About The Event
On 2nd March 2023, Hyper Recruitment Solutions were delighted to welcome experts from the pharmaceutical industry to the Royal Society of Chemistry at Burlington House for an event to discuss the pharma/biotech sector in a post pandemic world. Keynote speaker John Johnson was to lead the discussion alongside Lucy Foley (CTO, eXmoor Pharma) & Professor Gino Martini (CEO, PHTA). HRS were represented on the panel by Ricky Martin (Managing Director) and Georgia Walden as compere of the Q&A session.
Following the pandemic, we found that there was a clear demand for face-to-face events focused on hot topics within the industry. To deliver a great event, we decided to bring together speakers who could knowledge-share on the issues facing the industry post-pandemic and generate discussion for the following Q&A session.
Ricky opened the event with a video introduction from HRS board member and business partner, Lord Sugar, who thanked all clients for their continued support both throughout and post pandemic.
John Johnson: 'The Present and Immediate Future for the Pharma/Biotech Sector in a Post Pandemic World'
Our first speaker of the evening was John Johnson, former VP at NSF Health Services, who presented ‘The Present and Immediate Future for the Pharma/Biotech Sector in a Post Pandemic World’. To get clarity on the future, it’s always important to understand the past and how we got here.
- That unless pre-emptive measures are taken, individuals and organisations only have a finite capacity for enforced change or crises; with the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns initiating a ‘permacrisis’.
- The Collins dictionary describes this as an ‘extended period of instability or insecurity, especially resulting from a series of catastrophic events’. The pharma/biotech sector has, for many companies, become even more VUCA than before; (i.e., more volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous) therefore making our jobs as business leaders significantly more challenging than ever before.
- That the effects on the industry will lead to a need to prioritise resources and strategy in four key areas.
- The effects that influence these priorities were presented as follows:
A VUCA world making future strategies result in more opaque or unbudgeted outcomes, with key tasks appearing to be triggered by mandates from national governments, the media and regulatory requirements, often with short implementation timeframes or unclear long term consequences.
A chronic shortage of key components affecting product inventories, causing some short term or entrenched drug shortages. Similar shortages or market fluctuations in e.g. gas, oil, water, or pharma ingredients will ensure product shortages (and their mitigation strategies) remain a major priority and focus area for international regulatory bodies
A dramatic change in the availability and skillsets associated with the expert workforce needed to staff the pharma/biotech sector. 2022 was the ‘Year of Resignations’ especially for the 40–55-year-old sector, and with lockdown stifling education, talent development and coaching, there is expected to be a midterm scramble for talented, high potential or experienced staff. This means the industry will need to evaluate what attracts and retains key staff in a post pandemic world.
A ‘bucket of regret’ that resulted from the need to make value judgements and compromises during the pandemic/lockdown, causing a need for ‘trade offs’ that on reflection may not have been sustainable or justifiable in hindsight. Some key decisions were not made with the best rigor required by ICHQ9 Quality Risk Management and this will undoubtedly lead to cGMP deficiencies and defaulting across the Quality Management System
More reliance on remote GMP surveillance, leading to less shopfloor QA, more remote self-inspection, more desktop auditing, and more remote regulatory inspections. Linked also to increased work from home by key staff, there is a sense that more onsite verification will be needed by QPs and their QA teams, Corporate Quality groups and international regulators.
Following an intense period where the industry was in the public eye on an almost daily basis, the general public expectations on the sector have increased; especially regarding the processes that should be used to accelerate product development and regulatory approval.
- These effects are expected to lead to more unbudgeted, unplanned GMP remediation projects; more GMP enforcement from regulatory bodies and a need to meet the enhanced expectations of the general public (considering their knowledge of the herculean efforts to develop and gain regulatory approval for the COVID-19 vaccines).
To mitigate these effects, the four main priorities were presented as:
- To build and maintain a more mature and resilient quality management system that can withstand crises and external challenges (noting the FDA white paper on Quality Management Maturity see CDER Quality Management Maturity | FDA)
- To build secure supply chains based on resilience, seeking better risk management and quality assurance rather than focusing on unidimensional factors such as cost.
- Proactive talent management strategies that attract and retain the best expertise available; always seeking to nurture and inspire across all demographics making the work engaging and meaningful to all.
- A need to accelerate the process of innovation, supporting all forms of technology transfer across sectors, increasing the nation’s product development capacity and fostering creativity. (This final message from John was a segue to Lucy Foley’s presentation).
Lucy presented how eXmoor are expanding their capabilities and capacities for product development, building new facilities and laboratories whilst investing in training and innovation. This was a tremendous example of how UK firms can use multiple modes of investment to create world class pharma/biotech services; ultimately leading to better scientific knowledge and greater capacity for creating new pharma/biotech products.
Gino was the last speaker to present, and he discussed how the need for working real estate has been a real issue for the industry and his role within the PHTA is to generate space for innovation and collaboration. Using the sinking ships exercise Gino was able to develop debate around what the industry is missing and how without available lab space it would be impossible to drive innovation.
Georgia Walden, Biologics Team Leader, then introduced a Q&A session with the panel. The audience was thoroughly engaged with this session with multiple questions coming from the floor to instigate debate across the panel. Notable themes from this were the need for communication with regulators through the manufacturing process, the scarcity of skills at key areas within the industry and the potential for micro-manufacturing in the future.
Other key areas of debate were related to:
- The need to modernise our thinking and processes to support 21st century science and innovation.
- The importance of developing young people from schools into academies; anticipating that relying on university graduates to bring the required skills and behaviours may be much too late to influence the talent pipeline.
- The importance on focussing on product realisation and the practicalities needed to gain regulatory approval of an innovative product.
- The imperative to reduce or eliminate the risk of product shortages in the market, especially in critical care or life changing conditions.
- How to ensure the UK stays at the forefront of research, product development and clinical trials.
- How to better interact with regulators; seeking less bureaucracy, more staged reviews and accelerating the processes related to product approval.
What the attendees thought
I attended HRS’s network evening on the 2nd March at the Royal Society of Chemistry. The event was entitled “The Pharma/Biotech Landscape in a post pandemic world” and it had a number of leading speakers from both commercial organisations and academic bodies. The talks were very interesting and thought provoking and it was great to see what fantastic opportunities there are for working in the UK’s Life Science sector. Some interesting challenges were raised as well, including the need to have more facilities and especially have more people from all backgrounds working in the sector. This also includes the need to reach out to the younger generation to encourage them to work in the sector, not only after university, but also after school and college as well. In addition to this there was a drinks networking event where it was great to catch up with acquaintances as well as meeting new ones in an informal setting. It was a super evening, and I am glad that I attended.
Inspired Pharma Training Ltd
“This was my first experience of HRS and their networking events. A high-quality panel and a diverse and experienced audience meant that it was an evening well spent.”
Stuart Phillips, Managing Director, Shimadzu UK Limited