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DPharm 2011 Co Chair Blog

  • May 23, 2012

  • DPharm 2011 Co Chair Blog

    Our Co-Chair, Puneet Sapra, Director, World Wide Business Development & Innovation at Pfizer writes a blog about his thoughts from our September 2011 program:

    Last year, I had the pleasure of working with a distinguished and experienced team to curate the DPharm conference in Philadelphia in September — a TED-style event showcasing innovations and leading practitioners in Pharma R&D with a slight focus on clinical research.

    Life Science Leader Chief Editor, Robert Wright, punctually blogged about the event (“Yo Adrian! – The Disruptive Innovation Event Was A Knockout”).  Although three months have passed since the conference, I’m finally getting around to highlighting three themes that surfaced from the 25 speakers that underscore the promise and challenge of innovation in Pharma R&D:

    1. The Pharma industry is only just scratching the surface of transformative approaches to developing and testing new products.  Scientists, physicians, patients, technologists and strategists have enormous potential to re-design development and testing approaches as the industry shifts goals from population-based, blockbuster products to precision-based, personalized products.  This shift demands a lot of everyone.  For example, it requires re-thinking the role of the patient in clinical research. Requires novel applications of information technology and science.  It also demands new skills of leaders.  Greg Simon (Pfizer), John Orloff (Novartis), Parvis Ghahramani (Forest Labs) peeled back the complexities, thinking and actions required to make exciting strides using science, technology and business models.

    2. We can better apply the full-spectrum of clinical research options and utilize insights thereof appropriately.  The first step is appreciating the full spectrum of options.  Clinical research is no more a monolithic practice of prospective double-blinded placebo randomized controlled trials.  Yes, RCTs are the “gold standard” for regulatory approval of new medicines.  But, “real world” studies serve an important role.  Retrospective and prospective analysis of the real-life experience of patients’  experience with therapies, care pathways, incentives can also provide important insights to transform health care.  Steve Labkoff (AstraZeneca) and Ben Heywood (PatientsLikeMe) provided relevant examples of the latter.

    3. The role of innovator in clinical research is not for the faint of heart, and we need more.   This was perhaps the most valuable takeaway for many.  It’s obvious to many that successfully launching a new initiative with external partners demanded seemingly super-human levels of insight, perseverance and courage.  It was much less obvious how much these qualities needed to be applied to move organizations internally as well.  Fortunately, with practice the skills of an innovator can be developed.  Designing a creative solution and finding a way to implement it – the essence of innovation – can be learned.  Miguel Orri (Pfizer), Jon Platt (?WhatIf!), Randy Spaulding (Spaulding Clinical) and others shared their experiences of how they got things done.

    Over 150 people attended the event.  The feedback was encouraging, especially for an inaugural event.  One attendee’s comment summed up the caliber of the crowd:

    “This was the first conference where I felt I learned with people who can truly change the world.”

    I was honored to be a part of it.  As we look forward to the September 13-14, 2012 event in Boston, please feel free to reach out or send your comments to with areas of interest you’d like to see part of for the 2012 event.