from across the drug development process together to advance global health. With a quarter of AAPS’ membership living outside the US, it was clear that we needed a strong virtual program and an in-person event, and the software that would allow attendees to reach one another, regardless of travel restrictions.
OSP: Besides the hybrid format itself, are there any new show features you’d like to tell us about?
TM: Yes! AAPS continues to support and celebrate emerging scientists who represent the growth, future, and evolution of our field. That is why we continue to offer a robust poster program.
This year, authors will be able to present online in personalized virtual rooms if they are not attending in person in Philadelphia. We are very excited because this is the experience attendees have asked us for: the ability to walk step-by-step through a poster with the author live, online.
OSP: The program is full of interesting sessions, led by a range of experts. Are there any presentations, sessions, and/or speakers you’d like to highlight?
TM: There are many sessions and topics that span the entire continuum of the drug development and manufacturing process. It is especially beneficial to use the keyword search function in our online program to follow topics across tracks, especially if you are interested in new types of modalities (e.g., PROTACs or complex drug conjugates composed of small molecules and biologics). This way, attendees may create a fully customized experience for themselves. Some of the following sessions may be of particular interest to those working or interested in outsourcing:
- How to Fulfil Requirements of FDA Guidance on Diversity of Clinical Trial Population? Perhaps by Translational Modelling
Speaker: Amin Rostami, Ph.D., University of Manchester/Certara
- Immune Stimulating Antibody Conjugates – Manufacturing and Analytical Considerations
Speaker: Nathan Ihle, Ph.D., Bolt Biotherapeutics
- Large-Scale Mass Spectrometry Profiling: Accelerated Biomarker Discovery Drives Drug Development
Speaker Mohit Jain, M.D., Ph.D., Sapient
- Long-Acting Ocular Drug Delivery: Port Delivery System for Ranibizumab
Speaker: Shrirang Ranade, Ph.D., Genentech, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.
- Machine and Deep Learning in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
Speaker: Daniel Skomski, Ph.D., MRL Merck & Co., Inc.
- Patient Centric Sampling: Future Standard or Too Much Complexity?
Speakers: Matt Barfield, Ph.D., Roche, and Melanie Anderson, Ph.D., Merck and Co., Inc.
- Printability of Materials for Novel Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms
Speakers: Xiaoling Li, Ph.D., University of the Pacific, and Thomas Kipping, Ph.D., Merck KGaA
- Towards the Implementation of Patient Centric Blood Sampling and Analysis as a Routine: Working as a Community
Speaker: Neil Spooner, Ph.D., Spooner Bioanalytical Solutions
- An Update on the Use of Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic Modeling of Transporters: Predicting DDI, Non-Linearity and Target Tissue Exposure from in vitro to in vivo
Speaker: Yuichi Sugiyama, Ph.D., Josai International University School of Pharmacy
OSP: Then, please tell us about the exhibits and the array of companies available to connect with PharmSci 360 attendees.
TM: PharmSci 360 will host more than 175 scientific partners this year. But our Solution Center (exhibit hall) offers much more than booths.
AAPS partners deliver scientific presentations, software demos, and technology spotlights on various stages in the Solution Center. The peer-reviewed Partner Presentations are especially popular—they are often standing-room-only. Partners bring their scientists to this meeting to give attendees practical advice and to explain the science behind their solutions.
Partners also participate in our Career Development program, including helping job seekers improve their LinkedIn profiles and résumés in our Career Development Center, and encouraging the next generation at our Mentoring Breakfast.
AAPS’ partners cover the entire expanse of pharmaceutical sciences. Representatives with expertise in analytical testing, instruments, packaging and distribution services, solid dose processing services, chemical supplies, granulators/mills, modeling, software, and much more will be available at the event. It is a great source for applied and innovative solutions to the problems you are having at work right now.
OSP: Is there anything else you’d like to add—about the event, specific sessions/features, or the challenges the industry is facing right now?
TM: We are once again very fortunate to have many of our regulatory colleagues confirm their participation in our meeting. The support of our FDA and other agency colleagues is especially important at a time when we work in such a rapidly shifting environment.
How the agency is responding with new guidance to an-ever evolving drug development landscape will lead to some very interesting discussions. These are not limited to their COVID-19 response, but also how the overall regulatory priorities have had to shift at a time when a pandemic is fundamentally impacting resources from the clinic to the manufacturing floor.
AAPS PharmSci 360 is scheduled online, and in-person in Philadelphia, October 17-20. Read here for more information or to register.