Full circle: Two decades from bootstrap startup to Magazine of the Year

Oct. 19, 2022
It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed since I penned the “From the Editor” message in the very first issue of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine
It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed since I penned the “From the Editor” message in the very first issue of what we then called Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine, later rebranded as Pharma Manufacturing. We at Putman Publishing (later rebadged as Putman Media) launched the title to complement our other media brands focused on various vertical and functional sectors of the industrial ecosystem.

At the time, I was focused on the business end of our industrial automation titles but was drafted as editorial lead for the new launch in the life sciences space. (You see, as a relatively small, family-owned company, our modus operandi was not to staff up to launch an uncertain new venture, but rather to bootstrap it into existence by leveraging the market knowledge and industry contacts of those folks already on the payroll.)

Frankly, though, I don’t think I protested too much. The opportunity to learn new things about industry — and to share those insights with readers who could apply them to make their organizations safer, more efficient and more sustainable — is what attracted me out of engineering and into the media business in the first place.

Back in 2002, the ink on 21 CFR Part 11 was barely dry, and pharmaceutical companies were just beginning to appreciate the potential benefits of switching over from inflexible, paper-based work processes once mandated by the FDA to a world of digital systems. PAT was just starting to close the loop on quality, making real-time product release a potential reality. And the number one priority of the manufacturing arms of every drug company was to scale up production on new therapies as quickly as possible to recover their development investments before patent protections expired. I was only in Pharma’s editor chair for a couple of years, but I was privileged to learn — and I hope share — a lot.

Once the Pharma franchise was up and running smoothly, management okayed a crew of full-time staffers and in 2004 I returned full-time to the industrial automation world, where I continued to keep tabs on the life sciences space — and on Pharma Manufacturing. Over the years I’ve watched as pharmaceutical manufacturers have embraced digital technologies to advance the pace of innovation in the spheres of both drug development and manufacturing. Perhaps most stunning was the cooperation between BioNTech and Pfizer to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to market in only 10 months — a dramatic, digitally-enabled increase in speed relative to the previous four-year record for a vaccine.

The Pharma Manufacturing brand has blossomed as well in the intervening years, with the editorial team led by Karen Langhauser, chief content director, awarded the honor of Magazine of the Year in 2021 by the American Society of Business Publication Editors. Meagan Parrish, then senior editor, and Michael Annino, art director, shared in the honor. Earlier this year, Andrea Corona joined the staff as the brand’s new senior editor. Putman Media has transformed as well — having been acquired this past May by Endeavor Business Media, it is now part of a business media juggernaut ranked among Inc.’s fastest growing companies.

And me? I’ve come full circle as well, with a reorganization placing me back on the Pharma team. It’s great to be in such good company.

About the Author

Keith Larson | Vice President and Group Publisher