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A gathering of global perspectives ….. a look at DIA’s annual meeting: Post 1 of 2

Posted on July 11th, 2016 by in Pharma R&D

DIA’s annual meeting

At the end of June, the Drug Information Association (DIA), held its annual conference with this year’s theme being “A Gathering of Global Perspectives.”  The meeting, held in Philadelphia, offered a wide variety of tracks from which you could “pick and mix” — 23 in total — most of which were related to specific topics and functional roles within industry, for example: Innovative Partnering Models and Outsourcing Strategies; Preclinical and Translational Development; Rare/Orphan Disease; or Clinical Safety and Pharmacovigilance. Other tracks were a bit more broadly categorized , such as “Poster Presentations” or “DIAmond” so one had to be inspired to dig a bit deeper to find out if there was a “there” there, so-to-speak.

In fact, the DIAmond sessions, which were billed as “Conversations on Today’s Priorities,” offered just that, with a series of panel discussions or presentations, each featuring a different topic, for example: patient engagement, next generation collaborations, international regulatory convergence, outcomes-based healthcare, and big data.  With my attendance limited to only two days (Monday and Tuesday), I wanted to focus on the DIAmond sessions, but didn’t get to see as many as I might have hoped due to the  fact that they ran in parallel at the start of each day, as opposed to running throughout the day.

One DIAmond session I did catch was Next Generation Collaborations:  Transforming the Industry, which was led by Dalvir Gill, PhD, CEO of Transcelerate Biopharma, Inc., with panelists including Jonathan Jarow, PhD, Director (Acting),  Office of Medical Policy, CDER, FDA; C. David Nicholson, PhD, EVP, Brand R&D, Allergan, Inc;   Margaret Anderson, MA, Executive Director, FasterCures, A Center of The Miliken Institute; Christopher Austin, MD, Director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the US NIH;  and  Drew Schiller, Co-founder and CTO, Validic.

At the outset of the session, Dr. Nicholson spoke to Allergan’s strategy of building the greater extent of its pipeline by following an open science model, supplemented by a small internal R&D operation, and how that approach has been $1 billion more cost-effective, on average, than the current $2.6B average development cost cited in the well-known TCSDD study.   This led into discussions about the growth in pre-competitive collaborations and consortia which teed up the opportunity for Ms. Anderson to speak to FasterCure’s work in putting together a Consortia-pedia Catalogue that profiles more than 400 research consortia – including their mission, structure, data sharing, partners, and more.  Because consortia often involve patient groups, Mr. Schiller swung the panel conversation in the direction of the patient, and remarked on the need for better and more innovative approaches to subject recruitment, remote patient monitoring, and engagement and adherence. Dr. Jarrow responded with an open question about “the science behind patient input” and that regulators have “a lot of work to do” in terms of looking ahead and understanding the implications of a quickly evolving landscape (this prompted some sidebar questioning of whether or not the FDA is adequately funded for this type of effort).

Dr. Gill, as moderator, did a good job of bringing the discussion together at the end, speaking to how much waste currently exists in R&D and the need to be more efficient and effective.  As an example one of the panelists spoke to “good intention getting in the way of good planning” and the need for consortia to do more landscape analysis before jumping in.  Another example cited was data sharing and how “much is known in different heads” and a declaration that the default should be sharing.  Lastly, clinical trials were discussed.  There was reference to how so much waste stems from the desire to drive the competition into the ditch vs. information sharing that leads to eliminating waste.   As a part of this discussion Dr. Gill spoke to Transcelerate’s clinical trials protocol convergence initiative. Indeed, there’s a lot of collaboration and transformation occurring across industry, albeit more evolutionary than revolutionary.  While this may be expected given the scope and complexity of the industry, arguably there’s room for a bit more revolution.

Of the remaining five sessions I attended over the two days, two additional sessions were worth noting: Envision the Future: How Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Change Our Regulatory Environment and Dr. Larry Brilliant’s plenary session presentation entitled Bad Bugs, Good People, and Big, Bold Ideas. These two sessions will be covered in a forthcoming post.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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