Though BIO launched its call for sessions on Thursday, September 14, 2017, the kickoff of the annual meeting’s formal educational planning process did not officially begin until Monday, September 18, 2017, at least for the planning committee that is. For while Sarah Arth, VP of education, and her team probably began planning shortly after the conclusion of this year’s meeting in San Diego, it was on this day that I, along with my fellow co-chairs Nessan Bermingham, CEO, president, and founder of Intellia Therapeutics; Leslie Williams, CEO of ImmusanT; and 57 other members of the 2018 program planning committee formally met to discuss plans for the educational component of the 2018 convention in Boston. As a committee, we realize that the show in San Diego will be tough to top. After all, it had 16,123 attendees hailing from 74 countries and 48 states. Further, the show boasts having had more than 1,800 exhibitors and facilitated more than 41,400 partnering meetings between 3,500 participating organizations. Finally, last year’s conference had more than 145 educational sessions, covering 18 tracks and involved more than 800 speakers! However, we are up for the challenge. Our goal is to have can’t-miss content, meaning — someone would rather miss a one-on-one partnering meeting than miss one of the educational sessions. But to do this we, of course, need people willing to submit interesting and novel session proposals — and not just a rehash of one that seemed to work well last year.
What Might Make For An Interesting Educational Sessions For BIO 2018?
This was the first time the planning committee meeting was ever held this early. One of the rationales behind this decision was to create a brainstorming session that would generate ideas for good sessions in 2018, with an additional outcome of these industry insiders sharing these topics with their broader network. The hope is that the more people who know what the committee is hoping to see among session submission, the more likely people will try to weave in some of these topics into their proposals. For example, one of the topics discussed involved Brent Saunders and Allergan, who have been making news headlines for a recently announced agreement. According to a press release posted on the Allergan website, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and its counsel approached the company with a sophisticated opportunity to strengthen the defense of its RESTASIS intellectual property (IP) in an upcoming inter partes review proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Could this lead to other companies taking similar approaches to protect the patents of products soon due to expire? What other interesting loopholes might exist for biopharmaceutical companies to try to protect their therapeutics from generic competition? Right now there seem to be more questions than answers. And while one committee member believes that what has taken place between Allergan and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe will all be sorted out long before the BIO 2018 meeting (i.e., government intervention), the fact that a company took such a novel approach toward protecting one of its products seems indicative that perhaps a change is needed, beyond that of a government-organized approach to close loopholes. R&D costs have never been higher, yet companies have the same amount of time to recoup their investment. Have the burdens of biopharma being innovative, as well as profitable, hit a breaking point? If we hope to see more generics of the future for the innovations of today, should we be looking at other means to help companies protect their products from government-enabled IP theft both at home and abroad? The discussion involving Allergan dovetailed nicely into another topic that might make for a good educational session for BIO 2018 — how biopharma can improve its image.
Can Biopharm Recoup Its Former Standing?
Once the most respected of all industries, today the public’s perception of the biopharmaceutical industry does not rank much above tobacco and firearms. While Brent Saunders received kudos for his efforts to implement a social contract at his company roughly one year ago, today he is being lambasted in the press for the decision to sign an agreement with a Native American Indian tribe to protect a product patent. Yet in another industry, entertainment, we have seen Disney use ploy after ploy to lobby Congress and has successfully extended the copyright of its beloved Mickey Mouse from its original 56 years of protection to 95 years. While Mickey Mouse’s apparent ability to influence the law has been criticized, any major effort to rile up the public has been squelched by Disney. The same can’t be said for biopharma, which continues to be trapped between a rock and a hard place.
But there are many other ideas beyond these two that this year’s BIO education planning committee hopes to see in the coming weeks of session submissions. Below is a list of just some of the ideas bandied about during Monday’s meeting. And while you might consider submitting a session proposal that includes one of these ideas — which we hope you will consider — be sure not to forget other best practices for how to submit a session proposal that has the best chance of success.
Potential Topic Thought Starters To Get Your Session-Submission Juices Flowing
*Thanks to BIO’s Education Manager, Sarah Maki, for helping to assemble the above list.