At this year’s Outsourced Pharma West (OPW) conference and exhibition, I began my opening remarks with a story, which actually involves a person named Story Musgrave. A former NASA astronaut with 30 years experience, Dr. Musgrave had recently asked me to connect on LinkedIn. I shared with OPW 2014 attendees some of Dr. Musgrave’s impressive credentials and asked, “So, do you think I accepted his LinkedIn request?” I was met with a chorus of “Yes.” But while I indeed did accept his request, I didn’t do so right away. I explained to the crowd how having Dr. Musgrave as a connection would be of little value without better understanding how we might help one another. So Musgrave and I first had a phone conversation. Shortly after, I was able to connect himto Pfizer’s Tim Charlebois, who contacted me seeking speaker suggestions for the upcoming Society for Biological Engineering’s (SBE) 4th International Conference on Accelerating Biopharmaceutical Development. Charlebois was looking for someone with a science background slightly outside of the biopharma industry to provide a different perspective. While it doesn’t seem that SBE and Musgrave were able to collaborate on this opportunity, perhaps in the future they will. Had I not taken the time to understand how best to help Dr. Musgrave, it is unlikely I would have been able to provide Charlebois with the variety of connections I did.
The moral of the story is — when I think of why I go to a conference, it isn’t usually geared toward filling my rolodex with a collection of business cards with which I struggle to place a name with a face. Instead, I strive to fill my network with connections of potential collaborators who are also interested in moving our industry forward. From my perspective, this was most certainly achieved at OPW 2014 — thanks in large part to the like-minded collaborators of BayBio, Big3Bio, BIOCOM, Life Sciences Foundation, and Rondaxe. If you are seeking successful collaborations, start first by seeking to facilitate deep connections.
The Value Of Super Connectors At Conferences
One of this year’s attendees was Ravi Kiron, Ph.D. of SRI International. Also a member of BayBio, and Outsource Pharma’s editorial advisory board, Kiron understands the power of connecting. Having first met at a networking reception during last year’s 32nd annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Kiron connected with me at OPW during the sponsored networking reception. Kiron is someone I would describe as a super connector. Within just a few minutes, he proceeded to introduce me to Gail Maderis, president and CEO of BayBio; Ramani Aiyer, Ph.D., principal of Shasta BioVentures; Jitakshi De, M.D., founding scientist, pathologist, and CEO of DeepAth Diagnostics; Chitra Sharma with gCompliance; and Julius Li, CEO of AUTEKBIO. And while these show a good sampling of the international connections to be made at OPW, it was the many connections made during previous events that truly led to OPW’s success. For example, we first met Rondaxe’s Joel Lirot, Kenton Shultis, and Brian James — all active participants at this year’s OPW — at a previous DCAT Week. OPW panelist Andrew Skibo, RVP AstraZeneca, was the result of a connection first made at an annual ISPE meeting. Pernix Therapeutics COO, Terry Novak, was a connection made during CPhI Worldwide in Madrid, Spain. Now, prior to OPW I had never met Merck’s VP of external manufacturing, Bob Kanuga. But this is an example of what having a deep connection can do. Kanuga was a referral to OPW thanks to Merck’s VP of product and technical operations, Jim Robinson, whom I first connected with at a Bio-Process Systems Alliance meeting. While I could probably continue listing other connections from having attended other shows, the reason OPW had such a good turnout (more than 200 people in our first year) wasn’t because we had a bunch of superficial contacts, but connections with collaborators eager to contribute.
OPW Audience Engaged Until The End
There were 10 sessions conducted during OPW 2014. At most conferences I attend, unless the event has a killer keynote, the last session is often lightly attended as people prepare for travel. Such was not the case at OPW.The “Asia Pacific Market Update & Choosing International Partners” session was moderated by Ken Shultis, CEO of Rondaxe, but after a brief introduction, Shultis had the opportunity to ask only ONE question. That’s because the next 90 minutes involved a highly engaged Q&A between attendees and panelists, with even Outsourced Pharma’s Louis Garguilo jumping in with an opinion. In fact, this was a scenario that played out at most of the OPW sessions — a very collaborative discussion from an engaged and enthusiastic audience.
It’s that audience — you, our readers — that made OPW 2014 a success. You told us that an outsourcing conference was needed, and you gave us great insight into what format and educational topics you felt would be most beneficial.
We at Life Science Connect thank you for attending this inaugural event, and we hope to see you next year at OPW 2015. Who knows, maybe we will have an Outsourced Pharma East by then. Either way, you can be sure that if we do, it will be our connections that will drive both the need and the content, and our collaborators that will drive its success.