Getting the Big Picture: Notes From ISPE's 2008 Annual Meeting

I’m typing these notes, wedged sideways so that my laptop will fit on an empty middle seat, as I fly home from ISPE’s annual meeting.  (A friendly warning:  if you are over 5’4” tall, don’t travel on Spirit Airlines unless

a. you absolutely have to, or

b. you have one of those “big front seats.”  (Be prepared to pay $3, by credit card, for that horrible cup of coffee or unsatisfying can of soda. And the same amount for the flight as you’d pay on any other airline. )  

The venue for this year’s program was the beautiful Boca Raton resort in Florida.   Florida, with its palm trees and broad avenues, has always seemed to me to exist (for good or bad) in a time warp. Maybe Miami's different....but I remember a visit to St. Augustine during the mid-1980’s when I spotted a family out for dinner, with dad proudly wearing his red Masonic order fez (and I thought the crazy hats and the Royal Order of Raccoons went out with Ed Norton and Ralph Cramden…)

It’s a state known for conservatism, yet both Mc Cain and Obama signs were in evidence on front lawns all over town, and some cars driven by women who might be “Golden Girls” sported Obama bumper stickers.   

Colleagues, divided along political party lines, tried to keep the banter and repartee friendly. As election day draws nearer, the truth has been stranger than fiction, what with a Florida journalist quoting Karl Marx in an interview with Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden and disturbing news of an extremist group plotting an assassination and terrorist acts in the South. Fox News and CNN are vying for Election `08 supremacy, becoming somewhat like our own homegrown versions of Pravda and Izvestia ...all too often, the truth is lost in all the spin. (I confess that I'll take CNN over Fox any day, though)


Outstanding keynotes
The keynotes and even the posters this year were outstanding. Unfortunately, my incoming flight was delayed and I just missed Genentech Executive Vice President Patrick Yang’s presentation.
Yang had spoken in Chicago recently on operational excellence in pharma and the essential characteristics of a manufacturing leader (click here for a previous blog post describing Yang's talk by Senior Editor Paul Thomas) 

By the way, Yang isn’t a biochemist or chemical engineer, but has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and spent 12 years at General Electric, in R&D, engineering and technology management before moving to pharma (Merck) and biopharma at Genentech. 

Perhaps his coming from outside of the pharma world has given Yang a clearer vision of potential ways to improve compliance, operations and supply chain management.   

As several speakers at this year’s conference remarked, notably FDA’s Ali Afnan, from whom we haven’t heard all that much since the heady days of the PAT Missionary Movement, pharma needs to look beyond its borders for inspiration and role models.

Perhaps that may even hold true for ISPE as well (but more on that later).  

For any of you who wanted to attend but couldn’t, here’s a recap of Monday’s events and who said what, interspersed with the usual ramblings.

  Entire tracks are being devoted to QbD and the whole PQLI effort today. No doubt you’ll hear more on them from Paul, who is at conference today and Wednesday.